It’s no secret that many of America’s workers have dreamed of working from home for years now. Visions of droopy sweats and fluffy slippers have intoxicated many who’ve schlepped to the office before. Now it’s a reality for many, but it’s a lot less dreamy when it’s mandatory due to a global pandemic.
Still, it’s a chance to master the art of working from home. It’s much more than wearing comfortable clothes, eating lunch when you’re actually hungry, and not having to deal with one or two pesky co-workers. There’s also a strong possibility that your company will expand its staff of remote employees after this crisis is over, and you could be among them.
Follow these tips, and you’re sure to find being productive on the sofa easy enough before long:
Establish Daily Routines
No matter how long you work each day, it’s important to establish routines. They might include old standbys like showering and reading the newspaper or new ones like making yourself a tall latte and walking the dog while you drink it. Try a few different things out, and you’ll soon discover which ones feel right and set you on a good course for the rest of your day.
Make Sure Your Family Knows You’re Working
Just because you’re home all day doesn’t necessarily mean you have more free time. Sure, you can take package deliveries when you’re on the clock, but you probably won’t be able to make long trips to the store or actively watch a kid who’s home with a cold. In other words, everyone in the family should act as if you’re at work — which you are.
Remember to Take Your Regular Breaks
Home workers, for some strange reason, seem to think they don’t need the breaks they’d normally take at work. As much as possible, you should try to keep those breaks the same, 15 minutes mid-morning and mid-afternoon and an hour or half-hour for lunch. Walk away from your desk for a few seconds every hour, and don’t sit back down in the chair until the end of each break. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as it’s not part of your job.
Go Outside Every Now and Then
Going outside provides a lot of benefits, as long as you keep your distance from others, of course. The good news is you can easily chat with friends, speak to strangers, or strike up a conversation with a friendly squirrel from six feet away. The sunshine and fresh air are added benefits to getting out, and they typically give you a burst of energy for the next task on your agenda.
Create a Real Workspace
If you have the room and equipment for it, set up a home office away from the PC you use to read trivia questions and shop online. Using a PC strictly for business means there’s no chance of mingling business files and personal ones. In cases where you don’t have a backup computer, you might find it useful to at least clear the area of photos and knickknacks to create an aura of serious business.
Don’t Skimp on Equipment You Need
Many businesses will pay for your personal office equipment to be transported and set up at your home. Check on this option with your company, and be sure to ask about who pays for repairs if the system crashes or is physically damaged by an in-home accident. You can also ask about having your office chair delivered to your home, especially if it provides ergonomic support while you’re on the clock.
Socialize During Downtime
Don’t forget your work friends! Of course, you don’t want to blow up their phones with texts and memes all day, but making your remote presence known is good for the morale of the entire team. Use your phone to text or chat during breaks, and maybe FaceTime a little with a few people every couple of days. Remember: you’re working from home, not in prison.
Maintain Your Professional Presence
While it’s ultra-important to maintain your social life during this period of isolation, it’s equally important to maintain your professional one. Frequently check on circulating memos, business reports, and any other correspondence you were privy to when you were on-site. If meetings come up, be sure you’re included via video chat and make your presence known.
Take Sick Days
Realize that you can be sick without having the big virus, and take sick days as you would in “real life.” Explain the malady as you would if you were still going to the office every day, and let them know again when you’re back on board.
Enjoy Your Perks
Working from home definitely has its perks, and you shouldn’t feel it necessary to deny yourself of any of them. You can take a bubble bath instead of having lunch, make homemade pizza instead of eating that boring old salad, and blast that opera album the rest of the family hates. You may be back at the office sooner than you think, too, so you need to make sure you’re not going back with any regrets.
While these are trying times, keep your hopes up! It’s okay to send a friend a funny yet tasteful meme, or share your weirdest experience at the grocery store online. Everyone could stand to benefit from a touch of levity right about now.