As the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread across the united states, most people have learned that the best thing we can do is practice social distancing. That is, we’re minimizing our time in public spaces and avoiding getting too close to others.
The idea behind social distancing is not to stop the spread of the virus altogether. Rather, it’s to slow the spread enough so that our hospitals don’t get overwhelmed by new cases.
For a sizeable portion of the population, this has meant working from home. It can be fun at first, but soon, the isolation hits. Your work–life balance gets wonky. Things get… weird.
That is, unless you follow a few unusual tips for working remotely.
How to Work Remotely Effectively and Efficiently (Without Going Nuts)
I admit that I’ve gotten pretty good at working from home. I spent years in graduate school, which I assure you is excellent training. I also worked as an editor for a few years and did some spotty freelance work after I graduated. These days, I work about 20 hours per week in the CU 2.0 office and finish the other 30ish at home.
While I’m well aware that others have more experience working remotely than I do, I know I’ve got a head start on many readers of this blog. Today, I’d like to share with you some of my tips for success.
- Wake up at the same time that you always do. Just because you’re not going into work doesn’t give you a pass to hold yourself to a less professional standard. Your sleep hygiene will thank you.
- Begin work at the same time. Your peers and organization are still counting on you to “show up” at a particular time. Alternatively, you may be able to begin work sooner. I use my extra half hour in the morning to get a fresh task started before getting bogged down in meetings and emails.
- Carry snacks. Eat what you want, when you want. Within reason. Plus, snacking while working will help you focus. They’re just enough of a distraction that they break up the monotony of remote work, but not enough of a distraction that you’ll lose your focus.
- Don’t stay in your pajamas. At least, don’t stay in them all day. Getting fully dressed reminds you that you are working and that you do have professional obligations. However, there’s no need to rush. I stay PJed up until around noon—and I love it.
- Don’t work in your bed. Your bed was only really made with one activity in mind. Okay, two activities. But the point is that you shouldn’t bring work stress into the bedroom. You won’t want to associate your sanctuary with your job.
- Do pick a work zone. I have a home office because my partner and I do a lot of freelance work, but I also have a particular spot on the couch. When I’m at my desk—or this one spot on my couch—my instinct is to work. When you choose a specific place in your house where you can work remotely, you will begin to associate that spot with productivity. Lean into it.
- Nobody is watching you. Have a beer. Or a glass or wine. Or a gin and tonic. I’m not suggesting you drink on the job. I’m just saying that if it’s a sunny afternoon, a cold one is the kind of perk you might need to appreciate the job that’s cooping you up.
- Don’t get too cozy. Get up, move around, take breaks. This isn’t just a “work from home” tip—it’s a “stay sane at work” tip as well. When you get the blood flowing, you get your ideas flowing, too.
- Allow for some home-related distractions. Especially for people who work long work weeks already (looking at you, mirror), some basic life upkeep can fall by the wayside. If you need to do laundry, clean the counter, do the dishes… go for it! Maintaining your work environment is an essential part of your job.
Don’t believe me? Try leaving a huge mess at work. See how well that goes over.
- Do keep track of your time. It’s very easy to get on a roll in the late afternoon or evening. Next thing you know, you’ve put in 10–12 hours. If you work too much from home, you’ll associate it with your job, and you’ll need to leave your house to escape it. That’s already a bad situation, but it’s even worse when you’re supposed to be self-quarantining.
- Find an alternative “commute.” Some people go for walks or bike rides before they start work. My partner, who works entirely from home, goes outside with her tea for a few minutes just to get some fresh air. I take my “commutes” during lunch and again a few hours later.
- Take vitamin D. Honestly, it’s something most of us should do anyway. We’re all cooped up, not getting as much sun as we’d like, and it’s great for the immune system.
- Don’t forget to eat. When you’re working in an office, there’s usually a pretty clear lunchtime. When you’re working from home, it’s easy to completely forget to eat until it’s almost time to think about dinner.
- Don’t turn on a TV, play a video game, or get sucked into your phone. There is no coming back. They’re little black holes. They’re literally designed to keep you engaged. Your work will suffer and you will regret it.
- Enjoy the extra time with your pets and family. I don’t wanna tell you how to enjoy that time, but remember that the time you get to spend with each other is a gift.
- Make sure you have multiple ways of contacting your coworkers. One method of communication is absolutely not enough. Email, phone, Slack, Teams, AOL Instant Messenger (kidding), whatever… Few things can stop forward progress faster than not getting a timely answer, a necessary document, or even a quick approval. If you rely on fast, easy communication on the job, this is a must.
- Tell yourself that you can do this responsibly. Of course you can. But if you have any doubts, just tell yourself that you can. Commit to it. There may be many distractions at home, and you may not yet associate your house with work productivity. That’s okay. Fake it till you make it. And you will make it.
These were a few of my (possibly) unusual tips for working remotely. If you’re joining the remote work club, then welcome! We’re happy to have you.
The commute is shorter, it’s better for the environment, and you may find that you save money on lunches… But if you go stir crazy—or if you can’t focus and work effectively and efficiently, then you’ve got a clear path to getting far, far behind.
What about you? Do you work from home? Do you do any of these? Did I miss any great tips? Let us know, and we’ll update the list!