As part of the effort to slow the spread of Coronavirus, many communities have shut down all nonessential activities and businesses, including schools, sporting events and entertainment. This is forcing many to work from home if possible—and companies that haven’t yet organized their teams to work remotely are having to learn the ropes very quickly.
I’ve worked from home full-time for about 18 years, and love it. On the other hand, I can imagine that if you’re used to the collaboration and camaraderie of a traditional office environment, working from home can present unexpected challenges. Here’s my best advice for the work-from-home beginner:
- Take the time to learn how to effectively use communication tools. Zoom, Slack, Skype and other internal communication channels not only improve your productivity, they can offset feelings of loneliness that can sometimes plague remote workers. Feeling comfortable with working these tools will alleviate stress, too.
- Use emojis. This may sound silly, but strategic use of emoji in email and chat messaging can convey emotional context in ways that well-crafted sentences sometimes don’t. This goes a long way toward reducing miscommunication and keeping the vibes positive. 👍
- Watch out for distractions… or overwork. I find that working from home has two opposite risks: either working excessively long hours (at the expense of your personal life) or, wasting time with home-based distractions (at the expense of productivity). I’m a very big fan of using timers to maintain focus. “Pomodoro” timers will segment your day with intervals of work and breaks that will increase the amount of work you get done—while keeping your mood chill.
- Set boundaries with others at home. Shut the door, put on headphones, or even put a “do not disturb” sign up if you need to.
- Avoid the news while working. We can easily underestimate how off-track we can get when our attention wanders. It’s one thing to enjoy a cute cat video, it’s another thing to track new Coronavirus cases in your area and getting viscerally stressed out. The news is just really upsetting these days and it’s important to limit your intake during your workday (and afterward!).
Whether you’re a full-time remote worker or just temporarily at home during this crisis, keeping these tips in mind will make it easier to stay productive and stress-free.