I've been working from home for over 13 years now. It's tough initially because there are always other things at home you can do besides work. Little distractions can come up and pull you away from your at home workstation. Even today with the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, it's extremely difficult not to stay glued to news outlets during work hours. In this article, I hope to give you some valuable tips on how to work from home during the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.
Establish Your Routine
If you're reading this article, chances are you don't normally work from home. With employers taking necessary measures to comply with social distancing guidelines, now is the time to shine and to prove to your employer that you can get just as much work done from home as you can at the office. Working from home basically means you can work from anywhere as long as you have an internet connection. Some employers may require you to connect to their system via a VPN. A VPN will keep your connection to the employers system secure. I've lived in several locations during my 13 plus years of working from home and as long as I was able to stick to the below tips, it didn't matter where I was or what was going on, I was still able to get my work done.
1. Establish a routine and stick to it. Wake up, shower, eat, get ready, and go to your home workstation if that works for you. Personally, I wake up, check and reply to urgent emails via my phone, check my calendar for today's events, eat, Facebook, TikTok, IG, whatever, and then hit my office. I'm usually in front of my computer around 9 or 9:30am.
2. Silence your phone if you can. Our phones can offer endless distractions on normal days, let alone when a pandemic is happening.
3. While working, I focus on a single task in order to minimize distractions. If I'm writing an article, my email program is closed and all other notifications are off. If someone wants to call me, I ask them to schedule the call so I can give them my undivided attention during that time slot.
Prioritizing is Key
Very early in my working from home experience, I learned that work is always there. I could work 6, 7, 8, 10, 12, 14, or 16 hours every day and work was still there the next day. I could sit down to dinner, hear my phone buzz, check it to see a work email. I'd address it then or immediately after dinner. This is a bad habit to get into if the email isn't urgent. You'll eventually go insane if you do this because you'll feel like you don't have any time off.
Searching for answers on how to break this habit or form better working from home habits, I read a book called The Way We're Working Isn't Working by Tony Schwartz. The example he gives in the book didn't work for me, but I tried new routines based on his research until I did find one that worked for me. My day is broken down into several parts listed below.
7:30am Wake up and answer any urgent emails
8:00am Get out of bed, eat, and enjoy social media, texting with friends, whatever.
9:00am Start working - Stay focused - Don't allow distractions
12:30 I shower, grab something to eat and watch TV or go out for lunch. Either way I step completely away from my desk for about 1.5 hours
2:00pm I'm back at my desk and working
5:00pm Wrap up work things and step away from your desk by 5:30pm
5:30pm Step away from your desk
The above is my routine on most days. However, when bigger projects or certain tasks come up that require more time, I usually start work earlier or stay later, but I almost always stick to the 1.5 hours for lunch/mental reset. Building this routine and sticking to it allows me to focus better. I get more work done in the 2 work sessions (7 hours) during the day than I would when I was working 10 hours and eating lunch and sometimes dinner at my desk. Not allowing distractions is really a huge part of the success of my routine and that came straight from the book I mentioned earlier.
You'll have to establish a routine for you. My routine with no kids is probably very different than a parent at home by themselves while schools are closed. I can't imagine how tough it might be to establish a routine, but the sooner you figure out what works for you, the more productive you'll be while working from home.
It's unclear how long social distancing will be suggested or even how long a full on quarantine might last if one is put in place. It's an adjustment for all who have never worked from home.
Good luck and stay safe.