Many employees find themselves in a new, but maybe too familiar, space during the workday as COVID-19 pandemic restrictions have forced businesses to send employees home to work.
Working from home can be a challenge for those who had not prepared or made this choice on their own, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service specialist. Along with trying to find new ways to do their job, employees are trying to find a balance between work and home in a different way, and that can be stressful.
“Structured daily routines can help us stay organized and productive,” said Miquela Smith, AgriLife Extension specialist-health, Amarillo. “Routines also offer a sense of control over our lives and can minimize stress.”
Smith said for those fortunate enough to be able to do their jobs from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is a challenge to create a new schedule that maintains work/life balance. The balancing act can feel even more daunting for those with young children at home during this time.
Developing a new routine is essential during isolation, she said, especially because of the length of shelter-in-place orders is uncertain.
“Your new daily routine will look different than it did before, especially if it now involves your children being at home, and that’s okay,” Smith said. “Designate windows of time that are specifically dedicated to your work, your family and yourself throughout the day.”
She said it is important to try to establish starting and stopping points for tasks, rather than trying to juggle everything at once.
“Do your best to give mindful, undivided attention to individual tasks throughout your day,” Smith said. “Trying to do too many things at once will increase stress and won’t allow you to produce your best work.”
Here are some tips and tricks to help make the transition and work effort smoother:
Working from home: Getting Set Up
Are you connected?
For most, the first consideration should be what electronics or Internet capabilities are available, and how will that affect your ability to do your job. Who else will be home with you and need to share those tools? Communicate this to your boss so there is a clear understanding of what is and isn’t possible.
Don’t hesitate to ask for what you need
If you’re employed by a company or organization that supports your setup, request the equipment you need as soon as you start working from home, or within a few days when you realize you need something new. Get what you need to work comfortably, including the right monitor, keyboard, mouse, chair, printer, software and so forth.
Get your technology in order
Technology is what enables remote work in the first place. In addition to taking your laptop home, don’t forget your charger, mouse, keyboard and ergonomic equipment such as wrist rests — anything that might make working on your laptop easier.
Designate an office space.
Choose a specific location in your home to be your work space. If you are in a meeting or busy and do not need to be disturbed, let your spouse and/or kids know the hours you are working and that you are not to be disturbed unless it is an emergency. You may be the only parent or adult at home with younger kids. If this is your situation, think of ways to keep your kids engaged during your meeting times.
Work near a window or near natural light.
Working near a window and allowing natural light on your workspace will help you be more productive and not tire as quickly. A view of the outside world can have a positive effect on your mood.
Working from home: Planning Your Day
Make a schedule.
Set a schedule and stick to it. Make sure you do not work past your workday. It can be easy to constantly work when you are at home, but you must maintain a balance.
Eat a healthy breakfast.
Take time to prepare a healthy breakfast to start your day right. Eating breakfast will help you be more productive throughout the entire day.
Change into your work clothes.
Putting on work clothes can help you feel better mentally and help you stay out of a mental rut.
Get as much sun as you can during the day.
Sunlight helps produce vitamin D, which is important to our overall health. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to depression and other maladies. Vitamin D helps lower blood pressure, protects against inflammation, promotes bone growth, and helps protect against different types of cancer and heart disease.
Physically leave your workspace
It is not healthy to sit hours without getting up. Take time for your lunch break. Leave all work-related items in your workspace. Eat a healthy lunch that will not weigh you down. If the weather is suitable, go outside. Also, periodically step away from work for about 15 minutes to recharge. It will help you be more productive throughout the day.
Incorporate exercise periodically in each day. Do this before you begin working, during your breaks, at lunch or after work.
Don’t forget to socialize
Loneliness, disconnect and isolation are common problems in remote work life, especially for extroverts. When the whole office suddenly starts working from home, you’re cutting off the casual social interactions you’re used to having throughout the day that help you feel less lonely and break up the monotony of work. Communicate with coworkers by messaging, phone text, video conference or however your company communicates.
Working from home: Ending Your Day
Avoid working past your scheduled work hours
When working at home, it can be easy for work to creep into family life. You might find yourself working into the night hours and taking away from your family as well as your sleep time. Set an alarm if you need to signal the time you would normally go home, then close your computer.
Change out of your work clothes when your workday ends
Changing out of your work clothes will help you shift your mindset from work mode to home mode.
Take time for yourself
Make sure to schedule time for yourself so you can take care of your well-being. It is important to take care of yourself so you will be able to care of others.
With kids at home, make the most of this time and help them find their balance as well
This time of uncertainty can be hard for every member of the family. Make the most of it and help your kids find their balance too.