By Caroline Castrillon – Forbes Magazine
The current crisis has businesses globally urging, and in many cases mandating, that employees work from home. If you’re new to working remotely 100% of the time, this could be a significant adjustment. You may not have been prepared to turn your living space into your workspace for the foreseeable future. Suddenly that spare bedroom, dining room, kitchen, or closet has turned into a home office, and you find yourself leading conference calls in your new uniform—a robe and pajamas. Your spouse and kids are also home, which can make things, well, a bit crowded. If you enjoyed having daily social interaction with co-workers, feelings of isolation and loneliness could set in. Given that this is the new normal, here are ten tips for working remotely that will make your experience less stressful and more productive.
1. Designate a workspace
It is easier to stay mentally focused if you designate a specific area in your home to get work done. That could be a home office, spare bedroom, or some other dedicated area that offers privacy. If you can find a spot that provides a lot of natural light, even better. Also, if you will be making video calls while working remotely, make sure you have a background that you won’t mind having others see.
2. Create a comfortable environment
Make sure you have the right equipment at home so you can be efficient and productive. This includes things like a computer and high-speed Internet connection that can support video conferencing, a desk, an ergonomic chair, office supplies and a desk lamp. Make your workspace as comfortable as possible, whether that includes a scented candle, soothing music, family photos, or a potted plant.
3. Set boundaries
Now more than ever, it's essential to set boundaries when working remotely. This is because more than likely, you have your spouse, children and pets all in close quarters. Give your family signals as to when to leave you alone. For example, when the door is closed, that means that dad is on a conference call and doesn't want to be disturbed.
4. Keep children on a schedule
If you have children at home, staying organized is even more important during this time. If you can attempt to replicate the schedule of a typical school day, that will help. Especially with small children, try to get some of your work done while the kids are having lunch or taking naps.
5. Maintain a consistent routine
Your children aren’t the only ones that thrive on structure. Set a work schedule for yourself and stick to it. Try to wake up at the same time every day and treat weekdays just as you did before. For most people, the morning is the time to get serious work done, so try to complete any difficult tasks as early in the day as you can.
Because you are not in an office where people can see you, communication is more critical when working remotely. Communicate frequently with your boss and know what's expected of you. “Out of sight, out of mind can be a real problem for remote workers,” says Sara Sutton, CEO and founder of FlexJobs, a remote job listing site. “The very best remote workers will reach out to co-workers and managers regularly” through a variety of tools.
7. Stay connected with colleagues
Online tools like Slack not only help workflow but can also serve as social outlets. It’s even better to actually speak to another human being, so make some phone calls to check in with people. Teleconferences add another sensory element to your interactions. Experts say video conferencing while working from home helps fight isolation while enhancing team unity and productivity.
8. Take breaks
Working remotely is inherently challenging because it's easy to lose track of time. With the current situation, taking breaks is even more critical. That's because, in a traditional office, it's easy to stop by a co-worker's desk to chat or head to the break room for a cup of coffee. In one survey, nearly 90% of American workers said that taking a lunch break helped them feel refreshed and ready to get back to work. So, pull yourself away from the computer, even if it’s for a few minutes.
9. Make time for physical and creative activities
If it’s possible and you can maintain a safe distance from others, try to get outside for some fresh air when you can. Other activities that are enjoyable and don’t require personal interaction include taking virtual classes. This could consist of enrolling in tennis classes with Serena Williams on Masterclass or enhancing your mindfulness and yoga skills on Gaia. Now might even be a good time to start a craft project or pick up a hobby like pottery, cooking, or gardening.
10. Focus on the big picture
This is a stressful time for everyone, so it's important to remember to have fun. You may even discover new, funny quirks about your significant other while working remotely. At the end of the day, try to embrace the additional quality time you have with your family. After all, isn’t that all that really matters?