Not everybody likes to work from home. Maybe you miss having a big desk set up just how you like it. Or you miss the social aspect of working around a number of people. This is partly why co-working companies like WeWork exist and why you see people camped out with their laptops in coffee shops all day.

But as the novel coronavirus Covid-19 makes its way around the world, remote working has taken on greater significance as more than a perk letting you cut down on a long commute or throw in a load of laundry before dialing into a conference call.  It’s being used as a way to reduce the spread of the virus itself. 

If you find yourself working remotely from home, whether as a company perk or a necessity, there are a few things you can do to make sure you stay productive, keep some separation of work and life, and get your social fix.

Set Up a Designated Office Space

If you only occasionally work remotely from home, you might be tempted to just plop down on the sofa with your laptop, remote in hand. While that may work out well for a couple of days, it’s not necessarily a strategy for long-term success.

Instead, space permitting in your home, find a spot where you can set up a home office of sorts. Even if that spot is your couch, use the same spot each time.

The idea is to push your brain into “work mode” instead of “home mode.”

If your work setup is fairly complex – for example, if you use two monitors at work and are planning to work from home regularly – it may be worth buying monitors and a docking station so you can create the same setup.

Before spending your own cash on this, check to see if your employer has a technology allowance or budget to purchase monitors or docking stations for remote employees.

Stick to a Morning Routine

While the occasional work-from-home day in your pajamas is certainly a nice treat, resist the urge to make it a habit, especially if you work from home a lot.

Instead, get up at your regular time and stick to your usual routine by getting dressed, eating breakfast, etc.

Don’t get me wrong, unless you conduct a lot of video conferences, there’s likely no reason to wear business clothes (and even then, you really only need a business-appropriate top!), so go ahead and embrace the sweats or leggings…just wear different ones during the day than you wore to bed.

Take Breaks

If you normally grab coffee with a coworker at 11am each day, take a quick walk around your block at that time, or pop in a load of laundry. Your mental breaks might look a little different working from home, but you should still take them.

Stop Work at Your Usual Quitting Time

When working remotely from home, it’s very easy to blur the line between work life and home life. That is one reason why setting up a dedicated office space is helpful – spending all day laying on the couch doing work and all evening laying on the couch watching TV is not a recipe for a good work-life balance.

So if your normal stopping time is 5:30pm, then at that time, shut down your computer and put it away. Do your usual dinner and evening routine. If you need to log back in to do work later or just want to in order to get a jump on the next day, go ahead, but make sure you take a break to mentally reset away from work and back to home.

Make Sure Your Roommates and/or Family Are on Board

If you live with others, especially others who may be home during the day, make sure you communicate to them your work schedule to avoid disruptions during the day.

Similarly, don’t hang out with them (or invite friends over to hang out) unless you’re off the clock. Would you invite non-work friends to hang out in your cubicle? If not, follow the same practice at home.

Pick up the Phone

Working remotely from home can be very isolating, especially if you are working from home due to social distancing rather than preference.

Nowadays, much of our work is done over email. You may hate talking on the phone or have no need to do so when you’re in the office – you can just pop in on your boss or coworker for some face time.

But when you work from home on the regular, the phone takes on greater importance. If you usually check in with your boss a couple of times a week for an in-person meeting, schedule a call to do that. Do you usually spend some time chatting with a coworker about office news?  Take a virtual coffee break from your home offices over the phone or video chat. You might feel silly at first, especially if you normally steer clear of phone calls, but human connection is important and when you cannot do it face to face, the phone is a great substitute.

Photo by A R C H I G E R O S A on Unsplash

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