The global spread of COVID-19 has millions of people working from home, some for the first time. Previous generations have been called to war, and now many of us are called to our home offices. To help make this time as productive as possible, Carol Ruiz, founder of NewGround PR and Marketing, which has operated as a virtual firm since 2007 and works with companies in residential and commercial real estate, provides some recommendations for navigating this new frontier.
1. Keep a Schedule and Create Healthy Habits
Wake up and get ready to start your day at your normal work start time. Wash your face. Brush your teeth. Eat breakfast. Change out of your pajamas. These routine steps create a mindset that it’s now time to work. Once working, be sure to take breaks, and eat away from your desk. At the end of the day, stop working at a decent hour. Most people assume that working from home means working less, but honestly, it tends to be the opposite and it’s easy to become a home office workaholic.
· Have a solid end-of-workday routine. Look at the next day’s calendar and make a to-do list. This keeps you organized and silences that to-do list inside your head.
· Your desk is not your kitchen. If you’ve stocked up for quarantine, you have more goodies than ever. It’s easy to grab snacks and store them in your work area. Resist this. The pitfalls include losing track of how much you consume, crumb-filled keyboards, and the missed opportunities to get up and stretch when you're actually hungry.
2. Establish a Workspace
Choosing an airy, light space is key. Natural light has many advantages including boosting vitamin D, improving sleep, increasing energy, and reducing health risks. If possible, depending on your living space, choose a separate room as a dedicated workspace. This is important for keeping family and pets out. You’d be surprised how many interruptions a door can keep at bay.
· Pick a room as far from distractions—such as laundry, kids, pets, and PlayStation noise—as possible.
· Step away from your monitor, look out the window, or duck outside for a moment. Your eyes (and brain) will love the break.
3. Set Boundaries If Working From Home While Parenting
Working from home requires a new level of self-discipline. Add kids being home from school, however, and things can get crazy, quickly. When it comes to working from home with kids, no matter the age, you have to have boundaries. Write out a schedule that works around your time when possible, not theirs. This will clearly state which times of the day you are not available, such as during conference calls. It also might be a good time to define what an emergency is with your kids. Example: broken bones are emergencies, your sibling not sharing the Nintendo Switch is not. Also, remember that your colleagues are in this with you, and they will understand that you’re all of the sudden now playing the roles of teacher, parent, and co-worker.
· Make sure to have an engaging activity for your kids (or, let’s be honest, some screen time) planned for those times you cannot be interrupted.
· Shut your office door!
· Try not to lose your cool when the kids burst through your office door for the 100th time.
4. Learn to Work Well With You
Welcome to you. Working from home requires self-awareness. When you spend this much time with yourself, it’s important to make sure you appreciate, know, and respect yourself. We’ve all learned to work well with others. Now it’s time to learn to work well with you.
For those of us who are introverts, the challenge is that we may embrace it beyond what is actually healthy, both mentally and physically. So, it’s important to find balance. For the extroverts among us, who get their energy from being with other people, the challenges of working from home are obvious. It’s good to talk to your pets or your plants, but when they start talking back, it’s time for a Zoom with friends.
· Introverts: On very busy days, it’s great to isolate while being consumed by work, but on slower days, using technology to connect with co-workers, friends, and family and getting outside during the day to get some sunlight and exercise can create that necessary balance and keep one feeling human.
· Extroverts: Instead of relying solely on email, picking up the phone to hear another human voice or using video conferencing can go a long way in easing the feeling of isolation, especially during these challenging times.