Your Guide to Working From Home: Part Two

It’s just another day at the office – but you’re sitting in your pajamas at home. The motivation has all but left your aching back as you sit at the kitchen table with a fortress of pillows and your aging work laptop. Thousands of Americans are sitting right there with you, struggling to stay focused and bringing in the money for the family during this odd period of COVID-19 quarantine. As we discussed in the previous segment, it’s incredibly important to maintain good ergonomics, allow yourself some grace, check on your mental health regularly, and get outside a few times per day. 

There’s more to working from home than meets the eye, as we’re sure you’ve noticed. Here are some more tips and tricks to help you be the best at-home worker you can possibly be!

Phone Calls? No Problem

If you work in an industry that requires chatting with clients, you know how important it is that there be little background noise or distraction. This might be a cinch if you live alone or with other older individuals, but it’s nearly impossible if you have a family with young children or dogs that like to bark at every wild thing that zooms by. 

First and foremost, warn your clients in advance and ask what they’d like you to do if your environment suddenly becomes loud. Honestly, most customers understand the difficulties we’re all facing right now and will, more than likely, be fine with the background noise. However, allowing them the opportunity to address this themselves will help build rapport and boost their confidence in you.

Another trick you can employ in your house is a lighting system. For less than $50, you can purchase an LED lamp with different colors that can be controlled with an app on your phone. This light can be placed in a central part of the house to warn others when you need as much quiet as possible. This won’t work in every situation; toddlers really don’t seem to care if daddy is on the phone when they are impatient about snack time! Again, a little grace from clients will go a long way.

Set Reminders

One of the simplest things you can do for yourself during your workday is to set little reminders: bathroom breaks, refilling your water and coffee, grab a snack, pet the dog, hug the kids, pop outside for a breather, stretch… etc. It’s all too easy to get lost behind the screen (whether you’re working or watching cute cat videos, no judgment here) and to emerge from your daze stiff and hungry. Distractions are inevitable, so don’t beat yourself up over them, just move on and take a sip of water.

Socialize

If you feel like you’re going a little stir crazy from a lack of human interaction, reach out to your colleagues and see if you can join a group conference chat to work together on a project or ticket. Make sure to attend meetings that you’re invited to and participate in them. It might be easier to sit back and listen, but contributing will help you feel like you’re still part of the team even though you aren’t all sitting together. Furthermore, dress up for meetings and video calls – it will help boost your confidence and show that you are invested in your job.

Begin and End with Routine

This is so important in maintaining that workday-weekend separation; follow your same morning routine and modify it where necessary to accommodate the lack of driving or coffee-shop pit stops. Use an alarm, make coffee, eat breakfast where you normally do, shower, dress up (maybe not all the way, but don’t stay in your pajamas), and listen to music before you log in to your work computer. Try to maintain the “normal” that you had before quarantine as much as possible; more importantly, keep each weekday the same if you can.

At the end of the day, follow the same procedure. If you had a drive on the way home, make sure to step outside, even if it’s just to check the mail and take the dogs out for a walk! Listen to music for a few minutes before you leave the office to wind down, just like you would listen to the radio on your way home. Call a family member for a chat if you use your driving time to catch up. Get creative and make sure you follow the same routine each weekday.

Hopefully, you can start to see a light within these strange times as you optimize your work environment. Remember to keep your mental health at the center of your focus; if you aren’t feeling your best, you can’t give your job 100% either. Your mental health also has an effect on the family members you live with. Allow yourself some room to learn and grow throughout this transition, and you’ll be owning remote work like a boss!

Your Guide to Working From Home: Part One

If you’re one of the lucky Americans who are able to work remotely from home right now during this time of volatile employment, first and foremost, take a moment for a deep breath and a pat on the back; send your boss a thank-you email or note, if that’s your cup of tea. All of this aside, working from home isn’t as easy and care-free as you might have once thought – you might be in the process of realizing that right now. 

It’s tough to stay focused and productive when you are surrounded by distractions: the pint of ice cream, your photogenic dog, the toddler throwing a tantrum in the room across the house. So, how does one actually stay productive in an environment that’s not 100% akin to a workplace environment? We have some tips and tricks to help keep both you and your family sane.

Block Out Time for Distractions

That’s right – allow time to pet the dog, visit your toddler, and eat that ice cream after your lunch break. If you are smart and limit your time spent on these relaxing activities, you won’t feel deprived and unable to focus during the day. Allow working from home to come with perks; if you don’t, you’ll struggle to stay focused and feel locked in your office space. If you were at the office, you would be taking bathroom breaks, stretch breaks, and trips to see co-workers. Use your time wisely, but don’t feel like you need to be chained to your computer!

Get Outside

This easily becomes the most difficult thing to do during quarantine, especially for those who are working remotely. Experiencing the great outdoors can have significant mood-boosting effects, so don’t forget to peek your head out into the sunshine at least twice per day; this is what you would have done going to and from work each day anyway! Take your fifteen-minute breaks outside with a cup of fresh coffee, or eat lunch outside with your family. Choose to view these in-between moments like coming up for air – you’re at home, so make good use of the time you have!

Ergonomics

If there’s one thing that will make or break your time spent working from home, it’s an efficient workspace. While most of us don’t have the extra cash to spend on a work set-up right now, it’s still extremely important that your desk doesn’t cause you discomfort or pain. Remember to take frequent stretch breaks so that your muscles don’t tense up, sit up straight, and keep your keyboard and mouse at elbow level. If your feet are not gently resting on the floor, find a way to elevate your chair or feet so that there isn’t any extra strain on your back. 

Working with a laptop? Consider investing in a mouse and keyboard that can be repositioned to allow your screen to be at eye level. Contact your HR department to see what they can do to help you work from home more comfortably – most companies are aware of the increased strain on ergonomics during this awkward time.

Above all, remember to keep an eye on your mental health during this time. Many people are struggling to adjust to the major changes that COVID-19 has forced upon them; set up a telehealth appointment with your physician if you think you might be having more difficulty than usual while working from home. Give yourself some space to try things out; be prepared to take a few days to get into a rhythm. This is all new to you, your co-workers, and even your superiors!

Spring Break “Staycation”: 10 Ideas to Keep the Littles Busy

Whether you’re looking to stay in small circles or hunkered down at home while the virus passes, one thing is for certain: it’s easy to go stir-crazy with children in the house for a week or more at a time. Typically, it’s fun to plan trips and vacations during spring break, but 2020 doesn’t seem to be shaping up as the perfect year for that – if you catch our drift! Check out these six ideas to help keep the kids busy – and safe – this spring break.

1. Tournaments

If you have older children, this can be a blast! Spend some time one day during the week to learn how to play their favorite video games, or pull all of the board games out of the cupboard. See who can win the most games in 2-3 hours, offering the winner some kind of prize. Make sure all of the rules are outlined ahead of time; consider altering the rules a bit to make the games more fun or silly!

2. Not-So Out and About

Does your family like to hike? Do you know about a secret swimming spot that no one else does? This is the time to visit the old gems from your childhood – share them with the kids and make a special day of it; you could plan a picnic at the top of a small mountain peak or along the beach. Just because it’s best to avoid contact with sick people, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be able to get out and enjoy nature – don’t go stir-crazy!

3. Backyard Bash

Rummage through your basement and attic for odd objects that can serve as obstacle course objects. Paper plates on the ground could work well for hopping, a long plank across the grass is perfect for side-stepping. Old tennis balls and 5-gallon buckets can be used for short-distance hoops. Use your imagination, but try to keep it safe! Time the whole family and see who can set the fastest record!

4. Homemade Game

Now’s the time to get crazy! Ask the kids for ideas, but make sure you have supplies on hand for the basics; this activity is best planned in advance so that you can order your cardstock, poster boards, die, and other game pieces a few days before. The sky is the limit for this fun-filled day of excitement!

5. Movie Marathon

We know parents usually try to limit TV and general screen time per day, but let’s all be honest with each other for a second: that’s going to be pretty impossible this year during Spring Break. Try your best to keep the kids off the screens if you want, but keep in mind that they might be an absolute lifesaver during the lie-in. If your kids have a favorite movie series that they haven’t watched in a while, rent or buy it to watch this week as a special treat! Oh, and don’t forget the popcorn, that should still be in stock online!

6. Craftsy Camp Day

See if your friends or family members will let you borrow some camping gear during the week. Kids love campouts, even if they’re right outside the house! Have a campfire, make hot dogs (if you could find them at the store), s’mores, and tell stories!

During the day leading up to your campout, make a bunch of homemade crafts that the kids can play with: modeling dough, paint by numbers, mad libs, whittle sticks into wands and have the kids color them. Rummage through your paper products and craft items and come up with something new! The great thing about kids is that you can get them excited about almost anything if you hype it up enough.

Stay safe this Spring Break, but don’t sacrifice the fun! Luckily there are lots of exciting things at home if we take some time to look around. Don’t forget that there’s some safe space around your home, too! Take a walk in the woods to get some fresh air – it’ll help everyone’s mood.