Working from home has recently become the new normal for many people. If you never imagined facing the scenario of your work and home spaces being the same, you might be scrambling to figure out how to stay productive, maintain effective communication with coworkers and/or customers, and keep your sanity.
We’ve put together some easy-to-implement action steps to set you up for success.
Create a pre-work routine
If you now have more flexible work hours—great! But you should still establish a pre-work routine that indicates to your brain and anyone you live with that you’re preparing to sit down to work. It will help put you in the right frame of mind, eliminate distractions, and lessen the chance of interruptions. Perhaps it’s making a cup of coffee, or working out, or making sure the kitchen is cleared of dishes. It could even be putting on your favorite blazer or lipstick to feel ready for the day (and any video conference calls!).
Dedicate a workspace
This will look different for everyone, but you’ll want to find a space you can either permanently or temporarily set up as your office space. It could be in a spare bedroom, in a corner of the master bedroom, part of the dining room table, or simply a nook with a window, a chair, and a flat surface for your laptop. Ideally, you want a space you can close off for important phone calls and to minimize distractions. But, if that can’t be had, aim for a space that others will understand not to disturb and where you know to be in work mode when there. Set ground rules with family members for when they can talk with you, when you need quiet hours, etc.
Ask for what you need
There are likely limitations on what you can obtain if you find yourself suddenly and unexpectedly asked to work from home. But that doesn’t mean it’s unreasonable to ask your employer for the equipment needed to perform your job. See if they’ll allow you to order what you need online and submit the receipt for reimbursement. There may already be a budget for this type of request.
Keep communication channels open
Remote employees have many digital communication tools at their disposal for keeping in touch with co-workers, managers, and customers. After identifying which ones work best for you, your role, and your company, be sure to use the tools. Fully understanding the video, audio, and instant chat features of software will help you avoid miscommunication, isolation and disconnect, loneliness, and the appearance of not being available.
Be active on video meetings and conference calls
Your usual face-to-face meetings—small and large, formal and spur of the moment—will now take place over an audio/video conference call. While this can offer the flexibility of being on mute to speak with a child or not on video while still in your pajamas, you’ll find the more often you activate video and get a few words in, the better your work experience. It shows your coworkers and manager you’re present, ready, and motivated to take on tasks.
Communicate and stick to working hours, whatever they may be
This will help you maintain work/life balance, take advantage of work-from-home flexibility, and stay in-sync with your team and company’s needs.
Use tools to stick to a schedule
We know that humans are creatures dependent on routines. Structure helps us stay focused, be more alert, and remain productive. Automatic time-tracking apps will help you find a schedule that maximizes your natural times of productivity and then stick to that schedule! This will help you reserve your hours of high focus for the most important tasks. Free website blocker apps will help keep you off distracting websites and a timer can remind you to put snack time and stretch time in your work day.
Use a project management app
Your company probably already uses one, even if you haven’t. Now’s the time to join up! Most project management apps and suites offer web-based and mobile versions. Some even integrate with other apps for team collaboration. Keep your evolving to-do list synced with your team and you’re less likely to miss deadlines or updates!
Use a time management app
Productivity apps track the amount of time you spend on each task and can minimize distractions. If you’re not sure when you’re the most productive, a time tracker app can help show you!
Regularly scheduled breaks are crucial to maintaining physical and mental wellbeing. Check your company’s policy on break times and use them! If it makes you feel better, use some of that time to load the dishwasher, walk the dog, or fold a basket of laundry. (When these household chores are in eyesight all day, they may become a distraction.) And, you may have guessed it, there are apps to help take breaks! They can be a simple timer, or they can lock you out of your computer for a set amount of time.
Avoid work creep
Work can invade your personal life, if you’re not careful. You can be tempted to check or respond to work emails at all hours when home and work are in the same physical space. But, if you’ve set specific and clear work hours and communicated them to your team (so you know any work emails that come in after your workday aren’t emergencies), you’re more likely to keep a healthy work/life balance even when those two lives happen in the same building!