Updated: Mar 8
Thousands of people are likely to be working from home due to the coronavirus outbreak. For others, it's just like any other working day.
About 1.5 million people in the UK work from home with around 8 million working from home in the US. Working from home was already on the increase and now with the coronavirus outbreak, thousands more people are now working from their home office, living rooms and kitchen tables.
So, if you're stuck at home, been told to work remotely, forced to work with a spouse and all whilst keeping the children entertained… what's the best way to stay efficient and keep your spirits up?
With schools closed, parents juggling jobs and sharing workspaces, things are going to get tricky. Here’s some ideas and suggestions to keep you productive and help with your sanity...
1. Get up and get dressed!
For some people, the prospect of staying in their pyjamas all day is the most tantalising aspect of working from home. But washing and getting dressed will not only improve your state of mind, it will psychologically prepare you to start work.
Whether you need to change into business attire depends on the type of person you are and the nature of the job you have. Some people find that dressing formally is helpful, and also useful if they need to dial into a video call.
2. Keep things simple
Don’t think you have to order lots of extra fancy equipment to work from home. You can likely achieve all you need on a laptop and mobile phone. The simpler your setup, the easier it will be to move it around as you go about your day. Also the less equipment you have, the less there is to break or go wrong. Keep it simple!
If you have a home office already then great. But even so, if you have kids at home it will be almost impossible to spend all day working from your home office… you’ll likely need to spend some time working with your laptop on your knee!
3. Create a To-Do List
This is a time of adjustment and re-learning. In the long run, you may find that you get more work done and are more productive from home, but it's not likely to start out that way. That's why it's crucial that you focus on getting the most important tasks done first. Get clear on your priorities. Get into the habit of updating a ‘to-do’ list the night before or first thing in the morning. This will help you get to work first thing in the morning instead of spending valuable time figuring out what to do first.
Break up larger projects into smaller bite sized tasks on your to-do list. Ticking off items on your list helps your motivation. It feels good and you’ll feel you’re achieving and moving in the right direction.
4. Get into a routine
Quite often putting in a couple of hours per day is often all it takes to stay on top of your work. How you set your daily schedule depends on your personal situation and how you are working remotely. If you're attending a lot of virtual meetings you have less flexibility.
If you and your spouse are both work remotely, you will have to work on who works when and who watches the kids. If you have older children, you may be able have everyone work in the same block of hours on office work and school assignments and then take the rest of the day to do something else. Give it a try, come back after a few days and adjust as needed. Remember to set aside time to work and time to relax and have some fun.
5. Minimise distractions
No matter how much you love your family, they will start to get on your nerves, especially if you have a deadline looming! If at all possible, try to minimise distractions and isolate yourself for a few hours per day to crack through those tasks high up on your to-do list.
If you're living by yourself, just switch your phone off and shut down email and social media for an hour at a time. Do your work, then check back in. Repeat as often as you can.
If you live with people this becomes more of a challenge, especially if some of them are children. You can't change the circumstances right now; it is what it is. That said, thousands of us are still incredibly productive and often because we find a way to temporarily isolate ourselves in our homes whilst we crack through some work. Here are some tips for minimising distractions when working from home:
6. Take regular breaks
It's good to have a routine when you're working from home, but work shouldn't become monotonous. And you shouldn't stay glued to your screen all day. It's important to take regular screen breaks and get up from your desk and move around just as you would in an office.
7. Go easy on yourself
What we're going through is new and different so it will inevitably take some time to adjust to this new normal that will probably stay with us for a few months or more. Take some time to relax and unwind. We are all under a tremendous amount of anxiety and stress from the threat we all face. Take care of yourself and your family.
Find something positive about being able to work from home each day. Maybe it's being able to join your kids for lunch. Maybe it's calculating how much you'll save on petrol, train and parking fees. There are a lot of perks that come with working from home!
All the best,