You’ve been adjusting to a new work style over the past weeks. And with recently announced statewide school closures, your new work-at-home routine may already need an adjustment.
Here are seven tips that can help you make the most of your new “office” and deal with your new “co-workers.”
Rethink those jammies. Wake up, get ready and start work at your usual time. Sticking to your weekday routine (and looking the part) helps normalize the experience and gives your family or roommates cues that you’re working – not available to run errands, let in contractors or take over their house chores.
Set up a dedicated work zone. If you have a home office setup, great! But if square footage is limited or taken over by others in your household, be sure to carve out a space that’s just for you. Gather your work essentials, tidy up the area, and clear distractions from your line of sight. Keep ergonomics in mind like your screen and keyboard setup, choice of chair, and your posture. Also, make sure your work zone is just for work. While your favorite spot on the couch or your bed may be cozy, psychologically it’s important to set work mode and home mode apart as much as possible.
A timer is your friend. Interruptions happen, whether you’re in the office or at home. The difference is, you have less practice tuning out those home distractors. Set a timer to split your day into productivity chunks (30 minutes, 60 minutes, 90 minutes) and resolve that unless it’s the sound of shattering glass or a smoke detector, you’ll deal with whatever it is after the timer goes off. Break for lunch at your usual time – it will curb your urge to graze in the kitchen and. And if your kids are still on their normal schedules? Use your timer so you don’t forget to pick them up as you adjust to your new routine.
Help your kids help you. Red light, yellow light, green light: A construction paper stoplight helps young kids know when it’s OK to visit your workspace. Red means emergencies only. Yellow means stand by quietly until you’re ready (to give you time, for example, to mute a call). Green means it’s OK to talk in a normal voice. Also, keep boredom-busters (craft boxes) and self-serve snacks (cereal, cheese sticks) handy. Try to schedule kids’ screen times for lengthy tasks when you want to know they’re safely and quietly entertained.
Discuss your work schedule with roommates. So you live in a small city apartment and now both you and your roommate are trying to work from home? Doable, with some adjustments! For example, if you have the option, shift your day to start earlier and plan to finish your high-concentration tasks before your roommate gets out of bed. Also, invest in a good pair of noise-canceling headphones. Set up your laptops at opposite ends of the table (rather than across from each other), and agree on a time when work areas turn back into home spaces.
Step up your communication game. You don’t have to let your co-workers know your every move, but it’s easy to accidently leave someone out of a conversation who isn’t right in front of you. Share updates, CC: people who might not normally receive your emails and reach out promptly if you get a sense you’re missing something. So you don’t feel cut off from co-workers, choose phone calls (rather than email or text) for some of your communication. It’s better to over- than under-communicate when you work remotely. Also, don’t ignore the human-contact benefits of work. Use cameras during conference calls (there’s a reason to ditch the PJs!) to get the face time you may be craving, and take breaks using tools like Skype to socially touch base with fellow telecommuters who may be feeling a bit isolated, too.
Get outside. Social distancing doesn’t mean housebound. Make time in your day for fresh air and exercise. A neighborhood walk or filling a spring planter with primroses can be a great mood-booster.
Have a work-from-home tip or story to share? Please pass it along in comments.