The spread of COVID-19 throughout the United States and the resulting regulations have changed many aspects of everyday life, but one of the most significant is how Americans work. Every business that can function remotely is doing so at the moment, with employees working from the comfort of their home. However, this comfort also holds a plethora of distractions and challenges. Whether you’re wondering about the best methods for staying productive at home when you have kids in the house, how to block out the noise of your roommates, or resisting the urge to play with your dog all day long, this article can help you out.
Maintain Your Regular Hours
A key theme for staying productive at home is to keep everything as close to your normal work environment as possible. An important element of this is to maintain your regular work schedule. Having clear guidelines for when to start work and when to wrap it up for the day will help you maintain the all-important work-life balance. Without these guidelines for a set schedule, it can start feeling like you’re working all the time and never have hours off. This can cause an inordinate amount of stress.
That being said, one of the great benefits of working remotely is the inherent flexibility. If you’re feeling drained and want to call it a day bit earlier than you usually do, you can do it. Just remember that you’ll need to work a little longer or wake up a bit earlier the next day to make up for it.
To help you create and stick to a schedule for working at home, there are some helpful automatic time-tracking apps out there. Not only do these apps allow you to check in on how well you’re sticking to your schedule, but they can help you find out the times of day in which you’re most productive and when you tend to slack off. This information can be extremely helpful for staying productive at home by allowing you to prioritize your most important tasks during your most productive hours.
Craft a Morning Routine
Rather than rolling out of bed and straight into your desk chair, it can be helpful to have a morning routine that gets you in a good mindset to start your workday. Of course, this routine will be different for everyone and will primarily depend on what gets your brain and body up and running in the morning. For some people, it’s making and enjoying a cup of coffee. For others, it might be practicing yoga or going for a jog in the neighborhood. Some people might even just need their normal routine of getting dressed and doing their hair and makeup to be mentally prepared for the workday.
Think about what you view as the best way to start your day and give it a try. If it doesn’t quite energize you or put you in a good mindset, feel free to try something else. You could even ask your friends or coworkers how they structure their morning routine. Maybe someone you know does a few laps in their pool every morning to wake up their mind and body. This could be something that you never thought of but might be an effective way for you to get in the right mindset for staying productive at home all day long.
Have a Dedicated Office Space
Just as you want to maintain a regular schedule in the effort of staying productive at home, you should also try to maintain a dedicated office space. If you have a spare room in your home, use it as your at-home office. Try to set it up like your usual workspace, whether that means pictures of your family on your desk, whimsical art on your walls, or plants filling your windowsill. If you can, set up your office with all of the technical equipment you’re accustomed to using. For many people, this may mean having two computers, a headset, and an ergonomic keyboard. Others may just need their laptop.
Of course, plenty of people who now find themselves working from home don’t have an extra room to designate to their home office. In these cases, try to carve out a space in your home that you can use primarily as your workspace. This could be setting up a desk in the corner of your bedroom or even creating a makeshift office space in your garage. If you still don’t have the room you need for this and have to work at a kitchen table or on the couch, just be sure to put your work things away when you’re done working. This small step is another key element of maintaining work-life balance while staying productive at home.
Ask for What You Need
As you’re setting up your dedicated office space, you may soon realize that you need certain equipment for staying productive at home. You may soon realize that you really need two monitors at your desk in order to do your work properly or that your computer at home doesn’t have the right software for your job. As soon as you realize that you need something, reach out to your company. After all, the company that you work for is responsible for ensuring that you can successfully work from home in order to stay protected from the coronavirus. Asking for what you need early on will also help set the precedent that your company will foot the bill for not equipment and it won’t come from your bank account.
While you’re thinking about what you most need to successfully work from home, remember to keep your requests within reason. Asking for a desk is one thing, but making the argument that you need new bedroom furniture to stay comfortable while you work from home is another. Think about smaller items that will keep you comfortable, such as a back-supporting cushion for your chair rather than an entirely new office chair.
Actively Attend Virtual Meetings
One of the toughest parts of working at home is not being able to talk to your coworkers like you used to. Even the smallest conversations during your workday can give you important information or context about a certain project your company is working on. Once you’re on your own working remotely, not having these little interactions can leave you feeling in the dark about your place of work and its operations.
To stay in the loop, try to attend as many video conferences and conference calls as you can, even if they’re optional rather than required. In addition to attending, be sure that you have an active voice in the meeting. Simply speaking up at the beginning or end of the meeting to let everyone know that you were there will keep you in the minds of your coworkers. Not only will this participation reflect well on you in the eyes of your bosses, but you’ll feel more connected to your company and the work that you do every day.
Keep Socializing (Virtually) with Your Coworkers
Many people rely on attending happy hours or in-office parties to maintain their social life with their coworkers. While this is a fine strategy in normal life, it won’t be very useful with society in lockdown because of the global pandemic. Some people on the more introverted end of the spectrum may feel fine with this lack of socialization, but those on the extroverted end may start to feel depressed or anxious. These feelings can impact your other efforts for staying productive at work and affect your overall work productivity as well as your general happiness.
Luckily, there are still ways you can socialize virtually with your coworkers. The best methods are to use chat channels, such as slack, and have video calls that are solely for socializing rather than meetings. Try scheduling virtual happy hours in place of the in-person happy hours you would normally have. During this time, you can catch up with your coworkers while each having a drink at home. You could play games during this happy hour, give each other video tours of your home, or virtually meet each others’ pets. No. matter how you do it, keeping up your company’s culture virtually can go a long way in emotional healing and feeling like yourself during this period of social isolation.
Take Days Off
If you have sick days that you can take as part of your job’s compensation package, don’t be hesitant to take them while you’re working remotely. Even though you’re staying home, you can still experience sore throats or runny noses and deserve to take time off to recover from any illness. If you don’t take a sick day and instead feel the need to power through your illness, not only are you throwing away the paid sick days you earned but you’re putting your own health in jeopardy. A seemingly minor symptom can be an indication of a more serious illness. If you ignore the symptom, you may end up in emergency care when you could have stopped the illness by addressing it at its first sign.
Keep in mind that you can also take a day off for reasons other than feeling poorly physically. If the COVID-19 crisis has been causing you stress or anxiety, it’s perfectly okay to tell your employer that you need to take time off in order to process what is happening in the world. The mandates for social distancing may also cause you to feel isolated and can trigger symptoms of depression, especially for those who have experienced depression in the past and cannot rely on their usual coping methods while in social isolation. Remember to take off any time that you need to in order to address your mental health. Working in a state of emotional distress isn’t a good recipe for staying productive at home. Most often, you’ll be more productive in the long-run if you take the time off that you need as soon as you need it.
The COVID-19 outbreak may have stopped large numbers of people from gathering together, but that doesn’t mean you can’t leave the confines of your house. In fact, getting some fresh air may be key in staying sane and not resorting to creating a will should you die of boredom. Stretching your muscles in the natural light of the outside world is a great method for feeling better.
Try to leave your home at least once a day. Of course, you will still need to maintain social distancing by staying about six feet away from other people but there is still plenty you can do even with these caveats in place. You could take a walk around your neighborhood to stretch your legs a bit. If you have a garden, you could spend some time doing the weeding or planting new seeds. You could even take your dog to a nearby park to enjoy a change of scenery. By leaving your house and getting outside, you can create the sense that is a normal workday, with different activities and locations to break up the monotony of a day. All of this is key to maintaining a healthy mindset and staying productive at work.
Set Boundaries with People in Your Space
If you live with other people, it can be even more difficult to recreate your usual working conditions. This is often most difficult with children who may not understand that you have to spend time at home working rather than playing with them. With kids, the best thing to do is sit down with them and explain that the work you usually do when you’re away now has to be done while you’re at home. Give them clear times for when you won’t be able to play with them and when they need to stay quiet in the house.
Even if you only live with other adults, it can be hard to set and maintain boundaries for when you’re working. Your partner may be tempted to start talking with you about the new kitchen design or ask you to take the dog for their daily walk. However, all of these interruptions can seriously affect your productivity. Set boundaries with your partner or roommates so that they know you won’t be able to take on chores or domestic responsibilities during your work hours. This will help you in staying productive at home and your loved ones will better understand why you can’t give them the love and attention you usually do.
There’s no doubt that staying productive at home is a major challenge. From package deliveries to dogs that need to go outside, there is a wide range of opportunities for interruption. By using these tips, you can start to cut down on interruptions and make sure that you stay as productive as possible while you work from home.