Logging hours while social-distancing at home after years of working elsewhere can be a major adjustment. Limited social connections and the lack of clear boundaries between work and home life can affect your productivity and focus — even if you like your new super-casual dress code that allows for sweatpants.
Social media entrepreneur Natalie Zfat has worked from home for nearly a decade. "When you work from home, taking care of yourself, both physically and mentally, is crucial," she says.
Here's some advice from career coaches, seasoned remote workers, and other experts on how to set yourself up for success.
You'll be spending a lot of time in your home office, or whatever you can set up that will pass for one, so make sure your situation is as comfortable and conducive to work as possible. A dedicated work space can help minimize distractions, and it creates both physical and mental distance between work and your home life. If you don't have a separate room, try sectioning off part of a table to create a boundary.
Professional organizers recommend investing in some home office essentials. One must: "Everyone should have a very comfortable chair, preferably one that rolls," says certified professional organizer Sharon Lowenheim, since a good chair provides much-needed back support.
Video by Jason Armesto
If you're new to working from home, you may find yourself easily distracted. Or you may feel isolated and miss common workplace interactions like grabbing coffee with a co-worker.
Make sure you're touching base with your boss one to two times a day and reaching out to other people too, even briefly. Studies have shown that more social connections during the workday tend to make people more satisfied and productive.
"For people who are not used to working from home," says leadership coach Milo Sindell, "scheduling maybe a 5 or 10 minute chat with a co-worker, just to create that social connection" can boost both productivity and general well-being.
One way to avoid burnout, says Zfat, is to carve out time for yourself.
"It's no secret that breaks are good for business," she says. They're crucial for workers too. "I like to give myself a few 15-minute chunks each day to go for a walk, water my plants, call my grandma. I also sit down for lunch."
For busy parents, juggling child care and work can be downright overwhelming. To boost productivity and maintain normalcy during an uncertain time, Stephanie Bergeron Kinch, a mom of three living in Denmark, suggests maintaining a routine. Hers includes starting each day with a family meeting.
One way to make that routine feel easier, she suggests, is to build quality family time at home into your schedule. You could find that "cozy" and "productive" aren't mutually exclusive, says Kinch: "Even though our reason for staying home is serious, authorities have even encouraged us to practice 'hygge,' a Danish word that describes the comfortable and cozy practice of being together in small groups."
To stay focused and increase productivity during a time of great distraction, find an accountability partner like a spouse, roommate, or co-worker. Report back to each other on your progress on a given project or task.
"The members of 12-step programs and support groups experience great success because of incredible group support," says Kathleen Hall, founder of The Stress Institute.
With many schools closed, parents are looking to find creative and inexpensive solutions when staying home with their kids. Beth Rosenbleeth, the former teacher who runs the platform Days with Grey, has a wide array of crafty and educational activities that can keep the kids entertained while you focus on your job.
Of her first days at home with her three kids, Rosenbleeth says: "Once I had taken a breath, I realized I had all the resources I needed to pull together a few activities on the fly, in a way that wouldn't break the bank."
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