With the recent outbreak of COVID-19, many of us all over the globe are left with no choice but to work from home remotely. Initially, working from home might seem easy, but as many of you already know, it can actually be quite challenging. Because we will be stuck in our homes for the following days and weeks, it is vital to implement some rules and guidelines to keep ourselves productive and healthy. Here are some tips for keeping yourself safe, sane, and productive while working from home.
With the newfound freedom and flexibility of working from home, it may be tempting to sleep in late, stay in your pyjamas, and work from your bed. But it’s not as great as it sounds, and if you’ve already been working remotely for some time, you’ve probably already come to this realization. We mentally associated wearing pyjamas with relaxing and sleeping, so obviously, wearing them while trying to be productive might cause problems. You’ll end up feeling lazy, lethargic, and distracted.
Pretend like you are going to work. Get up early, brush your teeth, and get dressed. Wear what you would normally wear on a regular day at work. Even if you’re not seeing anyone all day, this is an important step. Getting ready like this helps us mentally prepare for the day, and helps us slip into the mentality of going to work.
Set specific times to get up, get started, and end your workday. Scheduling lunch and small breaks is a good idea, too. This way, it’s easier to stay on track, and you’re more productive during your working time. This also helps from overworking–often, when we work from home, it can be hard to distinguish between working time and downtime, and we may end up working for much longer than normal, or necessary. According to Parkinson’s Law, “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” So, if you set a schedule for your work, you’re more likely to stay on top of your tasks.
On a similar note, it can be difficult to both work and relax when there’s no clear distinction between working and not working. Your workspace plays a big part in this. Normally, you work in the office, and then once you leave, you’re finished working for the day and have the freedom to do what you want. When you’re always home, it can be difficult to ‘turn off’.
Find a separate place in your home for your workspace. Ideally, a separate room from everyone else. If this isn’t possible, find some way to distance yourself from the rest of the household. Try facing away from the common area, and face a window or a wall instead. Put up some kind of divider, even if it’s just a piece of furniture, to create a distinct space for yourself. This makes a difference, especially if you live with several people or have children. If your space is crowded with people, communicate with them and let them know you need some space and some quiet. Listening to music, or white noise can also help with the feeling of having a separate workspace. Even if you live alone, having a distinct workspace will help with your headspace and make you more productive.
Wherever you choose to do work, make sure it’s ergonomically friendly. There are several in-depth guides online to help sure your environment is ergonomically correct, such as this one. Mainly, it’s important to make sure your posture is right, so taking steps to correct the position of your chair, computer monitor, keyboard, and mouse so that your body isn’t straining itself and causing damage. If you’re working from home over a longer period, this is definitely worth looking into.
This is easier said than done. When at home, the most common problem is distractions. Hopefully, the tips above will help limit some distractions, but here are a few more. As mentioned previously, communicate with the people around you about your need for solitude. If you can, try facing away from the rest of the room or the household to keep from being distracted by household chores, messes, other people, and anything else that might take you away from your tasks. If it’s not necessary for your work, turn off the Wi-Fi and keep your phone either turned off or in a different room so you’re not tempted to scroll through social media or waste time on the internet. Also, make sure your workspace is clean and tidy and free of anything that might distract you.
When you’re working in your designated workspace, it may be helpful to create some rules for yourself to heighten your productivity and limit distractions. For example, prohibit yourself from watching videos or checking social media while in your workspace. If you want to do such things, you must move away from your workspace. Or, perhaps you should prohibit yourself from eating in your workspace, so you have to get up and go to the kitchen to have your lunch or eat your snacks. This helps associate your new workspace with working, and will keep you from succumbing to distractions while in your workspace.
Walking to your fridge doesn’t count. If you’re at home all the time, it is essential to your health and productivity to get in some physical activity. Even a brisk walk around the neighbourhood will do wonders. In many cases now, the gym might be temporarily closed. But don’t let that stop you! Any kind of movement is beneficial, so make an effort to get some exercise.
Working remotely can be a challenge in many ways, and one of them is feeling isolated from the rest of your team. On a normal day in the office, it’s easy to keep track of everyone and communicate about your work. Working remotely changes that. So, set up some kind of instant messaging with all your colleagues so you can quickly and easily communicate. Tell your colleagues and managers everything you’re doing, even if it seems unnecessary, just to ensure everyone stays on top of their workload. Staying connected will keep the team spirit up, and keep you in the right headspace.
When working remotely, you can start to feel very isolated, especially if you live alone. Staying in close contact with your coworkers can help a lot, however, if you’re quarantined or stuck in self-isolation, make sure to reach out to your friends and family via video chat or phone call. Human contact is extremely important for our health, so don’t neglect yourself!
Working from home can make your days feel monotonous since there’s little change of scenery. During this time of social isolation, make some time for fun and relaxation. Go for a stroll in the park, make your favourite recipe, watch your favourite movie, plan a video chat with your best friend–do something that brings you joy and breaks up your day. This helps with your productivity when working from home, and with your general mental health and happiness. Remember to take care of yourself.
Stay safe and sane, everybody!