With the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic upon us, many small and mid-sized business employees are finding themselves in a new world of teleworking. A world surrounded by distractions, children, pets, older family members, household chores, smells, and activities you would not typically find in the workplace.
In this new world, there are no breakrooms or company kitchens to bump into co-workers. Personal relationships can quickly be lost. So how does one remain sane and productive with limited physical interactions with co-workers?
As an employee who has had the privilege of teleworking on a part-time basis since the late nineties and has managed teams of full-time remote teleworkers, I brainstormed some ideas and polled my team for what works for them. Below is a brief list of ways to remain connected, engaged, productive, and of sound mind. Many may seem like common sense, but perhaps they will serve as a good reminder as we are all under an elevated level of stress.
If you are a visual person, you may want to check out our Work from Home Tips Slideshare.
Hygiene and Routines
It is important to maintain normal hygiene and routines. Prepare each day as if you are getting ready to leave for the office, store, or a client visit. Continue to shower like normal, get dressed for work, eat breakfast, whatever your normal routine looked like before you started teleworking, continue that today – minus the trip to gym or restaurant that has now been closed.
Try to maintain normal working hours. It is easy to find yourself working off hours and/or longer hours than you typically would. In light of the coronavirus, it is understandable that many are working considerably longer hours than normal, while others find themselves at the other end of the spectrum. As organizations settle into social distancing and teleworking, many roles will fall back to normal activities.
Create a dedicated space in your home for work. Ensure that it is clean and free from as many distractions as possible. If available, a room with a door to minimize noise from the home and a window to allow natural light is helpful. Try to maintain a clean workspace so that you can continue to find things quickly and not lose unnecessary time.
Use video conferencing tools, instant messaging, and phones to keep up the personal touch. It is easy to become isolated and minimize contact with others but critically important to remain in frequent contact with others you work with daily. Technology is a great way to help bridge the physical distance that has been created but do not go overboard and become a distraction to others.
Check-in with Co-Workers
Check-in with co-workers that you would normally interact with at least once a day. See how things are going for them, ensure they are doing well, and offer to help if there is anything you can do for them.
Exercise & Breaks
One of the most challenging aspects of teleworking is the reduced physical activity that occurs. There are no longer walks to the printer, walks to meetings and others’ offices, or simply getting out of the house for your commute.
Finding time to exercise and remain healthy is important to ensure that you remain your best self. There are countless YouTube videos on home office exercises and tricks to help you do this without losing focus on your work. Perhaps it is a quick walk around the house or neighborhood, yoga, or chair exercises. Find something that works and stick with it.
Since most work activity is now in front of a computer, eyestrain can become a significant problem. Remember the 20-20-20 rule. Every twenty minutes stop looking at your screen and look at an object 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.
If you are struggling with a task and find yourself “hitting the wall” – take a break to let your mind think of something else and clear you mind. After you have let go of some of the frustration around that task, reach out to a co-worker or supervisor for assistance.
It is always good practice to take breaks, regardless of where you are working. Find some time to get up and walk around when you need to. If you are struggling with this, put in on your calendar.
With all the distractions in the home setting, it is easy to let your mind wander. Setting goals, priorities, and periods to accomplish them can be very helpful to ensure that you remain focused. If you are a list person, make sure that you maintain your lists, written or electronic.
Communicate, Communicate, and Communicate
Maintaining good communication is always a critical success factor. With more conversations taking place over the phone it easy for communications to breakdown and problems to occur. Having to communicate a message in more than one-way to ensure your message is properly understood may be necessary. Getting confirmation from the recipient of the meaning of your message reduces communication breakdowns. Documenting conversations can help serve as a good reference point in the future or to share with others.
Although things are certainly not normal, there are actions to ensure continued success. We hope the ideas above can serve you well in helping you maintain your sanity and staying on task while teleworking. If you have additional ideas that have worked well for you while teleworking, please comment below.