So many people I’ve talked to in the last year or so said they wanted to work from home to better balance work and life.
Now, with the quarantine measures implemented due to the rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus across the planet, many of those same workers are getting their wish.
What, not quite like you imagined? I’ve been a part-time work-from-home employee for the last year or so, but many of my other jobs involved large group of people outside of the house and are now suspended due to the virus outbreak.
So, even though I’m used to managing my own workflow three days a week, this is still an adjustment from my routine.
I wanted to craft a real-life list of practical work-from-home tactics I’ve used as we face indefinite social distancing measures.
We all have routines that have been disrupted by the COVID-19 outbreak. Now instead of getting up and going to work, we roll out of bed and onto our computers (if you’re lucky enough to work from home).
Make sure you create some sort of routine to keep yourself from withering away behind a screen. Schedule wake up, exercise, and your daily work routines. Your habits have likely been shattered as a result of social distancing.
Make new ones and settle in; it might be a while. Get used to self-regulating your time because officials estimate it will take a month or more for things to “normalize” post-COVID-19 distancing.
SWITCH UP YOUR SCENERY
Okay, I know that you can’t relocate to a coffee shop or coworking space with social distancing measures in place.
But maybe get creative with your office spaces. I live in a studio apartment, so I get the option of my floor, the bed, and my desk.
I’m rotating between the floor and the desk and switching which windows I look out.
All kidding aside, think about the ways you can add some diversity to your scenery while you work inside. Switch up locations, trade desks with your SO, move your couch office from the living room to the dining room. Maybe clean or redecorate your space. Optimize your office.
Social distancing doesn’t mean communicate with your team less. Its time to overcommunicate, no matter how much you want to hide in your house and be depressed.
That might mean sending more Slack messages and emails. Maybe that means more phone calls with the CEO.
Talk to your teams, set up Zoom calls. You get 30 minutes for free. See each other, laugh at your work-from-home messy buns and cat-fur covered hoodies.
But also, it’s a good time to figure out which meetings are emails. Maybe you have purely social, touch base meetings. Figure out how to keep and grow your company culture without face-to-face interaction.
SCHEDULE QUIET TIME
Everyone is online and working. Or not working. Those who aren’t working are very communicative, which I’m sure you have already noticed.
Everyone is online, wants to chat on the phone, and send you messages. We’re all feeling a little isolated right now. It makes it hard to turn off, even when we need to.
Schedule time to be alone. For two reasons:
- Your own wellness/mental health/creativity
- Your work creativity
You can’t reach flow state if you’re always available. Communicate with your coworkers that you’ll take an hour to go offline and do what you need to.
This is especially important as a creative. You can slog through busywork, but when it comes to writing a blog post, designing a product page, or other creative tasks, you need some space.
This is even harder with family and roommates who are all probably home with you. If you have the option, try to set boundaries with those you live with to respect your time while you’re working.
If you have children, this is easier said than done, but honest chats of “hey, I need this time for focus.” It can go a long way with those reasonable enough to listen. You can also introduce “quiet time” for your children, where they are doing quiet activities that will allow you to sit and focus on your work.
How successful these measures are depends on the age of your children, the number of people you have in your house, and how those people respect you setting lines with them.
It’s your livelihood, it’s essential.
Additionally, your quiet/creative time should be social media free. Keep the fear out of this time you carve out for yourself.
You might look up from your screen and realize it’s almost 5 pm. You haven’t looked up once.
As important as it is to have “quiet time” you also need to have some time outdoors. Keep it socially distant and get your body some much needed endorphins and vitamin D.
It doesn’t have to be long. Just 5–10 minutes will do you good. Your body will make more vitamin D from the sun and make less melatonin as a result. You’ll feel better with the activity and that will help you remain productive.
Take care of yourself; make things cozy. Make more tea, wear fuzzy socks, and take showers or baths.
This is a great time to practice self-care on all the things that you’ve been neglecting: yourself, your pets, everything. The world we lived in before COVID-19 was rushed, overbooked, and you likely let some things fall to the side. Give yourself permission to catch up on those things.
The uncertainty of today’s climate might have you anxious or stressed. That’s understandable. It isn’t an excuse not to eat. If you are isolated alone, have someone check in on you and make sure you’ve eaten.
Eat. When you have the motivation outside of work hours to cook, do it. Make a lot of food and use that food to keep you fueled when you’re engaged in work.
Figure out what you’re going to do with your work at home time. Depending on your job, you might be working a normal amount. Others of you might have less work to do than usual.
Be creative. Figure out what you can do from home. Are there outstanding projects that need doing? What about manuals that outline what your job is and how to do it?
I recommend laying out weekly goals on what you/your boss wants you to get accomplished.
Then break down what you’d like to get done each day. I would suggest literally plotting it out on a calendar instead of just planning it in your mind. Share it with your boss and coworkers to create external accountability.
KEEP TRACK OF TIME
I have something called time blindness, wherein I don’t know that time is passing in a linear capacity. It can make it hard to stay on track while working.
I used a Pomodoro timer to keep track of time passing. The concept of Pomodoro is that you have a period of “on” and a period of “break.” I use a 25 minute on period and a 5 minute off with a more extended break after 3–5 cycles. I was encouraged to use my breaks to do things I wanted to do as a reward.
Sometimes, I ignore my breaks and work right through them. Other times, I need to stand up and take a break from my work in the middle of “on.”
Often, I just use the timers to keep me aware of time passing. It gives time a rhythm that it wouldn’t have on its own.
Be compassionate with yourself and others as you adjust to new routines. Human aren’t the best at change, especially when their entire routines and life paradigms have been altered. Check in with each other and be nice as people settle into a completely different life than they’re used to. We’ll get through this.