What a difference a month makes! It's a whole new ball game as the world hunkers down hoping to minimize the effects of the Coronavirus. Much sympathy to those restaurant and service workers, small business owners and employees and others who are out of work (hopefully) temporarily. Others are working from home for the first time. Here are some tips from those of us who have been doing it for awhile:
- Set a schedule. This is a lot more difficult if you have kids; more on that below*. Hopefully your managers will understand the need for flexibility. If you are expected on conference calls or web meetings, obviously those take precedence. Other than that, set your work schedule to include breaks for lunch, etc. and stick to it.
- Set up a dedicated space. If you're living with someone who is also working from home, you may be fighting for work space. It's tempting to spread your stuff out over the kitchen table, but difficult since we don't know how long this will last. If you live alone, this might work. If not, set up a dedicated space to work that is out of the path of daily activities. This could be a card table or other temporary surface in a corner, but set up a space that is yours for the duration.
- Act as if. Some people who have worked from home for years are big believers in acting as if they're going to the office. They get up at a scheduled time, shower and dress as if they're going in to work. Then they get a cup of coffee and head into their "office". I'll confess: this is not what I do. I've been a morning person, so I tend to hit the ground running, then stop in an hour or so to shower and dress. And, unless I'm actually going to an appointment, find that I am capable of acting professional in yoga pants. Others need to dress appropriately in order to feel "at work". Each of us has to find our own way.
- Stay in touch. With your boss, with co-workers, etc. Whether you use texting, Skype or web conferencing or an actual phone call, stay in touch with each other. It's easy to feel isolated, especially if you're used to going to an office. Communicating with co-workers can help you feel more connected.
*Working at home with kids
Good luck with that. Seriously, it's possible but much more difficult, and depends on the ages of the kids. If you have more than one adult in the house, set a schedule that allows each of you to have breaks to be with the kids, and uninterrupted time to work. This can start with scheduling around conference calls or other times when each specifically needs to be "at work".
Talk to your boss. It may be that they have the same problem. Commit to completing the tasks required, but explain that it may be outside of "regular" working hours. Desperate times call for desperate measures; if you're scheduling time with a co-worker, perhaps after the kids are in bed can work for both parties. Get creative.
If you don't have support at home or a nearby parent/grandparent that can give you uninterrupted work time, sit down with your kids. Share your schedule, make sure the kids have activities to occupy their time and explain that "when Mom/Dad are at this table, we are at work". Frequent breaks to check on them or redirect them are critical; schedule what you can during nap time for smaller children, etc. And of course, make good use of that mute button.
Two phrases I'm starting to hate: "abundance of caution" and "social distancing". We all understand why these measures are necessary but it certainly isn't easy or pleasant. Wishing you good health and all the patience and good humor we'll need to get through this.
And don't forget to wash your hands....