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.
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.
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!