Strategies When Working From Home

As confirmed cases of people infected with the new coronavirus strain increase exponentially across the United States, many companies are dusting off their business continuity plans in anticipation of possible city-wide quarantines or work and school closures.

Some proactive companies are having employees do a “dry run” by working from home to make sure they can still log into secure networks, access important files, join meetings by videoconference and perform other essential job functions.

While many employers and workers have embraced the occasional WFH day, few have experienced extended periods of working from a home environment.

Here are some tips, hacks and pointers on creating a productive and successful working environment at home, whether it’s for a few days or a few weeks. 

  1. Create a dedicated work space — While it may be tempting to set up shop on the sofa, try to create an office-like space somewhere in your home where you can focus, close a door for quiet and privacy, and get in “the zone” for a work mindset. Avoid spaces where you often relax and veg out, and instead choose a space where you are alert and active such as the breakfast table or exercise room.
  2. Mimic your workday schedule — Wake up at your usual time, and stick with your usual morning routine to get yourself mentally prepared for the work day. Try to keep the same hours, take a break for lunch, and pause to make coffee or do some quick exercises if your energy slumps.
  3. Unplug at quitting time — Leave your “home office” area when you stop working for the day, and disengage from work in the evening so it doesn’t feel all-consuming.
  4. Keep in close touch with your team — Use your company’s instant messaging platform or collaboration apps such as Slack or Monday to keep sharing important updates on projects, completed work, new tasks and other essential news.
  5. Make checklists — Create structure for each day by making checklists of important work you need to do, and check things off as you complete them.
  6. Stay social — Encourage your team to keep up the usual social banter that forms the glue that holds every great team together.
  7. Use conference call etiquette — Barking dogs, noisy children, traffic sounds and other interruptions will distract everyone on a conference call, so be sure to mute your line when you’re not talking and use headphones to minimize background noise.
  8. Child care conundrum — If you are home with children because of school or daycare closures, schedule their day to include learning time and also active time that mimics the school day. If possible, take them outside when they would normally be at recess so they can burn off some energy. Save screen time for when you need to do a conference call or focus intently on your own work.
  9. Anticipate recovery time — When businesses and schools reopen, there may be some lag time before everyone is back to their normal schedules and routines. Expect projects and other work to be a little backlogged, and build in extra buffer time so people don’t feel overwhelmed by the workload.

Most importantly, this is a great opportunity to show colleagues — and your boss — how seamlessly your team can work together and support each other no matter where everyone physically is.

If someone on your team is struggling with a heavy workload and a challenging home environment such as an infant, an elderly parent or a health condition, offer to help.

Take a project off their plate, or break a big project into smaller pieces and parcel some of those pieces out to others. Rallying around a difficult situation and lending a hand is another way to elevate the workplace, wherever the workplace happens to be.

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