As the novel coronavirus grips the United States, virtually every business has had to make significant work from home accommodations for millions of employees across the country, with little or no time to plan. While mandatory telecommuting may not be ideal for many companies, there are a multitude of ways that businesses and their team members can make the best of an unforeseen remote working situation, and enjoy a few work from home perks along the way.
Create a Routine That Works for You
Whether you’re an early bird who enjoys watching the day wake up, or you’re a night owl who enjoys working well into the evening, creating a workday routine that works for you will ensure you get the job done while keeping your home life happy and your work-life balance in check.
Create Your Office Space
Especially if working from home became necessary because of COVID-19 work from home mandates, you may not be prepared – or have the room – to designate a formal office space. A small desk, a dining room table, or a kitchen nook – anywhere that you can make your own and keep consistent – will work well.
Finding a spot in a well-lit room, or a room with lots of natural light, will help to create a light, bright work area. Be sure you have the essentials: a comfortable chair, a strong internet connection, a mouse for your laptop (game changer!), and a printer stocked with paper and ink if printing documents is a regular part of your work day.
Make your ad-hoc office space your own! Add a small vase of fresh flowers, your favorite scented candle, a few favorite photos, or anything that sparks a bit of joy throughout your busy work day.
To present a more formal setting when video conferencing with external clients or customers, visibly displaying your name plate in your video chat window is an easy way to set a professional tone while you’re working from home.
When your work day is over, tuck all of your office ‘supplies’ away and out of sight till the next day.
Set Regular Work Hours
What’s most important when working from home is to achieve your responsibilities, which will help to keep your company running smoothly and working toward its objectives. It’s less about clocking in and out, and more about ensuring that you are able to commit to accomplishing quality work in a timely manner.
It is equally as important to completely log off at the end of your work day, resisting the urge to log back in after dinner, or on evenings or weekends. Just as you put in the time expected of you during the work day, keeping work and home life separate are key to your quality of life.
While some people feel best ‘dressed for success’ whether they commute to the office or are working from home, others prefer comfy tees and yoga pants during a busy at-home work day. Work however you’re most comfortable, the more comfortable you are, the more productive you’ll be!
Keep in mind, when video conferencing with other team members, clients, or customers, be sure that what you’ve chosen to wear for the day presents the same appearance as if you were working at the office, perhaps even adding your name tag to complete your look.
Set Rules with Others Sharing Your Space
If you’re not alone during the work hours you’ve set, and must share limited space with family members, roommates, or others, set rules that will respect your privacy while you’re ‘at the office’. One easy way to avoid shared quarters distractions is to put those noise canceling headphones or super-charged ear buds to good use!
Communicate with Colleagues
Many people enjoy the camaraderie of a bustling office. Not everyone prefers to work from home, and doing so may add an extra layer of stress or anxiety to the work day. Providing your virtual teams with as much valuable information as possible will lessen the worry caused by this unexpected disruption.
Additionally, make it a priority to check in often and ‘attend’ your regularly scheduled meetings. Technology offers many easy video conferencing ways to join meetings from virtually anywhere, and continuing meetings as planned will help to keep workflows moving along and keep everyone on the same page. There are many easy to use, free video chat platforms available via social media, including Skype and FaceTime.
Keep the Social in Social Distancing
While it may be easier to be productive without the chatter of coworkers buzzing in your ear, thoughtfully interacting with coworkers via phone calls, video conferencing, or online intranet chat platforms can alleviate feelings of loneliness and isolation and keeps the sense of teamwork thriving when social distancing is a must.
Get Up! Move Around!
Once you’re settled in and working from home, it’s easy to see how much you’re used to getting up and walking around at work, whether it’s down the hall to the conference room or covering several floors throughout the day collaborating with colleagues. It’s essential to get up and move around no matter where your new ‘office’ happens to be.
Several short breaks – of even five or ten minutes at a time – are essential to clear your mind and reset your concentration. Play a few rounds of fetch with your dog, grab the day’s mail, or take a walk around the neighborhood, enjoying a few minutes of fresh air and nature as often as you can.
At a minimum, take a few minutes several times an hour to get up, stretch, close your eyes, and breathe deeply. Opening your windows for some fresh air is also a wonderful way to bring a bit of the outside in.
Take Advantage of Your Perks
While working from home offers its own set of challenges, including transitioning to a single-screen laptop, slower home internet connections, and a laggy virtual private network, there are many work from home perks to be enjoyed.
You’re not commuting! If your commute was only 30 minutes each way, you’ve just gained five extra hours per week, giving you plenty of bonus time to do the little things that inevitably pile up, or simply spend more time living your best life.
Consider the extra savings. Not only will you save the additional gasoline or mass transit costs when working from home, you can enjoy making workday meals and snacks from the comfort of your kitchen, which is a cost that adds up when eating out for lunch even a few days a week.
Speaking of saving money, be your own barista and set up a coffee shop in your kitchen. In just minutes, your favorite latte will be brewed and ready to enjoy!
Enjoy moments that you wouldn’t necessarily have at the office. Listen to your music or podcasts sans headphones, cuddle your kitty to relieve stress (or to remove her from your keyboard!), and enjoy a few minutes of extra sleep instead of sitting in morning traffic.
During stressful times, and especially being so close to a kitchen and pantry full of tempting treats, it’s easy to go for the salty, sweet snacks too often! Instead, focus on healthful fruits, nuts, and nutritious lunches, and then reward yourself with your favorite treat as a bonus at the end of the day.
As mangers that are faced with heading up an unplanned virtual workforce, effective communication and a positive tone from the top are key to encouraging productivity and reducing stress for remote workers.
Sharing the message that the company expects challenges and knows they will pass, and that you’re all in this together, will help calm anxieties and create a feeling of camaraderie among team members during times of uncertainty.
Be sure to stress the importance of work-life balance when your team members are working from home. If employees feel that they have to overcompensate because they do not commute to the office every day, they risk becoming worn out and resenting what could and should be a positive remote working situation.
Let Happy Hour Begin!
If happy hour is a trend you wish could continue amid coronavirus social distancing and self-quarantines, why not give a virtual happy hour a go? One of Bloomberg’s Hong Kong employees says that, after several weeks of working from home, a manager set up a video chat for 20 team members. With drinks in hand, conversations were enjoyed, including family updates, casual conversations, and even a pet or two made an appearance!
This recently unimaginable coronavirus outbreak has sparked a mandatory telecommuting trial run for thousands of businesses and employees across the country and around the world, creating a work from home labor force on a grand scale. While there are obvious work from home perks, including no commutes and a more relaxed remote working home office space, heightened anxieties and uncertainties about what the future holds abound.
Remembering that we’re all in this together will go a long way in keeping the circle of collaboration flowing and our successes rising, at work, at home, and everywhere in between.