- Jeanee Snipes
The COVID-19 outbreak has impacted businesses across the globe. Many employers have shut their offices and employees are now working from home to stop the spread of the novel Coronavirus. For many, the idea of working from home is a dream come true, for others, working from home is a stressful proposition. In this blog post we will discuss tips our own ZorroSign team uses to stay productive while maintaining work/life balance when working from home during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Develop a Routine
Developing a morning routine can help get your day started and productive. Think about what makes you most productive and include that in your morning routine. Does exercise invigorate you, if so, include that in your morning routine. Do you need coffee to get started, maybe that means you set an automated machine to make your coffee at just the right time. Getting dressed for the day can be a good way to not only physically prepare for working from home, but it can also signal to those you live with that you are working and will engage them once you are finished with your workday.
Create, use and stick to a daily to-do list
Developing a list of everything you need and want to accomplish in a day is a great tool for ensuring you are accomplishing your goals for the day. Try and create a list of things you need to accomplish each day, and then stick to it. Separate the list into personal and professional items. Schedule your workload around the list that you created. Creating a to-do list and sticking to it can be the difference between a productive day and a waste of a day.
Set rules of engagement with those you live with
When you work from home and live with other people it can be difficult to set boundaries during work hours. Set clear rules for everyone who shares your space about when you are available and under what circumstances you can be interrupted. If you have a partner/spouse clearly discuss expectations about communication during work hours. Maybe a kiss and a hug signal you are about to start work and will engage with them at the end of your workday or while taking a break. If you have children, set expectations on noise level and if you are unable to have childcare make sure to have activities arranged to keep the children busy while you dedicate yourself to work. Predefined rules of engagement will make working from home easier for everyone in your household.
Set Office Hours
Set regular office hours. Work with your manager to determine “online” and “offline” hours. For many employees this can mean setting base hours, indicating the hours you will always be reachable. If you work with an international team a split day may increase efficiency and productivity. A split schedule may also give you the flexibility needed to handle personal business during the day. Communicating clearly with your manager and colleagues regarding your office hours can prevent you from receiving phone calls during family-time.
Working endlessly without a break can lead to not just a lack of creativity, but strain on the eyes and body. Give yourself predetermined breaks through your work schedule. We recommend taking a 15-minute break about every 2.5 hours, along with setting aside time to eat lunch away from your desk. During these breaks physical movement is very important, so get up and get moving. Take a walk around the house or block. If the weather doesn’t permit outdoor activity jog in place, stretch and do jumping jacks. Physical activity is very important for remote workers, as a sedentary lifestyle can lead to health problems.
Setup a dedicated office space
Having a dedicated office space can help with work/life balance. When you are in that space that signals to you and anyone you share a home with that you are working and to respect the rules of engagement for work hours. In an ideal world you will have a self-contained office, but if you don’t have the space, try and set up a space away from distractions, but with a lot of light. Having multiple screens increases productivity so consider this when setting up your space. If you are self-employed, consider setting up a partition on your hard drive for business and another for personal use. If you work for a company, make sure you only use company equipment for work.
Maintain social contact with colleagues
Depending on if you are an introvert or extravert working from home can lead to feelings of loneliness, isolation and a general feeling of disconnect. Maintaining professional social relationships with colleagues can be very important. Utilize team collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams or Slack if your company has them in place. Some organizations may decide to setup general interest channels within their collaboration tool in order to promote additional employee communication. Social contact with colleagues can help build trust, so don’t shy away and work on genuinely getting to know your colleagues.
An organized workspace provides for reduced visual stress and removes unnecessary distractions. It may not be realistic to keep your entire home tidy, but make sure that your workspace is bright and organized. Remove items from your desk that you do not need. If you are a visual person, hang a large calendar on the wall and write all your appointments, meetings and deadlines on the calendar for quick refence. Think of your computer desktop as an extension of your physical space and make sure to keep your files organized and easily accessible.
When you don’t see your manager and colleagues in the office, clear communication can help set expectations and allow your manager and team to know what you are working on, what your priorities are, and what you need from them. Ensure that anyone who needs to know what you are working on knows when you start on projects, when you reach certain milestones and when you reach project completion. Also ensure you overcommunicate about time away from work for vacation so that everyone knows you will be unavailable. Be aware that when working remote it can be difficult to gauge someone’s mood, so using emojis and punctuations can help with imparting tone and feeling into your emails and chat messages. It’s okay to let your personality come through in communication, just keep it professional.
Proactively seek out professional development opportunities
Professional skill development will always be worthwhile. When you work remote it is important that you are being proactive about developing your skills and seeking new skills. For an employee who works 100% remote for a company that provides onsite training try and attend onsite training opportunities that will allow you to interact with colleagues in person. No matter if you work for a company or are self-employed, seek online training and certificate opportunities that will increase your knowledge and make you more valuable.
Treat working from home like you do working from an office. Maintain professionalism, boundaries and a schedule. If you have children, be sure to set ground rules and a schedule so everyone in the home understands your expectations of them while you work. Understand that organization, goal setting and effective communication can help in creating work/life balance as you begin your journey as a remote employee. Most important, stay home, stay safe!