The new coronavirus is forcing millions of Americans to turn to remote work. How do you respond if you’re new to working from home? Stress? Panic? Of course not! With these tips, you’ll enjoy the advantages of telecommuting while limiting the drawbacks.
Emergency Tips for Workers New to Working from Home
As COVID-19 continues its global spread, many facets of daily life are changing. Bulk toilet paper purchases, travel restrictions, and stringent quarantine laws from many countries have struck fear among the masses. Even major sports leagues have postponed or canceled their regular season and postseason as a way to stymie the virus and reduce transmission via large crowds. In some preliminary respects, the efforts of governments worldwide seem to be working, but only time will tell the far-reaching implications of their policies.
In the United States, curbing the spread of COVID-19 is not only a way for the government to quell mass panic; it’s a method to retain some sort of order. Outside of the White House, other organizations have recognized their role in the prevention of the spread of the disease. Major companies and employers such as Google, Apple, Twitter, and Airbnb have all allowed at least a portion of their workforce to work from home, and other companies will almost certainly follow suit in the coming days or weeks.
The prospect of telecommuting is an enticing one. For many U.S. employees, working from home will be an entirely new experience. It allows them to push the threat of COVID-19 out of their mind and attempt to retain some sort of productivity. However, the threat of distraction, loss of human interaction, and even loneliness can creep into the work-from-home equation. That’s why, if you’re new to remote work, you might need a little extra help. To keep you on track both personally and professionally, follow these emergency tips and hacks for the novice virtual worker.
How to Set up a Temporary Home Office When You’re New to Working From Home
You’ve probably seen many “home offices,” and you might even have one. It’s usually that extra room that’s filled with clutter and overflow from the other rooms of your house. But with the coronavirus outbreak, it’s a better time than ever to turn that home office into a fully functioning workspace.
To start, clear out all the clutter. Clutter can lead to undue stress and anxiety, which are emotions you won’t want to bring to the office. Next, find a place for your desk that allows a bit of natural light, as well as a lamp or two to brighten the room. Light can positively impact your productivity and morale, as well as reduce eye strain and headaches.
The final step for creating a home office centers around organization. Creating dedicated places for gadgets, office supplies, and paperwork enables you to find things with ease, reduces clutter, and makes your workspace far more conducive to productivity.
Continue Your Morning Routine
A potential pitfall for telecommuting newbies is breaking with your regular routine. That doesn’t mean you can’t gather the latest intel on COVID-19, read on the couch, or watch one episode of your favorite new show. But you should still remind yourself that you’re at work. The best way to achieve this mindset is to stick with your normal morning routine.
If you’re used to getting up at a certain time, keep your alarm set. Get up, take a shower, get dressed, and eat breakfast just as you would if you were working an office job. This will remind you and everyone else (friends and family members) that you’re still at work—an idea that can easily get lost in a virtual capacity.
Invest in a Pair of Noise-Canceling Headphones
Headphones may seem counterintuitive in an office setting, but when you work from home, they’re a godsend. Kids going nuts? Is the television too loud? You won’t even notice with a high-quality pair of noise-canceling headphones. Pop these on, and you can focus even when the world seems to cave in around you.
The best business headphones have a combination of these qualities:
- Superb sound quality
- Noise cancellation technology
- Long battery life
- Preferably Bluetooth-enabled
- Comfortable to wear for long periods
If you’re not a fan of headphones, earbuds may also provide the quality, comfort, and quiet you need to stay on task and free yourself from distraction.
Take Breaks and Set Hours
Remote work gives you the unprecedented ability to work around the clock. As someone new to working from home, you have to set boundaries. While you may become more productive, the separation between work and personal life blurs. Not only can this lead to long hours, but it can also create a rift in your personal and social life.
To combat this, start by taking regular breaks throughout the day. Whether you decide to walk around the house, go up and down a flight of stairs, or meditate, a break can help you recharge and keep your productivity high. In addition, you should set a work schedule that aligns with your original office hours. This ensures you won’t suffer from burnout, yet you’ll remain in the office for a full workday.
Set Up Virtual Meetings with Co-workers Who are Also New to Working from Home
Loneliness and feelings of isolation are common among remote workers. However, newcomers don’t necessarily experience these feelings. Although most employees may have to work from home for only a week or two, the spread of COVID-19 may push your virtual tenure up to several weeks or even months longer. That’s when a strong sense of isolation can kick in.
Fortunately, you can stave off loneliness with scheduled meetings with co-workers. During these meetings, you can discuss business, what you’re doing during COVID-19 lockdown, and your plans for the future. With this online “water cooler” talk, you can regain some semblance of business and personal relationships.
Make a Schedule and Stick to It
Theorized by British essayist C. Northcote Parkinson in 1955, Parkinson’s Law is an aphorism that states that “work expands so as to fill the time available for completion.” In simpler terms, this means that if you have 8 hours to do a 4-hour task, it will take you 8 hours regardless of work ethic or determination. The only way to overcome Parkinson’s Law is to become cognizant of the law itself. This is what many successful entrepreneurs have mastered, and a concept you’ll need to grasp to become a successful remote worker during the COVID-19 outbreak.
An effective way to defeat Parkinson’s Law is to make a schedule with time allotments and stick to it. For each task, assign a realistic amount of time to complete it and challenge yourself to finish ahead of time. This will improve your time management and usage. Create a reward system as well. How you choose to reward yourself is up to you. Taking a short break, eating a snack, or conducting a period of “lazy time” should keep you motivated.
Expanding on this idea, you may also want to use the Pomodoro Technique. This time-management technique states that you should work diligently for 25 minutes then take a 5-minute break. Repeat this throughout the day to maximize your efficiency. Armed with this idea, you should be able to defeat the pitfalls of Parkinson’s Law and wasted time.
Limit Your Social Media Usage
Published in 1936, the poem “Burnt Norton” by T.S. Eliot discusses the themes of salvation and time. While such serious themes probably won’t creep across your mind too much during COVID-19 (try to stay calm), the poem does have a theme you can apply: “distracted from distraction by distraction.”
In terms of remote work, you can apply this idea to the many distractions when you work from home, but most notably social media. During the COVID-19 chaos, you’ll undoubtedly want to check out social media to see how your friends, family, and colleagues are coping. But what was initially a quick 2-minute peek at Facebook or Twitter can quickly balloon into a half-hour or longer without awareness.
If you must use social media, set a maximum time limit of 5 minutes or less per hour (or as prescribed by the Pomodoro Technique). This will give you a slight rush of endorphins and satisfaction but without wasting copious amounts of time. In addition, if you can’t trust yourself to adhere to such guidelines, sign out of all your social media accounts. Doing so will prevent you from switching tabs to social media or easily accessing it with a single click.
Pump Up Your New Jams, Made Special For Working From Home
Music boasts an inspirational quality that other forms of media and art can’t touch. With each passing note and beat, you can set a tone that leaves you free of distraction and motivated to complete your daily tasks. According to some studies, people who listen to music can do their work more quickly and with fewer errors than those who work in silence. Yet it’s the type of music that makes the difference.
Don’t expect to crank up Cardi B or Miley Cyrus and instantly become the world’s most productive person. Most studies show that instrumental music works the best, including classical music, ambient music, epic music, jazz, and nature music. Another proven method of increased productivity is video game music, which is specifically composed to help aid you in concentration. If you’re new to working from home, creating a few remote work playlists and testing all of them out is a smart move. Whether you love a Coltrane ballad, a Mozart concerto, or the soundtrack to Super Mario Brothers, pop in a track and let the music become your muse.
Have a Sit-Down with Family Members
Schools are closing almost as readily as offices. As a result, you may find your spouse, partner, or kids running around the house during the day. Not only are these people a distraction, but they also may not understand the boundaries you require to work from home. Before you attempt to work remotely, hold a family meeting. During this meeting, explain why you’re working from home, what your daily schedule is like, and how they can help you focus on work throughout the day. Remind them that you love them, but for the foreseeable future, you need time specifically for work. For good measure, use a door sign or set hours that you’re unreachable, even if you’re in the next room.
Although many employees and contractors may have wished for remote work arrangements under happier circumstances, a new reason for working from home has presented itself. Not everyone will enjoy the practice, but the fabric of how people work may change forever. By integrating these tips into your experimental telecommute role, you can prep yourself for a virtual job that may become popular sooner rather than later. For now, enjoy your added pajama time, remain focused, and stay healthy. Hopefully, a return to normalcy is around the bend.
iStock Photo Credit: dragana991
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