Working from home has always seemed like a remote prospect for most of us in the corporate world. With the evolution of coronavirus worldwide, this situation has drastically changed. Most countries are asking people to stay home as much as possible, and in some regions going to work isn’t even an option.
Though all of this companies are rushing to adapt so that employees working from home have the resources they need to keep working. While this is definitely one side of the coin, the other is that many of us are adapting our home lives to fit a work routine.
Even if this is the first time you are working from home, or the hundredth, the challenges remain the same. But there are ways you can adapt to avoid going stir-crazy while remaining productive.
1. Start your day like every other workday
Whatever your regular pre-work routine, stick to it as close as possible. Get up at the same time. Get dressed for work. Have your coffee the same way. Eat your weekday breakfast. Then ‘drive’ yourself over to your new desk setup.
While you obviously won’t be able to start exactly the way you normally do, following your regular routine as closely as possible helps you get into the right mindset for work. Treat working from home as a real job.
2. Set up a dedicated work space
Not everyone has a separate office to make working from home more seamless. But wherever you live, and whatever space is available to you, make sure you set up a dedicated work area. While working from bed on your laptop seems great, doing it long-term isn’t beneficial for your posture or frame of mind.
Set up your dining room as command central. Commandeer the coffee table. Put a nightstand in a corner away from distractions. Adapt your space the best way you can to accommodate your new working situation. Help yourself further, and make sure to sit in an upright chair like you would at work.
Your working from home space should mimic your office space as much as possible to make it easier for you to adapt.
3. Have a daily check in
Set up a reoccurring time to have daily check-ins with your team, and wherever possible individually with your manager. These should be via video call to maintain real engagement and connection. Phone conversations, email and instant messaging only go so far. You need to see your team. Your team needs to see you.
The good news is that services like Zoom, Skype, Slack and Google’s Team Hangouts make seeing each other relatively simple. The purpose of these calls should be to provide resources and feedback that your team needs, as well as staying up to date on work being done.
4. Communicate a lot!
Working from home can be quite isolating and lonely, more so for those that live on their own. While it goes without saying that you should be having regular conversations with your team, make sure to have individual touch bases too.
If you always ask Carl about his kids, and Sharron about her mom, now is not the time to stop. Consider having coffee break calls together. Or send photos to each other of your cat trying to lay claim to your keyboard.
Social distancing does not need to equal social isolation.
5. Create boundaries within your home
The hardest part about working from home is the fact that you’re at home with others. By setting up a dedicated ‘work zone’ you are signaling to yourself, and those at home, that you are ‘at work’.
Now create boundaries around that space. It may be as simple as “When the door is closed pretend I am not there.” Or you may need to get creative if you live in a bachelor apartment with your significant other. Find out what works for you and stick to it.
6. Maintain your routine
Just because your working from home doesn’t mean that your routine needs to change. Sure, it may need adjusting, but a radical upheaval isn’t necessary.
Keep your meeting as scheduled, just move to a video call. Adhere to administrative deadlines – accounting still needs your expense report and timesheets. Drink your litre of water before noon. Whether it’s a small or large item, it is part of your routine. Making sure it happens at roughly the same time will make working from home feel more normal.
7. Manage expectations
The reality is, when working from home, everything will not stay exactly the same. Work with your manager and team to create realistic expectations based on your availability and capabilities. Clearly state how success will be measured. Define scope, deadlines, and deliverables for each project and task you will all be working on.
When everyone knows exactly what is expected and what can be delivered, you won’t be surprised later. You will also know what everyone is working on. Focus on results achieved, instead of activity and hours worked.
8. Don’t feel guilty when the personal stuff interrupts
Many people are now working from home, with their significant other, and their children. That’s a lot to get used to! While you can put as much structure in you day as you want, life is likely to happen.
Don’t allow yourself to start feeling guilty when personal interrupts work. There is a strong possibility you will still be thinking about work while you are taking care of your personal interruptions. Allow your brain to use that time to solve a problem or draft an email. That way when you sit back down you’ll be ready to go.
Know that at some stage your child or your puppy might be sitting on your lap for a video conference call. This will make everyone smile. Its ok to show your human, and it’s a good reminder of your new working reality.
9. Disconnect at the end of the day
You work has followed you home in a way you never imagined. While your working hours may be a little haphazard right now, when your day ends, you need to make sure you are stepping away completely. Now is the time to firmly enforce rules around disconnecting.
Set limitations. Turn off notifications. Have a ‘rest’ day. It is a delicate balance, and what works for one person may not work for you. Try a variety of different approaches and when you find the ones that work, stick with them. Once they are habits you will wonder how you got through the day without them.
10. Keep learning
If you find yourself with time in-between projects and tasks, avoid the allure of Netflix and instead take this time to learn and grow. There are tons of free resources available year-round, and a number of paid services have opened their platform with free resources.
LinkedIn has specifically put together a free learning path with 16 online courses for employees and managers looking for advice on navigating the challenges of working from home. You can access more of their courses on LinkedIn Learning.
EdX gives you access to 2,000 free online courses from 140 leading institutes worldwide. Think, Harvard, MIT, and more. Gain more skills in your chosen career or branch out and try something completely new.
For those with kids at home, Scholastic has opened up their Pre-K to Grade 9 platform to keep students learning while schools are disrupted. Their lessons are around Literacy, Math, Science and Social Studies.
11. Be flexible when working from home
Understand that in the current situation you and your team will not be able to operate exactly as they always have. Working hours may need to change. Technology may not work as it should. You may have a lot going on at home. These aren’t excuses for not getting work done, but it is reasonable to reconsider how it gets done.
Trust your team to have your back. Offer extra assistance to those who need it. Let’s be kind with coworkers and ourselves during this uncertain time.