In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, no one could have anticipated the unprecedented challenges many Americans would face at this time. Lockdown measures have forced large numbers of non-essential employees to work from home, and many workers grapple with managing the overlap between their home and work life. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics found that over 31% of American workers worked from home in April 2020. Regardless of your situation, adjusting to a new remote work routine can introduce daily difficulties that disrupt your productivity. The BLS also found that more women than men were working from home. These statistics provide a snapshot of the new normal that many of us are working our way through.
As you transition to your home office, consider these ways to better adjust to the new normal, even when everything feels different.
Set a Routine
Working from home is a huge transition. Many people are surprised by how easy it is to get distracted when you’re no longer in the office. To combat that issue, it’s important to set a daily routine that keeps you focused and productive. This could include a regular wake up time, an exercise routine, or setting time aside for a quick walk around your block.
Dress for Work
Make a point of dressing for work even when you’re at home. This will inject a level of professionalism that will kick start your morning as it would when you leave for the office, and it can keep you poised for productivity throughout your day.
In the study, “The Cognitive Consequence of Formal Clothing,” researchers discovered that participants perceived themselves differently based on the clothing they were wearing. Researchers found that participants psychologically associated formal attire with being more competent, thus approaching work situations with more professionalism, while casual dress led to approaching work problems more casually. Adopting a formal work attire, even in your home office, will help keep your head in the game.
Working from home can introduce a number of distractions. To minimize these, you’ll need to spend time working through the types of boundaries you need to set to thrive, even in disruptive spaces.
Let your friends and family know when you’re available to hang out. Many employees who work from home report that friends and family may drop in during work hours and create distractions. If you clearly communicate your work hours, they’ll know to stop by outside of your allotted work time.
However, don’t neglect your social time. Building connections with your colleagues is a crucial aspect of building teamwork. While socializing is a little different now, you can always set boundaries and socialize by scheduling virtual happy hours or digital hangouts. Just be sure to schedule this time with family and friends outside of work hours to avoid any overlap.
Manage Your Mindset and Attitude
When you’re working, be mindful about staying present with your work. If you can, avoid thinking about issues outside of work and try to stay on task. However, this is easier said than done for parents who are working from home, as you’ll have the added distraction of kids around the office. Your children will still have questions and needs that you will have to address, no matter how much work you have to do.
The best way to manage your mindset is to set time blocks for certain activities. If you have several calls to get on or project deadlines to meet, try to work on those projects while your kids nap. If your kids are older, you may have to schedule your projects during your child’s screen time. As children transition back to school, you may find yourself working on projects at the kitchen table while they work on their homework. It can be a juggle, but you can also set short breaks throughout the day to manage your energy and your mood. That way, you’ll have moments to decompress or re-energize before getting back to work. Recognize that each day may be different depending on what you’re working on and be kind to yourself as you adjust to this new way of working.
Set Professional and Personal Goals
Don’t lose track of your personal and professional goals. Setting and completing goals related to professional development will help you stay the course with your career. Maybe you want to grow your yearly income, learn new skills, or navigate your work-life balance from your home office. Try attaining a personal or professional goal by growing your skillset. There are many free professional development courses offered by universities such as Harvard, MIT, and online course platforms such as Coursera. Before signing up for a class, spend some time considering your current skills gap and professional goals.
Whatever your goals may be, ensure that they are SMART goals or “specific,” “measurable,” “attainable,” “relevant,” and “time-bound.” This will help you stay on track and plan accordingly.
These times can be challenging, but it’s still possible to create a sound work-life balance—even if your office is in your kitchen. While you can’t control every disruption, you can implement these daily practices into your routine and boost your productivity while working remotely.