With large numbers of new COVID-19 cases being reported every day, more companies than ever are doing their part to encourage social distancing by asking employees to work from home (WFH). Everyone from Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Google, Oracle, Twitter, and Airbnb, as well as countless other companies of all sizes are requiring workers to perform their jobs remotely. Even our own LinkUp headquarters has gone remote until further notice. While this is not an option for around two thirds of the US workforce, as many people as possible adopting this practice is a critical step in flattening the curve of how quickly the virus spreads.
Those already accustomed to the work-from-home life (or introverts looking forward to a bit of solitude) may relish more remote work opportunities. But the drastic shift from the traditional to home office may cause serious anxiety for many others.
The good news is that, prior to the outbreak, more employees than ever were already successfully utilizing this flexible work model, so there is no shortage of tips and tricks for making remote work…work. If you’re brand new to the WFH club, consider implementing these road-tested strategies courtesy of the members who came before. They’ll help to keep you sane and productive until you can safely return to the office.
Set the scene
Though it may not be realistically possible to create a perfectly-appointed home office, simply having a designated place where work happens can go a long way toward boosting output. It signals to your brain that it’s time to hunker down and get to it. Whether it’s the kitchen counter, your dining room table, or a cozy nook somewhere else in the house, choosing a consistent spot where you have everything you need at the ready can make a major difference. Working from your bed may seem like the ultimate luxury, but it’s a guaranteed way to kill productivity!
You may also want to consider getting “ready” for the day. You don’t have to put on business attire, unless you have an important video call (and even then, no one can tell if you’re rocking Garfield slippers), but getting out of pj’s can really help to cement your new routine. As can a good “productivity playlist” that consists of music, ambient sounds, or whatever auditory cues inspire you to get and stay in the zone. However you do it, it’s important to give yourself sensory cues that it’s time to get down to work.
Sure, working from home eliminates the distraction of being surrounded by chatty coworkers and typical office time-wasters. The tradeoff, however, is often looming piles of laundry, ever-growing grocery lists and the well-meaning friend or family member that wants to chat. As you establish your work-from-home schedule, be prepared to be firm with others (as well as yourself) about your availability. The temptation to fill your days with chores, household obligations and socializing can be tough to resist, but it will sink your productivity in no time flat.
And while being “on” when you need to be is an important part of working from home, it’s equally important to clock out. When your home is your workplace, it’s easier than ever to let your work creep into the rest of your life. Answering a “quick” email during a family dinner, or putting in “just a little” extra time outside of your established schedule quickly adds up to a poor work-life balance.
Set your schedule
While it sounds antithetical to the flexible nature of remote work, it’s important to set firm work hours. You don’t have to adhere to a clear 9 – 5 framework, unless that’s what your employer requires. If necessary, you can break your time into blocks that allow you time for childcare or fulfilling other obligations during the day. Regardless of how you choose to structure your workday, designating a clear start and stop time is important. Otherwise it can be far too tempting to slack off in the relaxed atmosphere of your home, or to lose track of time and work too long.
Whatever schedule you set, it’s important to build in breaks. Get up and stretch, grab a glass of water, do a short meditation session, or take a walk around the block. Regular breaks for movement and relaxation can help improve focus and attention when you get back down to it.
Set your priorities
Many companies not accustomed to large scale remote workforces are now finding themselves in uncharted territory. Going from 0 – 100 on remote work can be overwhelming for managers and employees as they find their footing. You can do your part and contribute to a seamless transition by actively communicating with your coworkers and managers.
Set clear priorities about what you intend to accomplish each day and provide necessary progress updates. Communicate hurdles and propose meetings with key stakeholders to solve issues when necessary. Even though you’re operating on an island, you are still part of a team. Remembering this will ensure you are still an effective coworker and employee while you’re on your own.
Now you’re set
For employees suddenly going remote, these simple strategies can help make the transition seamless and keep productivity (and spirits) high. Once they find their groove, many employees find that they prefer the flexibility and autonomy of a work-from-home arrangement. Judging by the number of remote job listings on LinkUp, this preference is only growing.
Whether your work-from-home journey is temporary or a long-term goal, know that you are now part of something much bigger. Not only are you doing your part to lessen the spread of coronavirus, but you’re contributing to a much larger conversation about the ways in which we work. Society’s perceptions around collaboration, culture and productivity in the workplace are shifting, and it’s exciting to think about how this will shape our future.