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The Art of Working From Home: 7 Tips for Making It Work

March 18, 2020 - Katie McCallum

It's incredibly important that each of us do our part to slow and prevent the spread of coronavirus — and, for those of us who can, that means working remotely. Initially, working from home probably doesn't sound too bad to most of us.

A break from sitting in traffic. Your cat purring in your lap all day long. Easy access to fresh food in your fridge. You don't even have to put real clothes on.

But, experienced work-from-homers will be the first to point out how easily working from home can turn into a "Pinterest vs. Reality" situation.

Skipping your commute means missing your favorite podcast or playlist. It's actually pretty annoying to spend the entire day playing defense against a cat who wants to walk all over your keyboard. Having easy access to your pantry turns into way too much snacking. And — well, staying in sweatpants all day may not have a downside — but you get the point.

Since some of us may be working from home for several more weeks, here are tips to help you stay motivated and sane while you do it.

Don't skip your usual morning routine

When you know you're going to be holed up at home all day, it can be tempting to just skip your morning routine altogether. Why keep your 6 a.m. alarm when you don't have to shower or eat breakfast by a specific time, right?

They can be tedious and boring, but routines provide structure to your day — helping you stay organized and productive. We're creatures of habit, after all. Routines can also help keep autopilot thoughts — like "When should I shower?" — from using up the valuable brainpower you need to get your real work done.

This means that even though you technically don't need to, it's best to keep your alarm set and keep plowing through that morning routine you're used to: Eat breakfast, shower, get dressed, walk your dog, read the news — then, just like every other morning, get started on your work.

Set up a "home office" if you don't already have one

Setting up a comfy pillow fort on your bed or couch sounds really nice, but it's probably not the most productive work environment. Plus, you already spent all night in your bed, and since we're all practicing social distancing, you're probably going to spend a lot of your evening on the couch.

When your home becomes the place where you spend your free time and the place you work, you may want to consider separating the two.

If you have the space, identify a specific place to work each day — ideally away from where you relax and sleep. Choose a spot that minimizes distractions and helps you focus. And try to make sure your workspace has all the things you need to be productive, like a desk, keyboard, mouse and monitor.

Since you may be working from home for a few weeks, consider mixing up where you set up your home office from week to week.

Use tools to collaborate with your coworkers

Popping into someone's office will always be the easiest way to collaborate with a coworker, but emails, phone calls, messaging platforms and video chats are great alternatives when you're working from home.

By scheduling regular meetings with your team, you'll have dedicated time to share progress, ask questions and collaborate on work. Using video for these meetings can also provide social interaction that you may otherwise miss while working from home.

In addition, try to keep your one-on-one meetings with your manager as often as possible. While working remotely, it's even more important to regularly share progress, ask questions, verify priorities and share any challenges.

Keep your normal work hours

Whatever your work schedule is at the office, keep it the same while working from home.

There are a lot of distractions at home (TV, pets, family members), and setting your "work hours" — including start and stop work times, breaks and lunch — can help you stay focused throughout your day.

Keeping your standard work schedule also makes it easier for your coworkers to collaborate with you.

On the flip side, some people may find it hard to unplug from their work when their laptop is only a few feet away. Working from home doesn't mean you need to be (or should be) working 24/7. Designate your working hours and make sure you also take time to take care of yourself, recharge and rest.

Avoid the urge to snack

The urge to snack is, or likely will be, real at some point while you work from home. At the office, there's the occasional break-room treat and the vending machine. At home, there's a pantry and refrigerator full of food you picked out yourself.

If you're finding it hard to avoid sneaking into the kitchen for a snack on your breaks, try sticking to an eating schedule. Set aside time for lunch and avoid the kitchen in between if that's what it takes. At the very least, make sure the only snack items you have available are healthy ones.

It's also important to make sure you're not skipping lunch either — since it can make you more likely to snack or overeat at dinner.

Keep your kids busy

With many schools closed, you may be working from home while also taking care of your kids.

To help keep your kids entertained while still getting your work done, stock up on a variety of:

  • Activity sets
  • Books
  • Games
  • Puzzles

 

Need advice on which games and shows will keep your kids busy while still engaging their brains? Common Sense Media recommends the following.

You may also want to consider meal-prepping some healthy snacks for your kids — just be sure to keep track of how much they're snacking.

Use your lunch hour to make a healthy meal now and then

Since you'll have access to fresh food and a full kitchen, consider using your lunch break to whip up a quick meal — rather than reheating leftovers in the microwave every day. A fresh, tasty meal at lunch is a nice treat to yourself, and there are plenty of dishes you can make in under 30 minutes.

 

Concerned you may have COVID-19?

  • If you're experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, you can speak to a Virtual Urgent Care provider 24/7. The provider will help you determine if testing is needed and advise you on where you should go.
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