How To Stay Productive While WFH During The Corona Outbreak

Working from home during a pandemic
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Since the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak, most companies are implementing voluntary or mandatory work-from-home policies. Many entrepreneurs who are used to going to office everyday are also adjusting to working remotely.

In these days of video conferencing, messaging, and file sharing, people are easily able to move their workdays to home. Indeed, working remotely has been with us for years so while transition may feel difficult, it is far from impossible.

For bloggers, animators, online jurors, realtors, web developers and the likes, working from home may seem like nothing new. However, being forced to confine yourself to a home office — especially during global crises like the COVID-19 pandemic could be an entirely different experience. You don’t know how long this would last, your whole office is involved and you cannot socialize and have face-to-face discussions with your partners and co-workers.

So, we had a few discussions with Freelancers, editors and experts who have been at this for quite a while now and summed it all on one piece.

While working from home, these tips will help you in getting the job done and in maintaining your mental health and well-being.

Get Dressed

This may seem like a quick and easy tip, but it’s a very important one. As much as it is tempting and comfy to stay in pajamas all day, giving in to such temptation have proven to drastically reduce productivity and significantly slow the pace of work.

You don’t need to dress as formally as you might for work, but the simple act of changing clothes serves as a signal that it’s time to wake up and get things done.

Getting dressed also applies to other appearance-based tasks: Take a shower, brush your hair, even put on makeup if that’s what you’d usually do. You don’t need to go as all out as you would for the office if you don’t want to, but waking up and taking care of your appearance can go a long way toward helping you feel like you’re taking care of yourself.

Besides, just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean that no one from work will see you. It’s 2020 and we’re all about to have a lot of video meetings.

Take Clear Breaks

It can be so easy to get distracted as a telecommuter that you avoid breaks altogether. Don’t let the guilt of working in the building you sleep in prevent you from taking five to relax. Rather than just opening YouTube and watching some comfort clips, however, use your breaks to get away from your desk. Go for a walk outside or spend time with others who might also be in the house.

“Breaks, like making and eating lunch, can recharge you to do better work. Don’t assume you need to be working 100% of the time while you’re home to be more productive.”

Ginny Mineo

Clearly Designate Your Workspace

One of the major pitfalls of working from home are the many distractions that come with it. When you fail to draw the line between your work life and home life, things can get really messy. This can significantly hamper your productivity and make you spend many hours on a job that should normally take a few minutes.

The best way to do away with such distractions is by clearly defining your workspace. If you’re used to going to an office every day, the separation between work and home is physical, and you want to try to recreate as much as you can with a designated physical workspace at home.

You may be scoffing at the idea of a separate room for your home office. But if you live in a small apartment, you could simply setup a corner as your home office. However, your workspace should feel as separate from the rest of your home as possible.

Make your workspace comfortable with a chair that you can sit in for eight hours a day and a couple of decorations. If at all possible, find an area with good natural lighting. Even if you don’t usually spend a lot of time outdoors, losing the time you spend outdoors while you’re on the road can start to weigh on you quickly, and it’ll only happen faster if you don’t have natural light coming in.

Entry into your workspace will help you turn on at the beginning of the day and get down to work. On the other hand, leaving your workspace will also help you turn off at the end of the day and completely disengage. That’s why it’s also important that you don’t spread across your home — while it might seem great to be able to move from desk to couch to bed, if you let your laptop get into your downtime, it makes it harder to keep your work separate from your home life.

When you work at a table that you like to use outside of work or a place where you spend a lot of time in, pack up your job every evening to make the end of the day decisive. If you are working with your personal computer, be sure to close all your work related tabs and programs when you are done for the day. The point here is to try as much as you can to create a demarcation between your personal life and work life.

Clearly Define Your Working Hours

Just as you designate and separate your physical workspace, you should be clear about when you’re working and when you’re not. You’ll get your best work done and be most ready to transition back to the office if you stick with your regular hours. Plus, if your role is collaborative, being on the same schedule as your coworkers makes everything much easier.

“The biggest difference between working from home and working in the office is that you are in charge of your environment and have to treat yourself like an employee,” Yurovsky says. This means holding yourself accountable, but also recognizing when enough is enough, just as a good manager might. “If you feel yourself extending your work hours because you aren’t doing anything in the evening…tell yourself it’s time to put work away, recharge, and start tomorrow with a fresh mind. The work will be there in the morning.”

If you live with other people, this separation is even more critical. Communicate with the people you live with to establish boundaries so you can cut down on distractions during the workday—and then disconnect and give the people you care about your full attention. Having a separate time and space to work will allow you to be more present in your home life.

Create Transitions Into (and Out of) Work

It is true that commutes waste a lot of time, however morning commutes have one good advantage. Morning commutes not only gets you to work—from one physical location to another—but it also gives your brain time to prepare for work. So since you are not travelling any longer, you would have to create equivalent routines to help you ease into your workday.

Maybe you usually read or listen to music on your commute. You can do that at home. Or maybe you can spend some time with a pet or loved one. You can even add in a workout (preferably at home because of the new coronavirus, but see what is being recommended where you live) or spend some time on a hobby (again, make sure it’s appropriate given the health recommendations where you are).

At the other end of the day, the evening commute does the reverse. “Commuters often take for granted the time they have in the car or on the train to wind down from a hectic workday and mentally prepare themselves for their evening routine.” Yurovsky says. Generally, you’re not going from getting a huge presentation done right to making dinner or doing chores. If you try to jump directly, “your brain doesn’t have time to hit the reset button, which can make you less present as you transition back into your personal life.”

Give yourself something that will signal the end of work and serve as a buffer. When I worked from home, I made it a habit to take my dog for a long walk as soon as I was done for the day. It helped me decompress with something physical and fun, and the habit was self-enforcing since my dog would lie in front of the door when it was time to go or would come looking for me if I was taking too long.

Keep Away From Distractions

Distraction is one of the big challenges facing people who work from home—especially people who aren’t used to it. “Your home is right in front of you,” Berger says. That means that whatever you’re usually thinking about getting home to after work is now with you. It’s human to get distracted. But you need to be wary of how much you let yourself get distracted.

You probably already take a few breaks throughout the day at the office, and that’s fine to do at home, too. Using that time to throw in a load of laundry is OK, but try not to look at your new work arrangement as an opportunity to finally clean out that closet or anything else that takes a lot of sustained focus.

Right now, one of the biggest distractions is the news. And if you’re working remotely because of the new coronavirus, checking in on COVID-19 updates is going to be at the front of your mind. It’s good to stay informed, of course, but it’s also easy to scroll yourself into an anxious mess.

I suggest setting timers for any breaks you take. You don’t want to get too immersed and forget that you’re at work altogether. If you’re someone who’s susceptible to getting distracted every time you get a news alert, turn your notifications off during the workday, too. The news will still be there after 5 PM.

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