With Colorado’s Governor Polis imposing a stay-at-home order (effective starting Thursday) to curb the spread of COVID-19, hopefully it will flatten the curve to help keep our elderly and at-risk friends and neighbors safer. (Certainly it can’t hurt to keep the “covidiots” from having group gatherings.) Some of my friends and clients are on edge about having to work from home until April 11 with little excuse to run about town. Well, not to worry. We have some tricks for you that we’ve learned from working from home for about 3 years now, and want to say “welcome to the club!”
TOP 10 TRICKS OF THE TRADE: WORKING FROM HOME
Bear in mind that our home office is located in Fraser, Colorado, tucked high in the Rocky Mountains. For this reason, some of these suggestions might need to be modified ever-so-slightly for you “city folk”.
Set your office hours. Regardless if you are paid hourly or have a salary, this can help you to establish work vs. personal hours. Not that you can’t throw a load of laundry into the wash while you’re working on occasion, but it helps to keep the tasks separated. Set your boundaries. It’s easy in the digital age to work more than your 8 hour shift by sitting down with your laptop in the evenings. Do your best to keep some sort of regular routine.
Set up an area in your home to be your desk area. Granted, with laptops you can plop down on the couch and work there. But, it really isn’t good for your posture and can cause carpal tunnel syndrome. Instead, clear off your home desk that has accumulated junk piles or if you don’t have a desk, earmark part of the dining room table to use as a desk. Be sure to pay attention to your backdrop as this will matter when you do video conferencing calls. Have fun with it. As an example, Zoom allows you to pick your background, say a serene ocean scene.
Get dressed like you’re going to the office. (And be sure to shower regularly.)
This can be helpful to put yourself in “work mode”, and not just lounge around all morning in your sweats or yoga pants. And even if you could get away with your comfy clothes before, this isn’t always the case now with video conferencing calls instead of in-person meetings. Be careful: if you think you can get away with dressing up from the waist up, you might be surprised by someone ringing at your front door and have to get up during the video call.
Take your “commute”. Use the time that you would normally be driving to and from work, to take a walk around the block to reset you from the morning home routine to work mode. If you have a dog, you are probably already doing this trick. It still amazes me how my dog knows when it should be quitting time, 5:00 pm sharp!
Be sure to take regular breaks. Those stops to the office water cooler are actually helpful for your eyes, fingers, and brain when you stare at a computer screen all day. You can actually be more efficient working from home but you need to schedule lunch and a few 10-15 minute breaks. Just like at the office, breaks can be good for social interaction, so you might just pick up the phone and call or text someone so you don’t feel so isolated. This week my kick has been re-sharing silly COVID-19 pictures on texts with some friends who may need a smile. Although this is a crisis time, we still have to help those who need it… and sometimes laughter is just what’s needed. Here were my faves from this week:
Just be sure if you’re taking a walk or a run for a break that you don’t get charged by the moose that have settled into your neighborhood the past few weeks! Although they are awesome creatures to view from a distance, I have to remind myself that 3 moose > a human + one young, reckless dog.
Schedule emails. Are you worried when you send an email in the evening that people will think they need to respond then? Well, if you use Gmail for your email, you’re in luck, as you can schedule your emails by clicking on the Send button’s dropdown and schedule for the next morning.
You get to pick your officemate(s). Personally, I prefer the furry ones. There is very little drama to put up with that you normally would in an office setting. If you have your kids at home, set them up at the dining room table with you to do their school work. It is recommended that elementary-aged children can handle 3 hours a day (not all in one sitting of course) and middle schoolers and high schoolers can manage being productive for 4 hours. If you have a planned video conference call, be sure to prep the kids so they are reminded to be quiet during your call.
Don’t forget to eat lunch and drink water. When you don’t have your olfactory senses kicking in when co-workers are nuking their lunches in the office kitchen, you may get busy with a project and forget to eat lunch. But then you pay the price and eat anything left out on the kitchen counter late afternoon and potentially spoil your dinner. Schedule lunch time on your calendar or set an alarm. Whatever works best for you. Also, be sure to get your daily intake of water in to stay hydrated.
Clean your surroundings. This is especially important for neat-nicks or those who are Type A. Maybe your whole house isn’t picked up, but you’ll be less tempted to deal with messes if at least your 180 degree view from your desk area is bearable to look at while you work.
Partake in a Virtual Happy Hour. Make plans or join in on office happy hours held online. It’s a great way to end the day and get to know your co-workers a little better. (Who knew Kimberly in the Sales Department had sugar gliders as pets?)
Let’s All Do Our Part
The best course of action right now is minimizing the spread of COVID-19, which means social distancing has become the runaway catchphrase of 2020. If staying at home and washing our hands frequently offers people at the highest risk the best chance of being protected, it’s worth it. So let’s all do our part. Enjoy this time to have a more flexible and laid back work environment. Hopefully these tips will help you to be even more productive as you navigate working from home! You will get use to it and maybe even come to regret having to go back to the office in the future. Just maybe.