The world is changing rapidly with each passing day. All tiers of government are urging employees to work from home where possible, practice social distancing, and, as if you haven’t heard it enough, to wash your hands, all to stop the spread of respiratory illnesses such as COVID-19. 

But, for individuals whose workplaces may not be accustomed to remote work, the last week or so may have been a bit challenging and a huge adjustment, to say the least. Regardless of your work situation, it is of the utmost importance that the health of you and your family takes priority as we all navigate this pandemic. 

We’ve compiled a list of tips and tricks to maximize your productivity while working from home to help employees stay on track and reach their goals! 

 

Managing expectations in the home

Let’s face it, this is 40 more hours per week that we’re now spending with our families, friends or or anyone that we live with. That’s a lot of quality time in sometimes very tight quarters, and maybe it isn’t going quite as well as you thought it was. 

Whether you have kids, roommates, a partner, or a pesky neighbour (who should be leaving you alone anyway), it is imperative that you set the ground rules early on so that everyone is on the same page for the duration of COVID-19. 

Perhaps you and your spouse (or oldest child) will rotate shifts to watch the younger children, or rotate who gets to use the office room and when; whatever it is, be sure to set boundaries so that you can focus on work, and get along amicably. One of our Resident Companies, Binogi, has recently made their platform free to provide educational resources for parents and students at this time. That’s a good way to keep your kids learning – and distracted – so you can get some work done! 

Everything from where people work, to taking calls, using headphones and common courtesy may seem like strange topics to bring up, but they’re all fair game. Managing expectations can make an already stressful time more bearable, given that there is no timeline for when businesses will operate as usual. Having the awkward conversation about what works best will be better early on, before those frustrating behaviours become a problem down the road. 

It’s also important to note that not everyone can work from home, and their workplaces may be shut down. Suddenly, a lot of people have a ton of time to fill. Make clear that you are still working so that you aren’t on the receiving end of their boredom. Be available to them, but in the same hours you would be if you were at your place of employment. 

 

Set daily and weekly goals for yourself 

Personally and professionally, goals are extremely important for growth and accountability. Having both short and long term goals that align with your organization’s mission (and specifically, your role in it) will help you stay focused, and long-term goals will help identify any skills gaps and professional development opportunities to pursue for career growth. 

But, don’t get in over your head; start with what you need to accomplish in the short term, beginning with a one week outlook. Jot down everything you hope to accomplish in one week, then further break it down by day, to help plan and manage performance expectations. Of course, check in regularly with your supervisor or manager if you are struggling with deadlines or specific parts of a task.  

For teams doing weekly or daily check-ins, having employees share what they are working on each day or week can help boost engagement and elevate morale. Plus, keeping each other in the loop with workloads can help managers distribute or redistribute responsibilities, prioritize projects and ensure requests among team members are reasonable. 

 

Communication is key 

There is no one-size-fits-all amount of communication that will work for teams navigating COVID-19. But, the more open and transparent team members are with one another about projects they are working on, deadlines, or issues they are facing, for example, the more likely they are to tackle it feeling supported by not only their team, but by their organization. 

For some teams, meeting once a day works well, and for others, it’s once per week. Do what works best for your organization. As businesses work to get to a new normal, it’s important to come into team meetings with an agenda each time, so that they are efficient and don’t get side-tracked going over every detail of the news each day. 

This also means breaking out of your comfort zone. 

Remember that some people live alone and don’t have much opportunity to see or speak with others while social distancing. Look out for those people; check in often, and go beyond the standard email or Slack chat. 

Pick up the phone and call them (don’t visit them or go for coffee, though!), and better yet, hop on a video call to check in. It’s 2020 – so everyone has a phone or computer with audio/video capabilities. Try Skype, Zoom, Facetime, or any other video chat platform for team or project meetings. Sure, it’s not as effective as an in-person meeting, but it’s a great way to connect with your colleagues during this very unprecedented time. 

Plus, you may learn some interesting things about your coworkers – like the type of pets they have, number of kids, or where they went to school (university hoodies, anyone?!). 

Finally, if you aren’t already, be sure to leverage messenger/file sharing programs such as Slack, to not only reduce lengthy and unnecessary email threads, but to make communication more accessible and less formal. 

 

Create a distraction-free, ergonomic space 

It is so easy to stay in bed and work from a laptop, but eventually, that’ll catch up to you. You’ll work into the night, hurt your back, or find it difficult to separate your home life from your work life, and work-life balance is key. 

If you have a home office, that’s great! You’re already starting out on the right path. Ensure that your space is set up ergonomically, away from distractions (though, this is obviously going to be tough if you have children), and ideally there’s a clock, so you don’t lose track of the time.

While it can be tough to avoid the constant reel of press conferences about the COVID-19 situation, to effectively work from home, try to turn off or avoid any distractions while you’re working. Maintaining a schedule – with time for breaks and lunches – is key.

Give or take space constraints, try to keep your work sectioned off in a part of your residence that you can shut the door on when your workday is complete. Otherwise, if you’re working from the comfort of your bed or couch, it can be impossible to disconnect from the work mindset. 

 

Take breaks 

It’s an odd time to want to do anything or go anywhere – because you can’t, or shouldn’t. That said, everything (mostly) is closed, and being in the same place for extended periods of time will take its toll. 

Going for walks outside (alone) is a great way to clear your mind and get some exercise, especially if you have a pet you can bring along with you. Otherwise, check the mail, do your dishes, have a quick shower, hit the elliptical for 15 minutes, or make a pot of coffee. Do something – anything – to take a break and clear your mind. You’ll come back to your work more refreshed and focused than before. 

If you normally go for lunch with coworkers, make lunch at home and video chat with them while you eat to see how their day is going – especially ones who live alone or who are self-isolating. 

 

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