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Make working from home, work for you

Introverts and homebodies are two population demographics most likely to welcome the country’s roll out of remote working mandates. Companies and organizations of all sizes are requiring workers to stay home in an attempt to promote social distancing and slow the spread of COVID-19.

For employees unfamiliar with working remotely, this significant change in their daily routine may require some tips and encouragement for staying productive during these challenging times. Whether you embrace this new normal, or feel anxious about how you’ll get things done, these suggestions can help you stay on task and continue to deliver high quality results.

If you’re working from home for the first time, new challenges may require some personal adjustments. Having and following a schedule is important for a successful home office. It may be tempting to sleep in and work in your pajamas, however starting your professional workday like you’re going into the office will help keep you focused.

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The primary hurdle is learning to stay on task in an environment that may not be conducive to productivity. Distractions, loneliness and incomplete chores can stare you in the face, and pull you away from professional responsibilities. Whether you’re an experienced telecommuter, or a first-time remote employee, here are some professional tips for working remotely during the coronavirus outbreak, possibly for an extended period of time.

Give your technology and work space a check-up
Modern technology is what allows many employees to work from home. Give your computer a check-up to ensure you have the proper applications needed to do your work, including whatever apps and hardware you need to participate in webinars and online video conferences. Be sure you have an operating webcam and whatever application your work place uses for remote meetings such as, GoToMeeting, Skype or Zoom. Take it for a test run to ensure your technology works from your new home office.

Maintain boundaries
Design your work space with strict physical and psychological boundaries. Be clear with family members or roommates that this space is off-limits and designated as office/work space only. Only spend time in your designated space when you are actually working. Maintain similar work hours as you would if you were working on-site. When you’ve finished your work day, put away your computer and walk away to relax as you would when you normally returned from work. At the same time, avoid the obvious distractions of home life such as chores, walking the dog or personal phone calls. It’s easy to end up on the floor playing with Fido or baking a pie, when you should be compiling that quarterly report.

Set clear expectations
Clarify with your supervisor their expectations and priorities in regards to task management and productivity. What is his or her preferred means of communication? How often will meetings occur? Get specifics and maintain an open channel of communication with co-workers to avoid misunderstandings that can arise with emails and text messages. The same goes for friends and neighbors who may want to stop by and chat, causing you to lose focus and get off-track. A gentle reminder that although your work location has changed, your need for professional work time has not. Set up a time to connect after your usual work hours.

Honor yourself and your individuality
No one knows your work style better than you. If you’re easily distracted, maintain your professional routine of preparing to go into the office. Create your home office in a way that feels like your normal workspace and not the kid’s playroom. If you tend to plow through your work without coming up for air, consider setting a timer for a lunch break or an outdoor walk to get some fresh air. At the same time, keeping your work within a designated space is a way to respect other household members as well. Answer emails and return phone calls in the quiet privacy of your office (or corner of the room) and not at the dining room table or in front of the television. Put on some nice background music and fill up your favorite coffee mug and get to work!

Not everyone has the luxury of working from home, so if you are able to incorporate this work flexibility into your life, make the transition as easy as possible during these challenging times. Focus on the positive aspects of remote work, like having more free time that comes with not commuting, saving money on dining out, or spending more time with your loved ones. Try connecting with friends on social apps and organize a virtual happy hour. Personal connections are vital to psychological health, and since working from home can feel isolating, it’s important to avoid the loneliness that can accompany cabin fever.

Most importantly, be creative and try to discover opportunities that are buried in the difficulty of the times. It won’t necessarily be easy, but we’re all in this together and need to support each other in doing what is best for the entire community.