As more and more companies implement work-from-home policies due to the spread of COVID-19, employees are now tasked with trying to be just as productive without their normal resources and routines. While working from home sounds like a luxury in theory, it’s certainly no vacation and being productive is easier said than done.
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Every job is different and the amount you’re able to achieve will vary between career types, employers, and internal policies, but there are some key strategies to working from home when it comes to getting your tasks done efficiently (not to mention, staying sane and healthy while doing so!). Here are the best tips to working from home according to people who have successfully worked remotely for years and from our own Good Housekeeping editors and product experts who are working from home amid the coronavirus outbreak.
1. Stick with your routine.
Just because you’re not commuting and going into an office doesn’t mean you should skip your weekday morning preparations. Wake up at your normal time, shower, and get dressed in real clothes (not pajamas!). It may sound trivial, but this helps you mentally prepare for the day ahead and get into the “I’m going to work” mindset.
It’s also helpful to keep a set schedule. If you typical work nine-to-five hours, keep doing it at home. It’s easy to lose track of time and if you can’t stick to a typical work-life balance, you may find yourself getting easily burnt out.
2. Create a work space…
Although it’s tempting to stay in bed or head to your sofa, those who successfully work from home agree that you’re best off setting up a station. If you don’t have a desk, use your dining room table. Besides making you feel like you’re at an “office,” this helps you maintian good posture, avoid distractions, and leave your work behind at the end of the day.
3. …but don’t just sit there.
Sitting all day isn’t healthy even if you’re at the office, but working from home means you skip your commute and have fewer reasons to get up from your chair throughout the day. You can invest in a standing desk if you prefer to work on your feet, but otherwise make sure to stand up regularly to stretch or move around.
If you’ve gained an extra hour or two from not commuting, it’s a good opportunity to exercise, either by working out at home or going for a walk outside. A lunchtime walk can also help you feel like you’re not stuck inside all day.
4. Get some fresh air.
Since experts advise to limit contact with people who may be sick and many companies are urging employees to stay home, you’re likely going to spend a lot of time indoors. Open your windows to let in as much natural daylight and fresh air as possible, and take short walks if you live in an unpopulated area — and be sure to wash your hands as soon as you return home.
5. Stay connected with your colleagues.
If you work on a team, make sure to check in regularly just like you would in the office. Create to-do lists to keep yourself organised and focused, and share the status of your lists with your supervisor so they know you’re on top of your work. Besides email and messaging programs like Slack, it’s a good idea to set up regular check-ins via phone or video conferencing like Skype, FaceTime, or Zoom.
6. Fight the urge to multitask.
This may seem like a convenient time to catch up on chores around the house, but it’s easier than you’d expect to get distracted. Carolyn Forté, the Director of the Good Housekeeping Institute’s Cleaning Lab, says now’s not the time to straighten up or start a load of laundry. “There’s nothing wrong with taking a little break, but don’t let chores distract you from being productive. You wouldn’t be doing them if you were at work,” Forté advises.
The same goes for other at-home distractions. If you meal prep or pack snacks ahead of time for the office, do the same at home so you don’t get preoccupied in the kitchen. Chances are you don’t watch TV at work either, so try not to leave it on, even if it’s just background noise.
7. If you have kids, prepare for disruptions.
It’s difficult enough to get work done if you have children at home, but even harder with younger kids like babies and toddlers. Still, it’s not impossible if you have plan ahead and have some flexibility. Here are tips from real parents who are mastering the work-from-home challenge:
- Get help, if you can. It might not be the best choice for your family with the social distancing advisory, but if you have someone that can help out (e.g. a family member that can stay isolated with you), you’ll be able to get the most amount of work done. If you co-parent, take turns between watching the kids and working. When you’re working, hide in a separate room so your kids don’t know you’re there.
- Mix up your hours. If your job allows for it – especially with companies being more lenient around COVID-19 – try to squeeze in work when your baby or toddler is asleep, like early morning, nap times, and at night. It’s not ideal, but you’ll be more productive if you have quiet time to yourself.
- Explain the situation. It’s a good idea to talk to your kids about coronavirus, especially older ones who can better understand the impact it’ll have on your day-to-day life.
- Try new activities. Fun toys and games that kids haven’t played with before will keep them entertained longer. Time-consuming projects, like crafts, stickers, puzzles, and legos, are sure to buy you some time.