In light of COVID-19, many people are finding themselves having to work from home for extended periods (awesome, thank you for doing your part)! If you’re not used to it, it can be difficult to adjust and make sure that your work time is productive, your personal time is protected, and that you’re sticking to good habits around physical and mental health. While the benefits of home office may seem like a luxury at first (no pants, no problem!), it can get challenging after a while.
At Runtastic, our employees regularly work from home, and we wanted to share eight tips for setting up a successful home office environment:
Tip 1: Seriously, wear pants…
When you work from home, it might be tempting to roll out of bed in your pajamas and stay in them for the duration of the day. But it’s important to maintain clear boundaries between your work time and your leisure time. Signal to yourself that it is time to get work done by changing into something more work-appropriate. You don’t have to wear a suit and tie, but your outfit should be professional enough that you’d wear it to your office. It will also help make sure that you can jump on a last minute video conference call without an emergency trip to your closet.
Tip 2: Choose a designated home office spot
Another way you can signal to yourself that your work day has begun is to choose one area in your home that will serve as your office. The space should be clean, organized, and have all the materials needed for you to be productive. Move all your chargers, devices, pens, etc. to your office area at the beginning of the day so you don’t have to interrupt yourself and go find things. If you have kids, put up a “red light, green light” sign or some other visual signal to let them know when it’s okay for them to interrupt and when you need some quiet time. At the end of the day, clean your space of coffee cups, water glasses, etc. and then change locations. Moving away from your workspace will become a clear signal to yourself that your work day is now over.
Tip 3: Schedule your day
Working from home is a great way to get big projects done, especially when they require focused attention. But if you plan to spend 8+ hours on one task, you’re very likely to get bored. Instead, try and break your day into smaller blocks. Create some variety in the type of work you need to do, if possible. Book conference calls for after lunch when you need to get back into work mode and might be ready for some interaction with colleagues. By tackling your work day in chunks, you’re more likely to stay engaged in what you are doing and make steady progress.
Tip 4: Choose your communication channels
If your company is somewhat new to the home office structure, you’ll need to coordinate with your colleagues on how you want to communicate with each other. At Runtastic, we use Slack to get in touch with colleagues throughout the day with quick questions. If a phone call is required, we use Google Hangouts to schedule a video conference (being able to see your team when you talk is much simpler and more effective than a phone call, we promise). Establish the best method of communication with your team, and, most importantly, share your schedule of tasks with each other. The last thing you need is a flurry of messages when you’re trying to focus.
Tip 5: Minimize distractions where possible
In addition to minimizing distractions from your colleagues, you can take additional measures to help yourself focus. First, sign out of your social profiles and turn off notifications on your browser and cell phone. You can open an incognito window so that if you absetmindently type in the URL for YouTube, you have to go through a sign in process before you can access cat videos. That extra step will be a reminder that work time is work time, not YouTube time. If your work computer is also your personal device, set up a new user account with only the tools you need for work to help you set a clear distinction.
Tip 6: Take breaks and move your body
When you work from home, it is important to take care of your physical and mental health by taking breaks. You can set an alarm for every 45 minutes to get up, walk around, and grab a drink of water. Or, you can schedule breaks between your working blocks so that your brain, eyes, and body can rest for a period of time before you dive into the next task. We highly recommend doing some neck stretches or a quick workout to help your body stay physically active (as much as possible) during the day. Here is a workout you can do in your own living room:
Tip 7: Socialize
Working from home seems like quite a luxury, but people who have experienced it will tell you–it can get quite lonely. One of the many benefits we get from going to the office is social interaction with our colleagues. We build both professional and personal relationships by catching up over a cup of coffee or during lunch. To maintain a healthy team that can collaborate and communicate remotely, it’s important to keep connecting with each other in this way. Book virtual coffee dates and lunch meetings with your colleagues so you can stay in touch with each other and dedicate some time toward the non-work part of your relationship so working together is easier and more enjoyable.
Tip 8: Sign off and stay off
End your day at your usual time and communicate with the rest of your team when you log off. You can change your Slack status or mark your hours clearly in a Google Calendar you share with your colleagues. If you freelance with outside clients, consider using an email auto-responder during your off hours that lists your working times. Try not to let your work time bleed into your personal time by answering “one quick message” from a colleague or client after hours. If possible, end your workday, leave your office area, and go do something completely different like a home workout or cook dinner to tell your brain that it’s time to turn your energy elsewhere for the remainder of the day.
Some final notes on COVID-19
We’re all in a transition period right now, and while we wanted to focus this article on providing some tips to help those who are learning to cope with a home office environment, we know it is only one of a myriad of challenges you might be facing at the moment. Over the last few days, our team has been collecting resources, tips, and strategies to help each other deal with this difficult time, and we wanted to share a few of them with you. You can find our list of ideas below. Stay safe and stay healthy.