Are you among the millions of people suddenly thrust into the world’s largest work-from-home experiment? Maybe you’re relieved by the mandatory telecommute, or perhaps you’re anxious about this sudden shift in daily life. And if you’re currently enrolled in an online degree program, that doubles the amount of brainpower you’ll have to expend in a place that also serves as your personal sanctuary.
Working from home is definitely not for everyone, and some sectors and industries lend themselves to the arrangement far better than others. If suddenly the family couch is your new office cubicle, the kitchen counter is your executive desk, and a trip to the cafeteria means opening the fridge—try a few of the following tips to stay productive (and sane) while joining the global remote workforce.
1. Carve out a workspace
Do you need to get creative with carving out a workspace? If so, here are a few ideas. People with guest bedrooms can push beds up against walls to create an area for a desk and a chair. Those who live in studio apartments might not have the luxury of a separate space reserved only for work. Can you set up a folding chair and a card table in a spare corner? How about a makeshift standing desk? If the couch and adjacent coffee table are your only options, that’s fine too. Stake your territory, and make it your own.
A dedicated home workspace can help minimize interruptions from family, pets, TVs, and other people’s phones that might disrupt you. Establishing some form of physical barriers around your “office” area can help you maintain mental boundaries, making it easier to keep your focus on work for greater productivity.
2. Plan Your Day
With 100% of your life now taking place under the same roof, time-management skills are mandatory. Block off hours each day devoted to professional, educational, and personal tasks. You’ll need self-discipline and self-accountability to punch the imaginary work time clock in the face of so much flexibility and privacy.
Decide when you’re working from home, and stick with those hours as much as possible. Pretend you’re at the office or off-site so you won’t be tempted to run a load of laundry or take the dog for a spontaneous walk. Reserve personal errands and household tasks for your lunch break or after work.
Treat your online coursework with the same precision. Decide when in the week you can tackle the readings and assignments, and hold to the timeframes. When your workday is over, log off completely and claim your personal part of the day. Don’t talk about work or school, and put all of your office supplies and reading materials out of sight. Give your brain a well-deserved break, and do something that energizes or relaxes you.
3. Keep the same daily routine
In the face of so much change, structure and predictability can be calming. To the extent you’re able, try to observe the same practices you’re used to when it comes to things like waking up and going to bed at a certain time, when you eat, shower, make your bed, etc. Go about your morning as if you were going to leave home for work.
Definitely get out of the pajamas, but it’s OK to relax the work dress code. Adopt a daily work uniform for yourself that gives you one less decision to make, freeing up your mental energy for income-earning and education-related matters.
4. Engage in Daily Exercise
You’re saving time by not commuting, and you’re taking far fewer daily steps working from home. One of the best things you can do for your health and productivity with that freed-up time is to schedule exercise into your day. The increased blood flow to your brain sharpens your awareness, makes you more alert, and boosts your cognitive abilities.
While exercising outdoors in nature is preferable if you’re cooped up in your home all day, there are a variety of free online videos and phone apps you can use to plug quick bursts of high-intensity moves into your schedule. Consider observing a 3 p.m. gentle stretching or yoga break. Those 15 minutes could clear your head and fuel you up for the final leg of your workday. Exercise is a great tonic for stress, and physical activity can boost your feel-good endorphins and take your mind off daily worries, explains Mayo Clinic.
5. Deal with distractions creatively
If your surroundings at home include a cacophony of annoying sounds, such as highway traffic, barking dogs, or a loud-talking apartment neighbor, get some noise-canceling headphones. If the distractions come from your children who are home with you, stock up on craft materials, coloring books, and workbooks. Hand them out to your kids in small batches so there’s always something new and exciting to occupy them while you work.
Many couples are suddenly sharing a home office space with a partner. “Spousal distancing” has joined the lexicon. Refrain from chit-chatting with your significant other throughout the day. Reserve personal talk for your lunch break. Communicate nightly about your schedules for the next day to prevent both of you from having to attend a virtual meeting at the same time. Organize childcare duties based on when you’re each most productive during the workday.
6. Social distancing doesn’t mean you should self-isolate
While introverts might not struggle with large amounts of silence and solitude, people accustomed to a bustling office environment may find all this alone time very unsettling. Even though you have fewer natural opportunities for social interaction, you can still connect with other people via technology. This communication will help keep you sane and motivated so you can be productive while working from home.
Try the following tips:
- Arrange a virtual meeting for your entire work team to talk through projects.
- Use Google Hangouts, FaceTime, or another video conferencing app to send a quick note or ask a question to a fellow co-worker.
- Talk with your boss on a weekly basis to get feedback on projects and discuss your personal/professional goals.
- Keep up more casual communication habits. If you normally catch up with your boss before client calls or chat with your team lead everyday, do the same while working remotely. Following the same habits will help maintain relationships and productivity.
Working from home won’t last forever. Remind yourself when you feel overwhelmed that it’s a short-term situation. And while you have more time on your hands, have you considered going back to school? Whether you’re furthering your education to advance your career, change jobs, or command a higher salary, ACU Online has flexible online degree programs designed to help working adults take their careers to the next level.
Give us a call at 855-219-7300 or visit acu.edu/online for more information.