There is no question that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the workplace. I recently read a finding from Gartner that 88% of Americans who are currently working are working from home. For many, this is uncharted territory. I have worked from home for most of the last decade. Here are a few things, I have learned from experience.
Set aside a dedicated workspace. My kids are grown, and I can use a spare bedroom as an office, but not everyone has that luxury. I certainly did not when I started working at home. Sometimes my workspace was the dining room table. Sometimes it was a table in the corner of our family room. Whether it is a TV tray in your living room or a nightstand in your bedroom, it is important to have a consistent place from which to do business. This will help you keep your business stuff organized, and it will help you draw a line between business activities and home activities.
Develop a schedule and try to keep regular hours. Make sure your virtual colleagues know your work schedule, so they know when they can get a hold of you. Barring any scheduled meetings, I typically start work around 8 a.m., break for lunch around noon, and try to wrap up for the day between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. depending on what I am in the middle of. During the pandemic, some have the added challenge of having to juggle work with their kids and homeschooling. That is a challenge I have not had to face, but my kids have. In those situations, developing a schedule is doubly important. Setting aside specific times for your work activities, and your kids’ activities will help you and them.
Put everything into your calendar and keep up to date. This will remind you when it is time for work and when it is time for your kid’s online meeting with his or her teacher. If you work in an organization where others can see your calendar for scheduling meetings, then your colleagues will know when you are available to meet, and when you are not.
(Try to) draw lines between personal and work life. This can be hard sometimes. When you worked in an office, you could walk out the door at the end of the day and be in a world outside work. When you work at home, you may feel like you are living in your workplace instead of working in your home. In the beginning, I struggled not to feel like I was always at work. Having a dedicated workplace and a regular schedule will help with this.
Avoid distractions. Some like to work with music or the TV in the background. I like quiet. Do whatever works best for you. At present, you may have kids at home who are noisy at times, but the more you can eliminate distractions, the more productive you will be.
Stay connected. Today, most people have access to high-speed Internet, and the more speed, the better. Part of what I do involves creating e-Learning modules, and I often need to move huge files around. You may find yourself in online meetings where you are not only streaming audio but video as well. There is no substitute for bandwidth. Sign up for the best you can get (or afford).
Reach out and talk to someone. Until you work at home, you may not realize how often you had personal interactions with others in your office. Do not hesitate to talk to your virtual colleagues. Usually a short conversation or group meeting can be a lot more productive than composing a lengthy email that then requires a lengthy response, and it helps your avoided feeling like you’re working in solitary confinement.
After the stay-at-home requirements ease, many of us are going to find ourselves working a home more than we did before the pandemic. Everyone is different, and you will have to develop your work-at-home routine, but these are a few of the things that helped me in my transition from in-office to remote work.