Many companies are having their employees work from home during the Coronavirus pandemic. While working remotely can have many benefits, there can be a number of challenges, too. Working from home and going without a commute frees up more time for work, but it can also blur the line between when work ends and home life begins. And even if you’ve been working from home for years, your plan likely never accounted for other family members, roommates, or children being in that same space. Since all of us here at TMSOFT have been remotely working for a number of years, we’re sharing our top tips for working from home.
Create a Morning and Evening Routine
We know it’s tempting to stay in those pajamas and take calls from your cozy bed, but your morning prep routine plays a large role in determining your mindset for the day. Make a point to wake up at a reasonable time (getting a good night’s sleep will certainly help with that), get out of those pajamas, in the shower, and dressed for the day. Do you like to start your day with a jog? With some quiet time and coffee? Make time for those things in the morning before you start your work day to help signal your brain that it’s now time to work. We suggest having routines in the evening to end your work day as well. Activities like physically powering down the computer and tidying up your work space can help. Being consistent with an end of day routine will help draw a more concrete line between work ending and personal life beginning.
Maintain Regular Hours
Some employers have strict working hours you need to follow while others allow for more flexibility. Whichever category you fall into, be sure to maintain those hours consistently. If you are allowed flexibility with when you work, choose hours that include your most productive time of the day. Be sure to communicate with your supervisors and/or teams when you’re available. It’s also important you share this information with your family, as well.
Keep a Dedicated Office Space
This may sound like an obvious suggestion, but especially for new at-home teleworkers, it’s tempting to just set up in your bed or at the kitchen counter. If your space doesn’t allow for a completely separate and dedicated work space, make sure the area you are utilizing can be temporarily shut down/off from your personal life activities. Having a door to close the space while you’re working can help minimize interruptions. If you use the same laptop for both personal and business use, be sure to use it for business purposes in the designated space. When it’s there, you’re working. When it’s in your lap, it’s for personal use. We also recommend using our White Noise app to play a constant sound to reduce noise distractions around you. This helps you focus on your work and it also provides a level of privacy. Looking for some sound inspiration? Check out this playlist on Spotify.
Set Boundaries and Expectations with People Sharing your Space
It’s important to share your expectations and boundaries with the people sharing your space whether they are roommates, children, or a spouse. If you don’t normally work from home, you’ll likely need to have a discussion with them about what working from home means (hint, it’s not a vacation!). They should know your work hours and when they can and cannot “interrupt.” An easy way for small children to understand when they can and cannot interrupt is by playing different noises during different parts of the workday. Try playing Brown Noise when they absolutely cannot interrupt (when you’re on the phone with your team, for example) and playing a very different sound like Zen Spa Music when you’re working, but can be interrupted. When they hear Brown Noise, they know you’re off limits, but when Zen Spa Music comes on, they know it’s ok to ask you for help with something. Our White Noise app has thousands of relaxing sounds, so spend a little time finding what works best for you and your family.
Instead of working for five straight hours, schedule frequent breaks throughout the day. Plan them by either programming an alarm to remind you to take breaks at the same time each day or plan them based on your tasks for the day. It’s also important to take the breaks in their entirety. Only spent 20 minutes eating your lunch? Don’t be tempted to get right back into work. Take the other 40 minutes to walk the dog around the block, to quietly meditate, or to play with your kids. If the weather permits, we especially recommend getting outside during your breaks. This Forbes article demonstrates how fresh air and natural light does wonders for productivity.
Prioritize your Schedule
If you have the ability to structure your day as you see fit, be sure to work on and complete the most important and time sensitive tasks first. These are often the most daunting and overwhelming tasks, but with the big tasks out of the way it’s much easier to tackle the smaller ones. If you have small children, consider scheduling phone calls during nap time when children will most likely be asleep and quiet. Use the White Noise app, the Alexa Skill, or a streaming service like Spotify when they nap to minimize the distractions from your phone and conference calls to help keep children asleep longer. When scheduling things like meetings or calls, consider other things happening that day such as deliveries. If you can’t avoid the delivery man ringing the doorbell and creating more commotion while you’re on that important call, put a note on the door asking to not ring the doorbell or to just leave packages at the door.
Especially during a time like this, it’s important to remember your remote “office” might not be the perfect set-up and your day might not go as smoothly as you would hope. Give yourself (and the people around you) some grace and do your best! Let us know what other tips you’ve found helpful to effectively work from home!