You’re fortunate if your employer is allowing you to work from home amid all of the uncertainty of the coronavirus. For most of you, however, the new arrangement is a sudden and unexpected change, and for many, the arrangement involves children who will be staying home from school for an extended period of time, adding to the challenge. So how can you stay focused and productive? Here are some tips our experts recommend:
- Keep a dedicated office space: Ideally, you have a home office space perfectly suited to this arrangement, but if you don’t, try to set up a desk and working space that won’t be used for anything but work. If you will be using your personal computer for work, keep dedicated digital space for work files and applications by partitioning your hard drive. There should be a clear distinction between your professional and personal life.
- Make sure you have enough internet bandwidth: Your internet service may not provide enough bandwidth for your business needs, so you may need to talk with your provider about upgrading. If you notice pages slowly loading, your connection seems choppy, or video won’t stream consistently, try shutting down your wifi connection from your phone, tablets, and other internet connected devices, such as Roku and appliances that use the internet. All of these consume valuable bandwidth that you will need to work.
- Keep the kids entertained: If you have little ones, you may need to hire temporary help. If your kids are old enough to entertain themselves, order books, games, and puzzles; subscribe to Disney or Netflix streaming services; and stay tuned on daily advisories from the government as to whether having playdates in your home or elsewhere is safe. Talk with your child’s pediatrician about what doctor and dental appointments are necessary to keep, as regular checkups for a healthy child may present more risk than reward if the contagion continues to spread.
- Set a regular schedule: Even if you are offered the flexibility to determine your own hours as needed, try to maintain as close to normal hours as possible. Track your time to ensure that you are remaining discipline. Maintain your normal routine, whether this includes a morning pre-work jog, an hour lunch, or afternoon coffee. When people who do work from home start to lose focus, a telltale sign is that their work hours become more random.
- Dress the part: Sure, you can work in your pajamas, and with your hair a mess, but if you don’t create a professional mindset, it’s hard to maintain discipline. Showering, getting dressed, and keeping up your professional image help you to draw a mental distinction between uptime (work) and downtime. You also never know when you will be asked to attend a webcam meeting. If you are a manager or if you conduct meetings, you may want to encourage everyone to turn on their webcams so that your team feels more connected.
- Back up your data: If you have an informal setup without a VPN and IT support, make sure that you back up your data by storing files on Google Drive, DropBox, IDrive or a similar site recommended by your IT department. In addition, make sure that your computer and accessories are all plugged into a surge protector, so that you don’t lose your hardware, software, and files in an electrical storm.
- Keep up with professional development online: People who work from home often miss out on training and professional development opportunities that happen in the office or at events. These are essential to your career development, so ask about getting the training and coaching you need, and resources available to you from home.
- Stay connected: Make an extra effort to reach out to coworkers, to communicate project status and other updates. If you’re a manager, this is as essential to your subordinates’ productivity as it is your own—and your sanity as well. If you’re accustomed to a certain amount of daily interaction, a precipitous drop can make you feel isolated, and that can lead to a loss of productivity and dissatisfaction.
Finally, stay positive throughout this experience. Rely on the support of your co-workers, friends, and family to deal with some of the challenges of your new working conditions. Don’t over-expose yourself to a constant inundation of depressing news, but do stay current and aware of public health advisories. Above all else, know yourself and stay connected to your human resources department and leaders to ensure your needs are met.