The latest emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic has required many employees to work from home that otherwise do not. At first thought, working remotely may sound like a mini-vacation but during uncertain times such as these, it is important to keep normalcy to your days and work life. It is, of course, important to continue productivity for the health of your company and organization, but it is just as important to your own mental health to find meaning and structure in your days.
Fortunately, remote work is very much a part of our cultural landscape. Over the last 12 years, remote work has grown 159%. FlexJobs reports that working remotely has various benefits, including increased job satisfaction and increased productivity.
The key to this new change of pace is to make working from home work for you. Having a plan in place will help you to make the most of your time.
- Stay calm, you got this
Before we jump into the logistics of working from home, let us take a deep breath. These are uncertain times and it is normal to feel unsure about your days ahead. Some of you may be working from home with children or with a spouse/partner also at home. Some of you may be feeling anxious and stressed about the current state of affairs. All of this is overwhelming, but remember that many people are in the same boat navigating this new territory. The goal of this new normal is to make the situation work for you and your family. To do so, set a routine for yourself to gain control of a situation that may feel out of control. You got this. Let’s get started.
2. Set a daily routine that includes
- Getting dressed for the day
- Moving to a designated work space
- Setting working hours (including work breaks)
Getting dressed and moving to another space to start and end work is helpful in signaling to your brain to transition to another part of your day. While it is tempting to keep on your pajamas and lounge in bed or on the couch, your brain will still be in relax mode rather than productive mode. Changing your clothes (even if from pajamas to sweatpants) is a signal to your brain to transition to a work mindset. At the end of the day, closing your computer and signing off for the day will help you to transition to your evening where you can relax and decompress.
Set a work schedule for yourself. While it can be tempting to procrastinate and put off work in the middle of the day, it is important to keep normalcy to your day. If you end up getting stuck on work tasks well into the evening, you will miss the valuable non-work time that is needed to decompress from work mode.
Include work breaks in your schedule for yourself whether for exercise, a mental break or socialization. Consider making time for social time with co-workers to keep a sense of community going on your team. Message colleagues to check in about their day or even schedule a lunch date via video chat to chat while eating.
If you are feeling anxious or overwhelmed due to the latest news, know that you are not alone. Take time to prioritize your mental health. Talk with friends or coworkers about your feelings. Consider meditation applications such as calm.com or read happy news like The Good News Network. Remembering the importance of community and how we can make a positive impact on one another is crucial in times of uncertainty, as well as to your own work-life balance. Without prioritizing these feelings, it will be difficult to focus on your work tasks.
3. Make a plan and set expectations
Making a plan is important to keep productivity going and add structure to your day. At the start of each day, identify priorities and action steps. If you are leading a team, be sure to set expectations for the goals for the week with others. Check in to ensure accountability for yourself and others.
Think through your own expectations for yourself as you are working remotely. Do you expect to take a break for a workout in the middle of the day, or even take a short nap to re-energize? If so, be sure to plan ahead so that you can integrate your expectations into your day.
If you are a manager, be sure to discuss what working remotely means for you as a team. If your company has not identified working remotely expectations, consider setting them together as a team. This could include identifying when/how/why communication takes place throughout the workday.
4. Avoid distractions.
The idea of working from home might trigger thoughts of sitting on the couch in front of the television, as you flawlessly tackle work tasks throughout the day. In reality, this is a slippery slope that can plummet your productivity. Distractions such as tv, social media or podcasts might sound like a great idea but multitasking requires your brain to work overload without much return on investment. Research suggests that when people switch tasks productivity can be reduced by as much as 40 percent. Furthermore, additional research found that regular multitasking could actually impair cognitive processes overall! Even when chronic multitaskers were focusing on just a single task, their brains were less effective and efficient. For more information on the impact of multitasking, check out the Very Well Mind.
5. Make the most of it
If you find that you have more free time than usual, take time to reflect on your professional development or do some research on a trending industry topic. You might even focus your efforts on checking in with others across your team or organization to see how folks are doing. By being a shining light in a time of uncertainty, others will feel comforted and connected. This will also help you to continue to nurture your professional network while making a difference during a scary time.
Share interesting articles on LinkedIn to start conversations. Brainstorm new ideas to implement and bring back to your team. Coming back to work refreshed with new ideas will help you stay productive, thoughtful and intentional about your work. For more tips on being a lifelong learner in your industry, check out our blog about staying relevant in your job.
Remember that this change of routine will not last forever. What you will remember from this time of uncertainty is how you spent your time, who you connected with and what meaning you got from an unsettling situation. You got this.
For more ideas on how to successfully work remotely, consider working with a career coach. A coach can help you identify action steps to make the most of your time working from home. Check out our executive coaching services and sign up for a free consultation here.