The unfolding COVID-19 pandemic has made for a frightening and unnerving start to 2020. Amidst the terrible suffering and pressures on medical systems, people are also being forced to reconsider the simple things of daily life. Quarantining and lockdown restrictions mean that many of us are now having to work from home, every day. Unlike many, I am a twenty-year veteran of working from home. And so I wanted to draw on my experience and offer both the Opsani community, and the internet community at large, some key working from home tips.
Turning your home into an office can be tricky, but with dedication and some smart strategies, it can be a rewarding experience. We are all “nesters” now! Here’s how I have learned to make the very best of it.
Create a healthy workspace
This is one of the most valuable tips for working remotely that I can offer. Pick a dedicated workspace in your home. Furnish it with a decent chair with good back support; a clutter-free table that can help you focus; and ideally a view or something inspiring to look at. Choose a space that is free from distractions, as best you can. Add to it anything that helps you get in a good headspace for working: green plants, artwork, music, whatever works.
Your family can be lovable distractions. That said, it’s also important to set some ground rules while you work. Put up a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign outside your door when you’re trying to focus. Give your kids a project to work on. Divide the house chores between family members.
Prepare the necessary tools
The emergence of new cloud technologies has enabled many companies to become more flexible. Even in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak, businesses are still finding ways to carry on productively.
Preparing the right tools for remote work will help you adjust and get started quickly. Video conference hosting services like Zoom or Google Hangouts are a must. Now is the time to invest in a decent headset and microphone, and perhaps a better webcam.
Your collaboration platform needs to be on point; if you’ve been putting off moving the whole team to Slack, now’s the time! Time-tracking applications like Harvest are also important for maintaining macro productivity. Search Spotify for the best work-friendly music, whether that’s classical or smooth jazz.
Set a schedule and stick to it
Having clear guidelines for when to work and when to call it a day is one of the most important working from home tips. It can feel a little weird for your home, normally a zone away from work, to become an ad-hoc office. And so you need to set boundaries and make sure you maintain a work-life balance. This will help keep you balanced, which will also make you better able to support your family at this stressful time.
Sometimes, working remotely means extending your day or starting early to accommodate someone else’s time zone. When you do this, be sure to wrap up earlier than usual or sleep in a bit the next morning. Just because your home is now your workplace doesn’t mean you need to always be at work. Ahead of each day, look at your meetings and your deliverables and set timers and alarms.
Don’t forget to take breaks in-between. Hang out with your pets, play with your kids, or go outside for some fresh air (while always obeying the lockdown stipulations).
Overcommunicate, collaborate, engage often.
I always offer this as one of my tips for working remotely. With everyone isolated in their own home offices, it can be easy to suddenly stop seeing as much of one another. This reduction in community time can make everyone lonely, and can harm productivity. If you’re used to putting your heads together in regular, improvised ways, it’s tough when this environment is taken away. However: you can recreate it! How? Overcommunicate. This doesn’t mean you have to write an essay to explain your every move. You just have to intentionally interact with your colleagues whenever necessary, and make yourself available to talk over any important matter with a colleague in need. Be willing to jump on calls at short notice. Have long conference calls where no-one is in a rush. Brainstorm at a moment’s notice. Keep engaging. This will preserve all the creative powers that are usually created organically by an office environment. It allows for better communication and collaboration, and brings the best of on-site work into everyone’s home office.
Socialize with your friends, neighbors and colleagues
My list of working from home tips concludes with a big work-life balance one: make sure to socialize. This might sound obvious, but many of us are really bad at making the effort to see the people who recharge our batteries. Feelings of disconnectedness, loneliness, and isolation are common problems in remote work life. They’re even worse during the general anxious atmosphere of a pandemic.
When our social life is healthy, it feeds into everything we do, including work. The wonder of the internet means that even though we’re stuck indoors, we don’t have to be alone. Book a time to get on a call with your best friend. Catch up with your colleagues, and talk openly about how everyone’s adjusting to the work-from-home life. Give advice. We’re all in this together. My favourite way to break the isolation? Friday virtual cocktail hour with my friends. Highly recommended! Take this rare opportunity to spend more time with your loved ones at home, as well. Chat, watch movies, play video games. During non-pandemic life, many of us don’t see nearly enough of our families.
Also, take this opportunity to reach out to your community and see how you can give a helping hand. Here’s a list of several local and national non-profit organizations that could use your time and money to help those most in need during this crisis. Now is a great time to be a good neighbor and a good citizen.
These are trying times. Working from home can be a big adjustment. I really hope these working from home tips help you optimize your home office and your working approach. While we wait for all this to blow over: Stay safe, stay healthy, and keep washing those hands! Myself and everyone at Opsani wishes you and your family all the very best. Remember: To stay up to speed on the COVID-19 outbreak, keep an eye on the CDC website and your local county website to ensure you are aware of what is happening in your immediate surroundings.
For more tips during this time, read our blog Managing the Cloud Spike of the COVID-19 Pandemic.