Many of you have been thrust into working from home since the novel Coronavirus has sent thousands of American workers fleeing from their offices. And you might be thinking, “How in the world does anyone do this?”
Telework isn’t easy, but with a few tips, you can make it work for you. There are a few things of which to stay aware: accountability, efficiency, and stress. After all, the last thing you want to do is squander away the work day and stress out about to-dos into the evening.
The most important part of creating a great remote work environment is to establish a few means of accountability.
Holding Yourself Accountable
- Write down your to-do list for the next day before bed each night. This will help you clear your thoughts for sleep and allow you to block off times of the day if needed. Mapping out your day will make it a lot easier to accomplish all tasks and crossing off each item will give you a sense of power.
- I love to start with the task that’s most pain-staking or tedious. This ensures that I will get it done and not procrastinate. After that’s complete, I “reward” myself with a task I love to do. For example, I might start the day with spreadsheet work (bleh!) and end with creative writing (yay!), but you should make it work for you.
Being Accountable to Others
- Working remotely does not mean you shouldn’t have conversations with the other people in your virtual “office.” If you have Slack or Google Hangouts, it’s a great idea to share your goals for the week with a peer. Periodically check in on them to see if they need motivating or help. They’ll do the same for you.
- Create goals as a team. If you have a million moving parts to a project, make sure that everyone is on the same page about expectations. Check in on each other throughout the week to see how goals are progressing and re-evaluate when necessary.
One of the most challenging things about working from home is maintaining high efficiency. In the office, it’s likely everyone is working throughout the day on various projects and you aren’t too distracted (except for that birthday cake living in the office kitchen–yum). But at home, there are a million options for things you could do–from dishes to laundry to rewatching FRIENDS episodes you’ve seen 100 times.
- Resist the urge to sit on the couch or in front of a TV. Even when you don’t mean to, your eyes will wander up to the screen and bring you out of your task. Work facing a wall or window (with nothing important outside) in your home. This might sound boring, but I promise, it helps you stay focused.
- For the important tasks that require a lot of focus or creativity, turn off your notifications. Tell the team that you’re going invisible for a couple of hours so that you don’t get pulled into several other conversations. I “pause inbox” on Gmail for a couple of hours a day so that I don’t get anxious about new emails that might need my attention. We are convinced that nothing can wait, but I assure you that it can.
- Take brain breaks. You’ve probably heard that taking 10-15 minute breaks throughout the work day can improve productivity, but it can also improve efficiency. If you find your mind wandering, walk around outside for a bit (even if it’s just your backyard) or have a quick (healthy) snack. Come back with fresh eyes.
The number one way to squash stress related to working from home is to plan ahead and establish boundaries.
Use Evenings to Plan Ahead
- In order to minimize distractions during the work day, you have to eliminate them beforehand. For example, on Sunday nights, my family and I have a run-through of the house and clean together. I call it “Mess-Free Monday.” By cleaning on Sunday night, I don’t wake up to a sink full of dishes, lunches to be made or toys scattered in the living room. I can make my coffee and get to work.
- Each weekday evening, it could also be beneficial to set out your work clothes. Yes, even if they’re casual yoga pants and a tee! It’s tempting to stay in pajamas, especially if you’re new to working from home, but let me tell you, it’s not a good idea. Take it from someone who has had two newborns while working from home: it’s extremely important to wake up, put on fresh clothes, wash your face and brush your teeth if you want to get anything done. If you workout on your lunch break, change your clothes as if you were in public. It’s not only good for your health, but great for boundaries.
- Establish work hours to prevent burn out. Decide on an hour to wrap up work. If you find yourself going into evening hours or hopping back on after dinner or after you put the kids to bed, find better ways to break up and prioritize your daily tasks. Working all throughout the day and night is not good for your home life–your family, your pets–or your well-being. If you need help managing your work load, ask for it.
Working From Home With Kids
Many of you have also been thrust into the “working from home with kids” situation while many schools have closed due to the outbreak of COVID-19. Lucky for you, I did that with one kid, and then two kids, for close to two years. I’m not going to lie; it’s challenging! But here are a few more tips to help you get through these days unscathed:
- Schedule the kids’ days like school would.
Even if your children are not school-aged yet, it’s a great idea to give them a schedule of activities. Write it down and put it on the fridge. Kids love schedules because they don’t have to worry about what’s coming next. I also wouldn’t worry too much about screens. Just do the best you can and oversee that the shows/games they’re watching are somewhat educational.
—> Loads of resources here for free kids educational websites <—
2. Kick ’em outside
Nothing helps calm the crazy like running around in the fresh air. If you’ve got a fenced-in backyard (or children who listen better than mine), toss ’em out there with some bouncy balls, bikes and chalk. Target has some cute, kid-size gardening tools, too, if you want to brave the stores (and potentially have little holes around your yard).
3. Schedule calls for nap/quiet time
Even if your kids don’t nap regularly, they can always benefit from quiet time and rest. Institute a policy for at least an hour each afternoon where everyone goes to their rooms and is quiet. Maybe they read or play with quiet toys, but they’re recharging nonetheless. This allows you to focus uninterrupted and have a block of meeting times each day.
It’s important to remember that we can all get through this period of working from home together. Give each other grace and help as often as possible.
I hope these tips help you get as much done during this time as possible–so you have time for other things like reading, dancing, singing, writing, playing, and whatever else it is that you love to do.