Well, the coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19) is forcing America’s workforce to go remote en masse…overnight.
Like many consultants, freelancers, and creatives, I’ve had flex work hours and a home office for about 20 years, so I thought this would be a good time to share some simple life hacks to help you work effectively from your house during this pandemic.
It’s really not that bad! You can do it. Here are 6 strategies you can employ to stay productive (and sane) at home:
Get Dolled Up. OK, maybe not black-tie formalwear. But you really can’t sit around in your pajamas all day and not even brush your teeth and hair. Signal to your body and brain that it’s time to WORK. One of the easiest ways to do that is to put on some decent clothes, dab on some makeup, brush your hair, and try to remain human even though no one else will see or appreciate your fashion flair! Who knows? You may have a surprise visitor or a video call. And whether you do or not, you simply have to shower.
Stick to a Schedule. Long-time remote workers know that you have to create definition between work, chores, and play. Humans have adapted to the clock, and even when no one is looking over your shoulder or you don’t have meetings, starting and stopping work on time makes a lot of sense. Get up at your usual time. Keep an organized task list everyday so you can’t procrastinate or drift off into a movie or book. It’s easy to let work and life bleed together into a big mess without lines of demarcation. And making sure you wrap up each work day cleanly and move on to your home life will really, really help you keep your sanity.
Make Yourself Comfortable. If you haven’t been working at home for long, you tend to slump into the couch with your laptop and a blanket. But that is horrible for your posture – and your quality of output. Find a corner of the dining room table or a nook in your bedroom, and set up a little work center at home complete with electronics, supportive seating, a work surface that is the right height, etc. It’s a small thing, and doesn’t have to cost money. I promise that having a designated comfortable, uncluttered work space will make a huge difference in your ability to enjoy work and get things done.
Overcommunicate. Don’t be a cave creature! Keep up a steady stream of communication with your officemates, family, friends, and peers – whether work demands it or not. Experiencing full days of total isolation will quickly erode your productivity and turn your brain to mush. Solitary confinement is a punishment, remember? Sometimes work will drive your communication habits, but even when it’s not necessary, post a fun giphy on Slack, or jump on a video call, or pick up the phone and say hello to someone. We’re social! Stay in touch with your tribe.
Move Around. A couple of days motionless staring at a screen in your little home work space will make you nuts. If you’re literally on the computer all day, get up every hour for 5 or 10 minutes to walk around, stretch, or get a snack. Get out of your house every day. Talk a walk, read for a few minutes, workout, run (essential) errands, or sit outside in the sun. Movement, time with nature, mental timeouts, and breaks in your sedentary workflow will keep you healthy at home.
Step Away from the Snacks. Oh yes… I mentioned snacks above, but now I’m sorry I did! Don’t take too many snack breaks. Many remote workers have to fight the impulse to snack, or risk transforming into a land whale. Keep healthy food around your house, put treats out of sight, don’t succumb to alcohol before evening, and stick to regular meals. If you don’t manage your cravings and maintain a schedule for eating, you’ll regret it after a few months – and a few extra pounds.
For you veterans of remote work out there, feel free to weigh in with other suggestions. And if you’re working solo at home for the first time with little to no preparation, just know that you can do it! Millions of people work this way every day, and with a bit of organization and moderation, you’ll do just fine.
Good luck. I’m rooting for you. Let’s all be disciplined together and kick COVID-19 to the curb!
Trish Thomas, CEO