Many of us find ourselves working from home due to precautions to mitigate the impact of COVID-19.
Whether you are joining the remote workforce for the first time or increasingly working from home, it is important to take time to think about how best to create a successful working environment.
1. Establish your space.
In today’s mobile-driven environment, many of us can and do work from anywhere – but it is important to have a space that roommates, significant others, and family know is the “work zone.” Not everyone has access to a home office with a door that can be closed to stake out your “office,” but you do need to create a dedicated work space within the reality of what is going on in your life – family, small children, pets, friends, roommates…
2. Do you have the tools you need to feel productive and connected?
These tools will vary for everyone, but take a moment to think about what you really need.
If you work for a company that has the tech infrastructure and network to support remote employees, work with your leader and IT team to see how you can best recreate your tools at home. Identify what you will miss most in terms of both tech and non-tech tools and support, and prioritize these to create an optimal work environment.
3. Set your “go to work” routine.
This will look different for everyone, based on what gets you into a work-mode headspace and what is going on at home. “Going to work” might sound silly when you aren’t leaving your home – but it does help to build a daily routine, and to attempt to stick with it.
Many homeworkers find it important to get properly dressed for the day to get into that working frame of mind. Think comfortable but smart enough to look like you mean business when on a video conference call.
Think about what works for your routine, such as getting the kids fed and ready for school – or in these COVID-19 times, home learning and activities. With these added challenges for those with young children, work with your team leaders to agree to shorter, intense or task-based work windows. Employee flexibility at work is key here. Where possible, be prepared to work “out of hours” when young ones are asleep.
4. Try to set boundaries.
Emphasis on the word “try.” Those new to homeworking can feel overwhelmed with all the “personal life” stuff around them. In the office, you don’t make eye contact with that Mount Everest pile of laundry – out of sight, out of mind, right? But when you pass it every time you go to get a glass of water, the temptation looms large to tackle it, instead of staying focused on the action items of your workday. Think: Would you be taking a break right now if you were in the office? Of course, office workers get breaks, so if you are due one, that laundry’s all yours – or better still, step outside and get some fresh air.
Boundaries come in all forms, including sound boundaries. When not on calls, some people find keeping those headsets or earbuds on with some music helps block the hustle of nonwork life happening around the homeworker.
On the flip side, working from home can sometimes make it harder to end the workday. It is important to establish what the “end of day” means for you in the context of your role.
Make the most of saved commuting time to both be more productive and improve work-life balance.
5. Social distancing doesn’t have to mean social isolation.
Now is the time to turn on that laptop camera during team meetings (yes, it can be a bit weird if you aren’t used to it, but give it a try!). Seeing faces in different places helps you feel like you’re still with your colleagues.
Pick up the phone multiple times a day to talk to teammates, and set up a team chat on WhatsApp. A chat group won’t replace in-office camaraderie, but it will serve as a nice second choice to share information, ask questions, share memes or links, and to engage with your team more frequently than via scheduled meetings and emails. Explore different channels of communication to keep your team as connected as possible.