Have you been working from home to comply with the social distancing measures related to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic? Or perhaps your employer has closed the office and is requiring you to work from home. If so, you know there are a multitude of challenges. To assess your performance, ask yourself whether you’re:
- Accomplishing as much as you should be to fulfill the duties of your job?
- Finding yourself distracted by worries about health threats to you and your loved ones?
- Feeling anxious about your personal finances?
If you came out of that self-assessment with flying colors, that’s great. But many at-home workers could use a little help. Here are some common work-at-home productivity tips. They don’t work for everyone, but they may help you:
- Create an “official” workspace. Ideally, you’ll find at least a corner of a room, if not a dedicated one, where you can operate with minimal distractions and plenty of good light.
- Optimize your workspace. Buy a comfortable desk chair, if you don’t have one. Give yourself space to spread out, with a temporary set-up such as a card table if necessary. Get comfortable headphones to use a sound-blocking app if noises are distracting you.
- Establish a work routine. It doesn’t have to be 9-5. You obviously have to accommodate the needs of cohabitants such as children, spouses and pets. Just allow yourself, cumulatively, enough time to get things done, preferably not when you should be sleeping. And walk away from your work at the end of the day. Many people who work at home find themselves working well past the time when they would leave the office if they were going to work. This can result in burnout.
- Prioritize tasks. When your productivity is likely to be challenged due to circumstances beyond your control, prioritization is key. Tackle the most essential tasks first, if possible, to limit the impact of the inevitable at-home interruptions (particularly if young children are around).
- Give yourself breaks. Maintaining concentration in a nontraditional workspace, even without the inevitable distractions of home, isn’t always easy. Allow yourself periodic breaks. It can result in more getting done than if you try to “power through” for hours on end.
- Manage Productivity Expectations. Should you expect to be getting as much done as you might have under normal working conditions at your office or workplace? Probably not. Some allowances must be made for the extra hurdles you have to clear. (For example, you may also be struggling to keep at-home children engaged in productive activities.)
If you run your own business, you know best what absolutely needs to be accomplished. But if, instead, you have a boss to contend with, consider having a frank discussion about expectations. You might be doing better than you think from your boss’s perspective. Assuming it goes well, that can relieve a lot of anxiety. And if it doesn’t go well, you can take the opportunity to gain a clear understanding of what’s required, then create a plan to make it happen.
- Proactively plan for your finances. Financial worries are natural at a time like this. The current situation might be a turning point at which you take the longer view of your financial needs and act accordingly as soon as possible. Envisioning that shift in behavior could be comforting, relieve stress and facilitate greater productivity.
- Take Time to De-Stress. If you’re not familiar with basic mental health maintenance pointers, now might be a good time to learn a few. Apparently, a lot of people are doing just that, searching online for tips such as “how to relieve stress.” Naturally, many searches will take you to commercial websites and videos touting products and services, but credible advice also pops up from sites like the Mayo Clinic and the Cleveland Clinic. When your stress level is in a normal-under-the-circumstances range, it’s easier to think clearly about other steps you can take to work productively from home.
- Seek advice and share what you’ve learned. Staying connected to coworkers might be more important now than when you’re surrounded by them. It creates a sense of normalcy. Helping coworkers with their work-at-home challenges can also improve your own morale (and thus productivity). Plus, you might pick up some useful tips from them.
Looking to the Future
It might be comforting to think that this will be the last time during your career when you’re “exiled” from your workplace and have to work from home. Odds are, that won’t be the case. Therefore, consider that your effort to adapt to your new work environment today may pay dividends tomorrow. Or maybe you’ll become adept at working productively from home now. You may find it such an appealing alternative to the old routine that your new post-pandemic normal will involve working from home even if you’re not forced to.
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