13 Apr Tips for working from home during COVID-19
These are unprecedented times. We are all spending more time at home than most of us have ever spent before. Many of us are running our businesses from home, have partners working from home, and are supervising schooling from home. And there’s not just the juggling. We might also be hibernating, innovating or pivoting our businesses. To help in this time of stress and change we have developed some tips for effectively working from home during COVID-19.
It can be difficult to complete our work activities without the built-in discipline of ‘turning up to work’. We still have goals or KPI’s, projects and tasks to complete, and all of this needs to be done in a different environment than we are used to. As with any change it’s not always an easy transition. And it’s not just about our changed work environment – many of us are fearful, stressed and worried about what the future may hold for us, our communities and loved ones. This is not an easy time for anyone.
There are many things to consider when trying to work productively in your home environment. Here are some tips you can adapt to your circumstances to help you make the most of the current situation.
1. Be kind to yourself and others
Some of us love change – most of us resist it like the wind. You may or may not be coping. Maybe you had a great start to working from home but have since fallen into a heap. Perhaps there are good days and bad days. Your energy levels need to be taken into consideration as much as your available time.
Maybe you’ve lost your BOJO (Business Mojo) or motivation to keep going. That’s ok. It’s understandable to feel pessimistic at times. But every day is a new day and a new opportunity to feel better under extremely challenging circumstances. It’s an opportunity to find resilience and, if you can, to be generous and grateful.
2. Create a mindset
As much as I love being in my pyjamas, it’s best to start the day by getting ready. Have a shower, wash your hair, get dressed, pop on the pearls. You will be more motivated and feel more like you are ‘at work’ if you put on your uniform for the day.
If you wouldn’t turn up to work dressed like you are, then maybe don’t go to work at home dressed like it!
3. Know yourself
If you have some flexibility in your day, plan the toughest jobs for the time when you are most productive. If you can start the day by ‘eating the frog’ – that is, tackling the most challenging, unappetising task so it’s done and doesn’t hang around in your subconscious eating away at you. That way it also doesn’t get put on your schedule for tomorrow.
4. Set a schedule – not a to-do list
Block out times in your day and schedule the work you need to get done. This includes breaks. Have a weekly schedule including any regular meetings such as team or client meetings. Whenever you can, make them at the same time each week. If you are working with a remote or distributed team let them know your schedule.
Use the end of the day to plan for the next.
5. Avoid the temptation for multi-tasking
There are some things suitable for multitasking, e.g. walking or cooking while listening to podcasts. But multitasking can be counterproductive for creative or challenging pursuits. Your brain takes at least 15 minutes to refocus whenever you switch tasks.
Try focusing on one task at a time and switch focus only when you finish. You’ll be less distracted, and will complete tasks quicker than if you tried to do them all at once. Set a timer for your tasks so that you don’t spend too much time on any one thing. Adopt ‘one hour of power’ daily to complete any unfinished tasks or to start new ones
6. Create your own space
Create an environment that allows you to focus on what you need to get done for the day and based on your needs. Do you need a quiet space to focus or can you operate with noise? Can you hide away in a quiet space for phone calls or use headphones to isolate yourself in that way? It’s ok if some days are spent on the couch and others in your room. Whatever works for you and the other people at home. You might have to negotiate using spaces at different times.
Apply workplace health and safety standards at home. Have a decent chair and if you will be spending a lot of time on phone or video conferences, try some of them standing up.
7. Log off
Set yourself up at the start of every day and pack down at the end to create the distance between work time and home time. Log off, turn off notifications and use the do not disturb function on your phone for the times you want to be present at home.
To distinguish between work and home you might want to do something in between, e.g. go for a walk, meditate or create a mantra to signal the end to the working day. You might also like to change clothes. I start chipping out burrs (and there are plenty of them) around 5 pm every day.
8. Take a break
Fresh air and vitamin D are beneficial to our wellbeing. Take your coffee or lunch break outside or sitting by a window. Make the most of a challenging situation by affording yourself these luxuries.
9. Set family rules
If you are navigating business as well as wrangling children, set up some rules. The ages and stages of your young ones will determine what types of rules you can set. I have created a routine whereby I do most of my online research when the children are on their school breaks and the Internet speed is faster. There is now a whiteboard outside my door notifying them if I am on a call.
In this extremely disruptive world, getting by is enough. Ignore the calls to write a book, upskill, bake, get fit, or learn a new language (unless of course you have time on your hands that you want to use for doing these things!). You don’t have to put any more pressure on yourself. There should be no expectation you will stay up until midnight to get your work done after the children are in bed if that’s not the way you like to work.
If you have more ideas about how to manage working from home during COVID-19 we would love to hear from you.
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