Many people are spending more time working from home, and it looks like it’s going to stay that way for the foreseeable future.
Working from home can create challenges. If you live in a small space, how do you separate your work area from your relaxation area? If you have young children at home, how do you make sure that your time and space are protected so that you can work uninterrupted?
There are many potential distractions when you work from home. Then, there are also potential problems with coordinating with coworkers.
If you need help from a coworker, how can you be sure they are available at the time you need them? How can you make sure you’re available when your coworkers need you? When it comes to workplace morale, what can you do to keep having the casual conversations you might have over lunch in a typical office space?
Questions like these are challenging people who are working from home for the first time all around the world. To solve these issues, it’s important that you:
- Prioritize creating a dedicated work-from-home space
- Establish key work-from-home habits and stick to them
- Work with your virtual team on coordination and connection
Creating a Dedicated Work-from-Home Space
Even if your home is small, you should carve out a dedicated work-from-home space. This will help you mentally “get in the zone” of your work tasks.
- Set up your desk in an area that has limited distractions.
- Keep your desk clean and organized.
- Keep everything you need for work as close to your desk as possible.
- Invest in the tools you need (whiteboards, extra organizational tools).
- Take breaks away from your desk.
If you are able, try to establish your work-from-home space in a room with a door that closes. Shutting out any outside distractions will increase your productivity by making the boundaries of work life and home life more clear. If possible, make sure you have:
- An ergonomic desk chair for healthy posture
- High-speed internet
- Noise-cancelling headphones, if you need them
Find and Follow Your Key Work-from-Home Habits
Once your space is set up, it’s time to implement the good habits you need to successfully work from home.
- Find a productivity tool like the Freedom app and use it to keep yourself focused.
- Take breaks. You need time to rest your brain and your eyes. You’re going to be less productive if you’re running out of steam. Try to take breaks in a room that’s different from the room where you’re working, so that your brain knows it’s clearly time to rest.
- On some of your breaks, exercise. Your body and brain aren’t meant to be in the same spot for eight hours without moving. Do push-ups, sit-ups, or take a short walk on your breaks. Get the blood pumping and the creative juices flowing.
- You’ve set up a clean desk space, and now it’s time to keep it clean. This is especially important if you’re working from home in a small space without clearly defined zones. You can’t balance if you eat, sleep, and work in the same place. Try to keep these zones different, clean, and clutter-free. When there’s less clutter, there’s less stress.
- Stand up for phone calls. This will help your brain know that it’s time to focus just on the words of the person on the other end, so you will be less distracted by what’s on your computer.
- Use over-the-ear headphones for deep work/focus.
- If possible, use a noise-cancelling app that removes background noise from your video calls.
- Are you worried that your client might be distracted by your background? The tool Screenbrander will generate a virtual background for Zoom for $5, and you can look at using a tool like Canva to create your own virtual background as well (just make sure you get the dimensions right!).
Coordinate and Connect with Your Virtual Team
There are many great tools out there to help co-workers stay connected during this unprecedented era. Make sure you’re utilizing those tools to the best of your ability. Many people feel like they are alone in the age of coronavirus, but these issues are universal.
- Use Slack for team meetings, topic-based conversations, and open-door rooms.
- Slack is also a great tool for team bonding. Create rooms for different topics that you might discuss with your coworkers if you were together at your physical office, but that aren’t strictly work-related. This provides value in the form of downtime that you might not easily get otherwise while working-from-home.
- Keep your video on by default. When you’re actually at the office, you’re “on stage” all day long. By keeping your video on all day, you’re mimicking that “on stage” pressure and transferring that work environment energy to your home.
- Work from the cloud. It’s essential that you have all the files you need.
- Address challenges like unscheduled conversations. In a normal office environment, you can pop over to a teammate’s desk to ask a question that requires some discussion, but in the virtual world, that’s not possible. You need to acknowledge that taking the additional step of scheduling a call with a specific coworker is important so that you can maintain that dialogue while working from home.
At the End of the Day…
Successfully working from home comes down to focus, communication, and persistence. Make sure you establish your work-from-home zone and consistently keep it clean. Create and keep up with good work-from-home habits, and communicate often with your coworkers. Keep yourself healthy and stay connected to your community.