I remember at time when “working from home” meant you were either waiting for the cable guy or had a sick kid who couldn’t go to school. Boy, what a different world we live in now! As a result of COVID-19 and the resulting quarantine, millions of people are now working from home instead of making the daily trek into an office. Unfortunately, this transition has been quite an adjustment for many. Doing your job from home presents a number of challenges that didn’t exist in an office. Restless and bored children, impatient partners and spouses and tempting programming on television provide another layer of stress to those still required to tend to business matters during working hours. Getting chores done and/or parenting is hard enough without worrying about work. Balancing things and keeping on task is a much easier thing to do if you follow some or all of these suggestions.
Taking breaks might sound counterproductive, but it’s actually the best thing you can do for your level of productivity. Plugging away at a computer for hours on end doesn’t help your posture or your mental state, especially at home during quarantine in 2020. It’s important to break up the monotony, get up and move a little.
Stand up and walk away from the computer every quarter hour. Experts believe that our brain retains information every fifteen minutes. Giving yourself that brief break allows the info to soak in your brain for optimal retention. You’ll then be able to use this knowledge for work-related tasks more efficiently.
If you find fifteen-minute intervals to be too frequent, try the Pomodoro technique. This method suggests a five-minute break every 25 minutes. No matter which method you choose, don’t use this break to scroll social media or make personal phone calls. This time should be used to briefly move your body, clear your mind and breathe.
Remaining stationary for extended periods of time can really do a number on your body. It’s important to work out the kinks and keep your energy flowing. Try to carve out some time every day to stretch your whole body, and don’t wait until you start hurting! Set an alarm for every hour or so and take your break before your muscles begin complaining. Stretching helps clear blockages that may be impacting your productivity. It also improves blood circulation and replenishes the oxygen levels in the brain. This blood is vital for powering the cells that help us with decision-making and communication.
Create Quiet Time
Whether you live with kids, a roommate, pets or family members, your new “work environment” (ie. home) can get pretty noisy. If you are able, choose an area in your home where you can get some peace to concentrate and be productive. If carving out some quiet space just isn’t possible, sit your cohabitants down and share some ground rules. Let them know the hours you need quiet and show them where your “Do Not Disturb” sign (get creative!) will be placed as a reminder to keep the noise level down. It may take a little time but they’ll get the hang of it.
Many years ago I had a boss who used to make us put our phones in the receptionist’s desk drawer during the day. Although it took a week to get over the “separation anxiety”, I found that my productivity increased dramatically. Now that many of us are working from home we have numerous distractions to draw us away from our work. Make sure you have a quiet, private place to conduct business, even if that means clearing out a closet and using a lamp and a tray table for calls (don’t laugh….I know someone who is conducting Zoom meetings from her closet). Put your phone on “Emergency Only” for a few extra focused hours during the day and stay off of social media during the working portion of your time. Politely explain to family members that your work space needs to be quiet and politely request that they respect your working time. A “QUIET – Meeting in Progress” sign on the door works wonders during Zoom meetings and phone calls.
Create an Itinerary
I have a confession to make. My planners (yes, plural) are more important to me than some of my neighbors. I’m kidding, of course, but planning my week, and sometimes month, is one of my favorite things on earth. Setting out a list of tasks and recognizing accomplishments on an hourly basis will keep you on task and motivate you to stick to the plan. Tracking time and using an itinerary also makes it easier to carve out some “free”, non-working time during the day. And who doesn’t love putting a line through a completed item on a list? End-of-the-day review of your itinerary also helps to plan productivity goals for future work days.
Talk to Humans
If you’re like me in 2020, I spend much of my day carrying on one-sided conversations with my dogs. I miss the camaraderie and banter of my Purelix co-workers and, although we hold daily Zoom meetings, it just isn’t the same. I pine for the connection that came with physically going to the office and often feel lonely and that’s understandable. The average person spends 90,000 hours of their life working. That means one-third of their time spent on Earth is surrounded by people and many of us spend more of our waking hours with co-workers than with family members. Make sure you reach out and check in with those co-workers, even if there isn’t anything work related to discuss. In addition to feeding your souls, this interaction can also help you keep on task. Reporting to others keeps us on our toes!!
Dress for the Job You Have
Dressing for work doesn’t necessarily mean leaving the house. Even if you’re just going from your bedroom or kitchen to your home office, remember that you are going to work. Set your alarm, take a shower and get
ready just like you did pre-COVID. Now, I don’t think you have to wear heels or a suit and tie but get out of your sweats and get into the proper mindset. Studies show that dressing for the day helps people become more productive and improves the mood….”Looking good, Billy Ray!” “Feeling good, Louis!”
Don’t Do Chores
No one wants to hear the timer go off or the dryer buzz while they’re in the middle of a Zoom meeting. Although many people understand your current struggles because they, too, are working from home, interruptions do nothing to help productivity. Set times aside for chores outside of work hours, just as you did pre-quarantine. You may even find that you get more done around the house if you are strict with yourself about your work/chore schedule.
Keep Up Your General Wellness Routine
Exercise, diet and general wellness habits are now more important than ever. Try hard to get 30 minutes or more of exercise in each day – enjoy a sunrise walk or an after work sunset stroll to clear the cobwebs and remind yourself of the beauty that surrounds us. Drinking 60 ounces of water a day may result in more bathroom breaks but will also keep you hydrated and feeling fresh during the work day. And quarantine isn’t the best excuse for loading up on junk food by grazing mindlessly. A bad diet can impact your mood and productivity so step away from the Cheetos, at least during working hours.
Last but Certainly Not Least…
Give yourself a pat on the back. This new “normal” is tough on everyone so don’t beat yourself up if you’re struggling with the post-COVID work/life balance. Try a few of the tips listed above and see if they work for you. Remember, we’re all in this together!