The pandemic forced thousands of employees to work from home. As months of lockdown have stretched into 2021, this once-temporary work measure is becoming permanent for many. So now is the time to equip yourself to handle the dynamic of working from home long-term.
1. Set up the Right Remote Workspace
It’s hard to be productive if you’re working in a makeshift work environment. A proper home office can set the stage for greater efficiency.
Make a checklist to decide how much room you’ll need. Items will likely include desk for your monitor, keyboard, mouse, CPU, and external drives if necessary. You’ll also want an ergonomic chair, proper lighting, and storage for files and office supplies. Add decorative items, plants, and photos to help you feel less anxious and more centered.
Once your WFH space is ready, remember the importance of keeping the power flowing. It doesn’t take long in a power outage for every device to lose its charge, leaving you unable to work or communicate. Consider preparing with a generator (and weatherproof shelter for it) to provide emergency power — especially if you live in an area with bad weather.
2. Establish Work/No-Work Boundaries
Create guidelines to separate your work life from your home life. If you don’t establish solid boundaries, it’s easy to wind up working at all hours, which isn’t good for either your professional or personal life. Let colleagues (and housemates) know when you’ll be working and when you’re off the clock, so they can plan accordingly.
During off-hours, resist the temptation to check emails or go over a proposal “one last time.” If you were normally off during the evening or weekends, try to maintain that tradition, especially if you have a family. Remember: You have a life beyond your job.
3. Work Smarter, Not Longer
When you don’t have a work strategy, it’s easy to get stuck doing “busy work” and not accomplishing much. Working without clear expectations and goals can add extra stress to your remote situation, not to mention wasting time.
Work smarter by developing a daily and/or weekly plan outlining the tasks that need to get done. Prioritize work to complete the most important projects first. If you’re working with others and have deadlines to meet and divide responsibilities accordingly.
Set short- and long-term goals, and keep in touch with co-workers to evaluate your progress. Be realistic about the timeframe you give yourself to complete each job.
4. Stay Connected With Your Team
Communication is even more important when you work remotely, as being separated from colleagues can isolate and disconnect you from what’s going on. You need to stay in touch with team members to discuss problems, brainstorm solutions, and report progress on mutual projects.
You surely have used some of the methods below, but here’s a reminder of the available channels:
- Video conferencing offers one practical means of staying connected.
- You can also text, make phone calls, or email.
- Make use of communication tools like Slack and Teams.
- Send a quick sentence via chat when you just need to relay a short message to your team or check in to let others know you’re okay.
- Creative option: get takeout or a special snack and have it delivered to a fellow remote worker with a note of encouragement or thank them or teams for a job well done.
5. Take Breaks Frequently
Most conventional workplaces encourage employees to take breaks throughout the day to avoid overdoing it. Working remotely should be no different. Breaks help you clear your mind, invigorate your body, and bolster your spirit, giving you time to detach from the pressures of the job.
Consider these quick strategies:
- Go outside for a breath of fresh air.
- Take a walk around the block.
- Drink a full glass of water.
- Get a healthy snack.
- Spend a few minutes playing with your dog.
- Do jumping jacks or run in place.
- Set up a Nerf basketball hoop in your home office.
At the end of the day, take an even longer break to decompress. Especially under stressful conditions such as those caused by the pandemic, you deserve (and need) time off to enjoy the simple pleasures of life.
6. Manage Homefront Challenges
When you work remotely, it’s not always possible to totally tune out what’s happening around you, especially if you have children and/or feisty pets. You will, however, need to keep distractions to a minimum if you hope to get anything done.
Set up a time outside of work hours to tackle household chores. If it’s just washing a few dishes or folding a little laundry, you might use one of your breaks. Major home fix-it jobs or yard work should be tackled outside of working hours.
7. Expand Your Learning Curve
Working from home requires that you rely on your own abilities and skills. You can’t just walk down the hall and get help from IT or the department tech whiz. If you’re lacking in tech skills, make an effort to learn.
- Use online tutorials to expand your learning curve.
- Invest in relevant software and hardware that can help you do your job.
- Check out the apps your co-workers use to make their work easier.
8. Tackle Financial Woes
If you’re suffering from burnout, money worries can make the problem worse. But rather than succumb to worry and fear, tackle your financial concerns head-on.
Start by making a budget to help you spend wisely. Cut unnecessary spending and focus on essentials until you get back on your feet. If you have debts, talk to creditors about reducing monthly payments. (There’s often more wiggle room than you think.) Then take any measures you can to shore up your credit.
Try to put something aside weekly or monthly to establish an emergency fund. Or consider working a temporary side hustle that’s completely different from your regular job; the change of scenery and extra cash can relieve some pressure. In any case, you’ll feel less stress once you’ve taken steps to get your finances under control.
9. Take Good Care of Yourself
Healthy living habits are even more important during a health crisis to keep your immune system strong. Make sure you’re eating wholesome meals, drinking enough water, exercising daily (preferably outdoors in the fresh air and sunshine), and getting enough rest each night. Good health can keep you grounded.
Remember, no one is an island. Your family, friends, and co-workers need you, and you need them — all the more when this new work paradigm has stretched out so long. Take all the proactive steps you can to take care of yourself, so you can be there for those you love.