As the world settles into a new uncertain existence, many are now working from home (or working from “quarantine”). A new normal, yes, but infinitely luckier than the thousands who face unemployment due to business closures. This piece is for those lucky enough to still work even from home, eager to maintain productivity, meet their professional goals, and maintain a semblance of normalcy. For the time being we all have to do without the managed print services we have got used to in the office. Instead, you will have to make do with convincing the children that your report is more worthy of the remaining ink than their English assignment. Thanks to fellow Bidtellectuals, below are tips to “work from home” effectively from wherever your new isolated office space is.
1. Keep a Regular Schedule
While it’s easy to wake up when you want, saunter over to your laptop, start work in your pajamas and never take them off – it could also mean you never really “turn off” your day if you never actually signal its beginning. Work to wake up at the same time every day, change into work clothes (there are some different opinions on this, but most agree that changing clothes signals “work time” and helps motivation, not to mention video conference meetings), and maintain your regular work schedule including meetings, check-ins, even lunch times. Schedule in time for a walk or break if you are able to get outside for some fresh air, or a home workout video to get your body moving. At the end of the day, close all screens and perhaps light a candle or put on some music to signal the end of your day. Many in quarantine in China mentioned the difficulty of never “turning off” since you can technically continue working if everything is there, but your brain needs a reset to maintain productivity in the long run.
2. Keep Your Cool
Offices are usually both centrally heated and air conditioned, helping you to stay warm and cool when you’re trying to work. Unless you have a boss who sets the thermostat at stupid temperatures, you probably don’t really notice the temperature in the office that much because it’s meant to be comfortable. Working from home, on the other hand, is a little different.
In all likelihood, you don’t keep your heating on at home all day. This is going to create periods where you get cold and you can’t concentrate on your work because you’re shivering so much. Additionally, you might get too hot in the summer when the house suddenly becomes an oven, and you find that you’re sweating over the heat more than that stressful email you just got sent.
So, if working from home is going to be permanent for you, you’re going to need to sort out the temperature. Having the heating on all day is expensive, so invest in some good loft insulation to keep the house warmer for longer. Additionally, if you don’t have air conditioning for the summer, take a look at this Packaged HVAC Equipment and get an HVAC system installed. This will help to cool both you and your overheating computer down when the mercury hits the 30’s.
3. The Car is a Great Place to Make Call
Live with a partner? Roommates? Young children? Bidtellectuals recommend finding a quiet space right in your driveway – your car. A new space could refresh the mind, provide some new views of the outdoors, and it also encourages focus during conversations free from interruptions or distractions. Other recommendations included a tree house (really!) or if you’re in a city apartment, try your bathroom or bedroom. Why not! Take a fresh and open approach to meeting and working in general – it will make it a lot easier than beating yourself up or making it all a drag.
And while we’re at it about being positive about working from home, be positive in all communication in general. As CTO Mike Conway says: “I like succinct and clear messages, but I know that the less face time I have with people, the less they know how to interpret my tone in writing. When you work remotely full-time, you must be positive, to the point where it may feel like you’re being overly positive. Otherwise, you risk sounding like a jerk. It’s unfortunate, but true. So embrace the exclamation point! Find your favorite emoji :D.”
4. Set Space Boundaries
This was a great tip from the New York Times. Make sure you create a designated office “space” in your home or apartment. If you have a home office, spruce it up (even if it’s just a quick clean) and ensure your WiFI is up-to-speed and all video conferencing capabilities are ready. If you and your partner share a home office, determine if you’ll be sharing it at all hours, what to do if the other has a call, or if you want to create a separate space for each of you. If you don’t have an office, it’s especially important to designate a desk or workspace in your home. Keep your laptop there, make sure it’s clean, and it will signal “work” time for your brain. You could also add some wall pieces to the space like a painting or a personalized Neon Sign that could keep you motivated. Maybe a quote or a symbol to cheer you up might work! Similarly, when you take a break, try to find a new space in your home. Consistency is key. If you have been experiencing problems with your home’s electricity and wiring, now might be a good time to call out electricians to fix it, since you’ll be working there and will rely on your power outlets for all the technology you’ll be using, like computers, phones, routers, and so on. Check here for more info about the services that electricians can offer that will help you out as you transition to working from home.
5. Plan Breaks and Virtual “Happy Hours”
Virtual one-on-one lunch? Virtual group happy hour? These are the new normal and YES you should schedule them! Social isolation during the coronavirus outbreak (and working from home in general) can cause a dip in mood if you don’t combat it. Actively schedule breaks or social time like you would a work commitment. Use Zoom, Google Hangouts, or FaceTime (or Skype or any other free video conferencing tool) to catch up. Maybe dress up a little or put on some music to make it fun. Who says pouring a happy hour cocktail (or mocktail!) at home has to be boring? Check out this piece in the New York Times on how to throw a successful virtual happy hour. One key takeaway: too many people makes it tough to hear – now is the time for fun intimate catch ups!
6. Plan Cultural “Outings” Once a Week to the MET or Buckingham Palace
Craving some time outside? Or a taste of life before quarantine? Theaters, operas, and museums may be closed, but many are offering virtual tours or streaming. Tour Buckingham Palace in London, the Frick Museum in New York City, or the Frida Kahlo Museum in Mexico City. This piece in House Beautiful offers a list of wonderful homes and museums to virtually tour. The Metropolitan Opera will begin streaming encore presentations from their award-winning Live in HD series on the company website for the duration of their closure. All “Nightly Met Opera Streams” will begin at 7:30 p.m. and will remain available via the homepage for 20 hours. Read more here on Gothamist.
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Charlotte Otremba is Sr. Manager of Communications and Marketing at Bidtellect.