Working From Home Tips
Thursday, 9 April 2020
If you’ve recently found yourself working from home for the first time due to the Coronavirus, or if you’re losing steam and focus working from home after a while of self-isolation, we have some great working from home tips for you to create a healthy work/life balance! As the nature of COVID-19 changes every day, the stress of the situation can certainly become a distraction from being productive, so keep reading for some strategies to maintain some structure and routine as you continue working from home.
1. Build a Dedicated Work Space When Working From Home
It’s important to find a space where you can be comfortable working that doesn’t creep into your personal/home life. Having to make a space your own might be a challenge depending on the size of your home, but even adding a few touches can help make your dining room, office or basement feel like an office. First of all, try to have a dedicated space where you work. Set up your desktop or laptop and any other materials you require for your work in this space and leave them there (or tidy them away) when you are finished work. You can also add some personal touches to make it motivational for you: get an office plant, hang your diplomas from the wall, have an office candle. Create clear boundaries for yourself to work only in your office or dedicated workspace. If you shift to the couch or the bed, it may blur the lines of your work and personal life long-term.
2. Setting Real Work Hours and Clear Boundaries
Another one of the crucial working from home tips is setting boundaries. This is about the ‘where’, and the ‘when’ of your job.
Your work hours must also be clearly set. If your schedule is not prescribed by your employer, you’ll also want to choose specific hours of the day to stay focussed. Maybe you’re more of a night owl and find you get more done in the evening, or you’re an early riser and get more done after your workout. Whichever is your preference, if you have a flex schedule, take advantage of this and work during hours when you’re most productive. Be sure to still schedule these hours and close all tabs or remote desktop related to work after hours.
If you have kids at home, most employers are understanding, especially because of the times that you will need to have a flexible schedule. Interruptions will come – anticipate them and take advantage of the time you have. Then, capitalize on nap times, give your kids some self-directed activities like reading, colouring or screen time, establish boundaries and routine with them, and rely on your partner if you can to share the load.
3. Build transitions to and from work to imitate your commute
Normally when you head to work, you have a routine and for most of us, that includes a commute. Your commute is a time for you to mentally prepare for the day. You might listen to music, podcast, or eBook, simply enjoy the silence, or you may take some time for mindfulness or meditation. Try to incorporate these transition pieces of your day into your new routine working from home.
Likewise, when you finish work it’s disjointed to go straight to preparing dinner or doing household chores. Instead, go for a walk or play your favourite game on your device to allow your mind to wind down before switching into home life.
4. Make A To-do List
It can be tough to stay focussed with all the potential distractions in your home – the kids, the pets, the TV (you should probably turn that off). A great way to start your day is to write a list of upcoming tasks and schedule them in a planner. When you plan out your day, you will be able to see your progress and accomplishments throughout the day, which can motivate you to be more productive. If you know that you tackle projects well in the morning when you’re really motivated and alert, optimize your time and energy by working on those first thing and leave easier tasks for the afternoon.
5. Exercising + Stretching are Critical Working From Home Tips
Exercise is a part of a healthy lifestyle, not just working from home – it’s good for your body and your mind. It is a natural way to boost your endorphins which are the chemicals in your brain that trigger a sense of happiness and enjoyment. Even simple things such as going for walks on your lunch, checking posture and stretching out your back muscles can make the world of difference in your workday. If you have a regular workout routine before or after work, be sure to include little energy-boosting exercises or stretches throughout the day.
6. Eat Healthy Snacks and Meals and Stay Hydrated
If you’re normally one who works from an office, you are at the mercy of whatever lunch you’ve brought from home, or what’s available in the cafeteria. At home, access to the kitchen can seem like a dream, but can quickly turn into your worst nightmare if you’re not strategic about what snacks you eat. When boredom strikes it’s easy to grab a snack – but you’ll do yourself a lot of good if you make those snacks fruits and vegetables. Check out these great quick snack ideas to promote healthier eating. Some also suggest preparing your lunch the night before to eliminate spending your lunch time making your meal. If you have the discipline, treat your prepared lunch in the same you would treat it at the office – your only choice.
Dehydration as little as 2% will negatively affect your cognitive functions and intellectual performance. An easy way to encourage yourself to drink more water is to simply have a bottle or glass of water at your work station. Be intentional about drinking fluids when you take break and include snacks that have a high water content such as fruits and vegetables.
7. Take Physical + Mental Breaks
Your brain is not designed to work for 8 (or 10+) hours straight through. In the same way that you would engage with a co-worker while grabbing a coffee or tea, take a bathroom break, or grab a quick snack, you need to take these types of mental breaks at home. Especially when your job is sedentary, your body needs breaks too – whether it’s stretching or going for a walk like we mentioned above. Also think about using your breaks to motivate yourself as a reward for completing tasks.
8. Remove distractions
It’s tempting, it really is, to spend your day with a Netflix show in the background while you work, but let’s be honest, you’re not going to be as productive when you have these distractions. Same goes for social media (unless it’s your job). We recommend you log out of your social accounts while you’re working and turn off the push notifications to deter you from the distraction. Turn off the TV and then reward yourself at the end of the day with a couple episodes of your favourite show or play your favourite game.
9. Communicate with Your Team
When you’re in your regular work environment, you’d probably be interacting with co-workers both for work and social communication. While we are ordered to stay home, it’s easy for there to be a breakdown in communication – both with a lack of communication and simple misunderstandings through written emails or chats. First of all, assume positive intent when chatting with workers and use emojis to support your tone. Secondly, schedule/attend regular team meetings. Communicate often with your managers and team members about projects or tasks at hand. If you work in a team, choose one person each day to connect with on a social level – check in to see how they’re doing, ask them about their weekend or evening activities. Be sure to use professional communication tools such as Google hangouts, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype for business, etc.
Brokerages across Canada are coming up with inventive ways to stay connected. At BIG, our head office commercial lines team was the first to launch Microsoft Teams daily video calls. The goal is to take the first 5-10 mins to replicate our regular ‘water cooler’ conversations that we would normally have in the office. We take turns leading the meeting each day and implement plenty of activities including: meetings outside on nice days, team stretches, a quick game of scategories, and daily ‘highs and lows’. We all look forward to 2pm each day to see one another, and morale is at an all-time high.
10. Stay Vigilant Against Security Risks
When you are working from home, you’re likely to be using your personal device and home network to connect. Increase your password strength on your devices, add a password to your wi-fi router and connect to your company’s VPN if available. For more tips on Cybersecurity for Remote Workers, check out our blog here.
During this unprecedented time in which we live, we are learning many new skills and ways to adapt our lives to this temporary reality. Let’s take this opportunity to grow and become better disciplined. Remember to stay home and help protect yourself and others and let’s be thankful that we can still work from home!