COVID-19 is now a global pandemic affecting everything from international travel, tourism and even the availability of toilet paper. With new cases of COVID-19 confirmed every day, the United States is calling for everyone to limit their interactions with others and recommending that many employees work remotely, if they are able.
Working from home may seem like an amazing perk, but how can you ensure that you will make good use of your time and continue to be productive? Staying productive at home will take a little extra effort because of the many distractions that can disrupt your focus.
Here are five ways you can be more productive while working or studying from home:
1. Establish a Routine
It is important that you try to stick to a routine or ritual that is similar to the one you had when heading to the office. While it may be easy to roll right out of the bed in your pajamas and quickly sign into your laptop to let everyone know you are available, you just might not be in the right headspace to begin tackling the work day. Use your alarm and select the same time to wake up Monday through Friday that gives you enough room to get your morning routine completed. You may not have to wear your business causal outfits to the dining room table, but get dressed into something comfortable, brush your hair, and enjoy some breakfast and your favorite coffee. Now that you do not have to worry about a commute to work, use that time to get a few more minutes of rest, meditate, get a work out in or read that book you had no time to read before.
2. Make a To-Do List
If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail. Create a schedule and stick to it. Consider writing a to-do list with all the items you hope to accomplish for the day. Be sure to include time for meetings, assignments, lunch and potential unplanned interruptions. It may also be helpful to get the mundane over in the morning so you can focus on the projects that interest you most. At the end of each workday, write the next day’s list so that you can go to sleep knowing exactly what needs to be done when you clock in the next morning.
3. Create a Workspace
Designating a comfortable area to work is extremely important. Not everyone is lucky enough to have an extra bedroom to make an office, but what you can do is choose a space within your home and use creative home organization hacks to keep it neat and tidy. A messy space will easily distract you and your coworkers if you have to do any video chats. Try setting the ambiance by choosing a spot with great natural lighting or purchasing light bulbs that are easy on your eyes. Consider lighting a scented candle and adding a small plant or other décor to give your space personality. Keeping your workspace clean and stocked with office supplies will help make your transition a little easier.
As long as you aren’t away from your computer for more than 10-15 minutes, never feel guilty if you need a moment to clear your head.
4. Take Intermittent Breaks
Even though you’ll be working hard, following a schedule and getting things done, don’t forget to take care of yourself. Take a few brief breaks throughout the day and go for a short walk, stretch or have a snack. If you need to put laundry in the wash, now is the chance. As a remote worker, it’s easy to feel like you need to be available and online at all hours of the workday. As long as you aren’t away from your computer for more than 10-15 minutes, never feel guilty if you need a moment to clear your head.
5. Stay Connected
Communication is key when you’re working remotely. Not communicating with your boss or team can reflect poorly on your work ethic. Remember to keep your boss updated on what you are working on and reach out to your team if you are in need of help. If you are feeling confused about what tasks you are responsible for, talk to your supervisor and get clarity on their expectations. It is easy to feel alone when working from home. Normally, you would walk to a colleague’s office or chat in the breakroom, but don’t hesitate to call a team member and catch up on the projects you are working on. Suggest weekly team check-in meetings by phone or video so that your team can still feel the camaraderie while away from the office.
Working from home can be extremely different from the office, but it also comes with some great benefits. Remember to always be intentional in order to be productive but when you’re done with work for the day, sign offline and start fresh tomorrow.
Ashley Colquhoun ’12 is a human resources management and event services professional with a background in HR generalist affairs, including employee recruitment and retention, staff development and employee relations.