Like many people during this time, you may have transitioned to working from home during Coronavirus. This has been a big adjustment for many, and unless you have previous experience with working from home, this adjustment may have not gone as well as you would have liked. Here are some tips for those who may be struggling with working at home and navigating this transition during the Coronavirus quarantine.
SETTING UP YOUR WORKSPACE
One of the most important factors that will benefit you while working from home is creating a designated workspace. What your workspace looks like will depend on who you live with, how big of a space you have available, and the items needed to effectively do your job. If you are not lucky enough to have a home office, you will have to create your own. If you live with others, you will want to find a quiet space where you can work without distraction and interruption, preferably in a room with a door that closes. Try to avoid working in your bed or on your couch as it can be hard to mentally separate work time from relaxation time. You will want to find a chair or another seat that you can comfortably sit in for extended periods of time. If you have access to, or the ability to create a standing desk, use that to give yourself breaks from sitting. If using a laptop, you might want to invest in an external mouse or keyboard to make navigating your computer easier. When choosing your work area, try to find a spot with as much natural light as possible. If you work in the evening after the sun has set, make sure you have enough light to keep yourself alert and focused; if needed, you may want to bring another lamp in from another room or move an existing one closer to you. Additionally, for most of us, video calls have become a regular part of our workday. When choosing your workspace, you may want to keep in mind what appears in the background during your video calls. How much of your home life do you want the other person to see and how casual of a video call is it? Try turning your computer camera on and checking out what others will see before connecting to that video call.
CREATING YOUR WORKDAY MINDSET
For those that are new to working from home, it may be tempting to sleep in and roll out of bed right before your start time. Try to stick to your normal routine as if you were going into the office; get up at your normal time, eat breakfast, have your coffee, shower, and get dressed. Use the time that you would normally spend commuting to do something enjoyable for yourself like going for a walk, reading, or playing with a pet. Not only will sticking to your normal routine help your brain get into work mode, it will also make it easier to transition back, if needed, to working in the office.
It can be hard to stay focused and motivated to work while at home. As much as possible, eliminate distractions. Try starting the day off with the tasks that are most enjoyable to complete or the ones that you find the easiest. Being able to accomplish tasks early in the day will help provide a sense of accomplishment. You can also try making a list of tasks for the day and checking them off one by one as you complete them. Seeing your list get smaller and smaller as the day goes by can also help you stay motivated. For those difficult, boring, or just unpleasant tasks, try breaking them down into smaller steps and identify a way to reward yourself after you complete each step. Rewards could be taking a break, eating a snack, going for a walk, snuggling with a pet, getting 10 minutes of phone time, or checking in a friend via text.
If you are finding it hard to assess your level of productivity while working at home, you are not alone. First and foremost, it is very likely that you will not be as productive while working at home compared to if you were at the office. This may be due to factors related to your environment, like having children at home who you are also trying to school, or due to the nature of your job and limitations that working at home create, such as having to send an email and awaiting a response instead of walking down the hall to ask someone a quick question. Additionally, you are not just working from home. You are working at home during a global pandemic and it is reasonable to expect that you may have some difficulties with focus and concentration due to increased stressors, anxieties, and responsibilities. Keep communication open with your employer or supervisor regarding their expectations for you while working from home. Check in with these individuals on a regular basis to receive feedback with how they think you are doing, to receive assistance with prioritizing tasks, and to ask for help as needed. Additionally, reach out to co-workers for support and to explore what has worked for them.
MANAGING WORK/LIFE BALANCE
Depending on your job, working from home may allow for some flexibility with regards to work hours and scheduling compared to going into the office daily. Although this can be helpful for those working with children at home or sharing a workspace with a family member, it can also make it difficult to maintain a healthy work-life balance. If possible, start and stop work at the same times you normally would if you were going into the office. If you must modify your work schedule due to other competing demands at home, make sure that you block out the same amount of time in your day for work. While working, make sure you take breaks throughout the day. Ideally, breaks should involve removing yourself from your workspace and engaging in a non-work related activity. Schedule both short (5 -15 minutes) and long (30 – 60 minute) breaks throughout the day. It is important to figure out what works best for you. You may prefer to take breaks at designated times each day, or you may want to structure them around your schedule, such as after completing a difficult task or after a draining video call. For longer breaks, you may find it helpful to set up an automatic away message notification with your email or to notify co-workers that you will be away from your computer for a specific amount of time if you are concerned about people trying to reach you and expecting immediate replies. Set a timer for the duration of the break to help keep you on track and allow you to focus on utilizing your break effectively instead of worrying about when you should get back to work. Use your breaks to eat a snack, go for a walk, connect with a friend, read, workout, play on your phone, or even catch up on some dishes or fold some laundry. As the end of the workday approaches, you may find it helpful to plan and schedule out the tasks you will need to work on or complete for the next day. It can also be tempting to continue to check and respond to emails after our workday has ended, and unless your job requires you to be accessible 24 hours a day, try to avoid doing so. If you live alone, working from home can become socially isolating. If you find yourself craving time with your office BFFs, schedule an after-work virtual happy hour or game night to stay connected and socialize with your friends.
If working from home is new for you, it may take some time to get into a routine and adjust to the change. Be patient and give yourself time to adapt. If you continue to struggle with working from home, explore working with a counselor to help with managing stress, developing problem-solving skills, developing effective time management strategies, or any other issues that may be affecting your ability to work from home.
Having trouble staying productive at home? We can help! Therapy isn’t just for when you are feeling depressed. People use therapy to work through difficulties in many aspects of their lives including work related issues. Our therapists will work with you to identify and remove the barriers to your productivity working from home. Complete the contact request form below and one of our licensed therapists will reach out to you directly to learn more about how we can help.