Well, recent events are quickly changing the business world in 2020. People who were used to going into the office, the production space, or the storefront are now trying to figure out how to effectively work from home. There was little warning, but we are a resilient nation, and we have the ingenuity and talent to regroup and achieve productivity at home.
It’s important for you, the reader who might be new to this type of work — or someone who will now be spending more hours per week telecommuting — to keep yourself balanced and motivated to perform. That’s your best bet for keeping your job (and your sanity) while this global phenomenon plays out. Try these 10 quick tips for motivating yourself and achieving a work-home-life balance:
1. Start the day with a new routine
You won’t be commuting to the office which means you can sleep in a little more. Fist bump! Your success working at home hinges upon your ability to create a schedule and meet your goals for the day. If you start with a routine — such as a cup of coffee, shower, brush your teeth, get dressed, take a walk, check email, and start on your first task of the day, you can use this as your way to get through the tough mornings. We are all creatures of routine, and we can add enjoyable steps to our routine to make working from home more positive even when we’re feeling a little stir-crazy.
2. Download new apps on your laptop or mobile device to increase your productivity
Let’s be honest: Your boss or personal assistant won’t be stopping in your office asking for work products or reminding you what must be done today. It’s possible to miss deadlines without being organized and prioritizing your work each day. It’s time to make better use of your electronic calendar, to-do list or task bar, and a timekeeping tool so you will finish work within your normal timeframes.
3. Tell your colleagues and family members when you have office hours so they won’t interrupt you
You may have to create a calendar and post it on the fridge for everyone to see, but these are time blocks when you need to make confidential phone calls, really focus on writing reports and responding to emails, and getting your work done. Don’t let your significant other guilt you into running errands or watching the kids during office hours except in an emergency. If you and your partner are both telecommuting, then you need to rotate use of the work area or create separate areas. Other options are getting up earlier than the kids to be more productive or work late at night if you feel energetic at that time.
4. Set up a personalized work area and ask everyone to respect it
At a minimum, you need a table or desk, a comfortable chair, room to spread out your files, office equipment, and computing devices, and some space to breathe. You can also personalize it with lighting, music, pictures, and motivational posters or quotes. Most importantly, your work area should be free of distractions. For example, if you are planning to work at the dining room table, but it’s combined with the living room and the Netflix remote is right there, you might want to put a table in another room where you won’t be tempted.
On the other hand, if this spot is the only place for sufficient ergonomics, you could try headphones, and then it won’t bother you so much if other family members are watching TV or playing video games. Some workers experiment with different work locations and find where they work best.
5. Take scheduled and spontaneous breaks from desk work
Typically, you wouldn’t spend eight hours doing your work and leave the office. You would have meetings to attend, trips to the restroom and the coffee pot, and a lunch break. That’s why you should work breaks into the daily routine so you aren’t burning out. Then, you are less inclined to feel that afternoon slump, which would mean having to work even later to finish the day’s work. Your boss could be waiting on you to respond to an important email, but even an hour lunch break spent reading a book in your backyard hammock is worth the peace of mind.
Two reasons are: (a) increased movement is known to prevent the development of some diseases, including diabetes, and sitting for too long decreases how much blood flows to your legs and feet. If you get up and walk at least a few minutes each hour, this small amount of exercise will also elevate your mood.
6. Give yourself time to adjust
It will take a little time to get into your groove as you try to work at home. There are potentially many interruptions, everything from the neighbor’s lawn guy to the door-to-door salesperson. Remember, you can change where you work in the house and even set up a space in the garage, basement, attic, or yard to feel more comfortable. You want to match what you do to the space you choose and negotiate an acceptable level of noise with your family members. If you want to brainstorm a project, sitting outdoors or taking a walk is probably best. Your family and your own inner self will appreciate it if certain places within the home are designated as work-free areas.
7. Use free time saved by telecommuting to jumpstart a new hobby
No one can realistically predict how long working at home will be the norm in 2020. You could put this hobby before the workday, during the lunch break, or near the end of the day. If you really want to stay busy, you could schedule this “me” activity several times a day and work in between the fun periods. One example is knitting and watch crafting videos in between work periods.
8. Schedule time to video chat or talk on the phone with friends and colleagues for non-work purposes
You will have reduced social time with work people because you’re in the home office. When you leave the work in the designated productivity zone, you can give time to your family.
9. Try mindfulness meditation when you feel stressed
This is a time when you stop, take some time out, calm yourself, and reflect on a particular thought pattern. Meditation trains you to slow your breathing down and focus on certain areas of your body. It’s very cleansing and might even make you feel more energetic when you resume your work. There are free versions of meditation programs on the Calm app, as well as other apps and YouTube videos. These might only last a few minutes, but they really take your mind off of a stressful situation. Pretty soon, for example, everyone is going to get sick of watching updates on CNN. Mindfulness meditation has been proven to relieve stress and anxiety because it lowers your blood pressure and benefits your heart rate and brain activity.
10. Make your loved ones and work colleagues understand you are serious about your office hours
There will be times when you get interrupted in the home office, and it will take self-control to not snap at others. You might even miss out on part of an important virtual meeting because of something that occurs in the home. Remember, coworkers and loved ones will also feel the effects of spending increased time at home. Some of us will even have loved ones who are completely out of work for months at a time. They may become depressed due to many reasons, including economic losses, a lack of activities, reduced social stimulation, reduced access to healthcare, diet restrictions, and worrying about the future.
The key to working at home is maintaining a personal balance between your self-care needs and emotional wellbeing, your physical health, and the changing demands of your job. There will certainly be adjustments for everyone to make, but social distancing and working at home successfully are equally possible.