Like so many of you, our team at WHITE64 is working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic for precautionary social distancing. And we’ve learned a lot about what it takes to be productive and successful in a work from home environment. First of all, it’s not easy under normal circumstances. And layer on top of that the additional stress and anxiety many are feeling today. According to Mintel, 88% of Americans are worried about the impact COVID-19 will have on their lifestyle. A big part of that is the stress of balancing work and home life.
We’re not experts, but as newbies here are our observations on the top tips to making work from home actually work for you:
- Establish a new work routine. It might not be the same as before COVID-19 (which usually involved a commute), but having some type of routine helps mentally prepare you for work – wake up at the same time during the workweek, shower, exercise, coffee or watch the news before you start your workday. You may also want a transition activity to turn work off – a walk around the neighborhood, a workout, etc.
- Define a workspace. It may be a corner of your living room, your dining room converted into a workroom, or a separate home office, but having a designated workspace is another mental cue for when you are “working” versus when you are “home.” Try to pick a space with lots of natural light.
- Separate home and work tasks as much as possible. Don’t try to squeeze in a load of laundry while also working on a presentation. When you’re in work mode, stay focused on work tasks until you are ready to leave your virtual office and shift into personal mode.
- Get dressed for work. Not for a pajama party. Fight the urge to wear your lounge clothes all day. Try putting on your casual work clothes to help you get into a professional state-of-mind.
- Get organized. It’s easier to get distracted at home or simply lose focus. Make a to-do list for daily, weekly or even long-term tasks. Checking things off the list will help you feel productive and that feeling keeps you motivated.
- Make a schedule – for work and non-work activities. Set boundaries for yourself. When to turn on and off work. A schedule can help you establish those lines. Working remotely doesn’t mean you are free all the time.
- Take a break. We no longer get to meander around the office or engage in small talk at the coffeemaker. At home, you can quickly find yourself sitting at a desk for hours simply typing or staring at your screen. You need a mental and physical break. So take your coffee break; leave your designated workspace and relax in the kitchen for 10 minutes. Or take your dog around the block for a quick break. You’ll find yourself more focused and productive when you return to your work if you allow yourself breaks in between.
- Block out distractions. Consider turning on white noise or a WFH playlist to help you block out distractions while you work. This can also become another mental trigger that it’s work time. And also – no news! This can be a distraction and a stressor. So save it for before and after work.
- Communication is key normally. Over-communication is key with remote work. Promptly respond to emails, chats and phone calls so your colleagues have a sense of progress and aren’t unnecessarily worried about your engagement on a project.
- Talk it out. Relying on email and chat can quickly lead to misunderstandings; a brief message may be mistaken for a curt one. When you sense this, pick up the phone or hop on video chat to get on the same page and bring a bit more humanity into your conversation.
- Video chat. Working from home can feel isolating. And while email and chat can be productive, nothing replaces face to face conversations. They’re simply more human. And we all need that right now. So take every opportunity to video chat when you can – for work and for pure socialization with friends and family you miss!
- Find the silver lining of WFH. Use this time to reconnect with yourself and carve out some “me time.” Whether it’s exercising, cooking, gardening, taking up a new hobby or finally digging into that book you’ve been wanting to read, take advantage of the time you have at home. Find the positive.
- Embrace the roller-coaster of emotions. Feel your feelings. This is a big transition. And a stressful world. It’s okay to feel frustrated, stressed, overwhelmed, anxious, lonely and isolated. Be easy on yourself and give yourself time to establish new routines and get used to a new normal. And remind yourself – everyone is going through this. So when you sense someone else’s frustration or anxiety, be supportive and empathetic. We’re all going to have bad days – but we will adjust.
- Protect your time. Some people have a misperception that working from home is laid-back and employees are just watching Netflix and doing laundry. But the opposite tends to be true – people tend to work longer hours from home because there’s no delineation between work and home life. Set your schedule, know your daily priorities – both work and home – and stick to it.
- Ergonomics matter. Use earbuds or a hands-free headset when you can. And find your most comfortable chair to steal as your work chair. Check out these back stretches you can do at your desk: https://www.health.com/fitness/lower-back-pain-stretches-desk-video
- Stay connected. Video chat as much as you can with teammates as a reminder that we’re all in this together and working through it as a team. It can be easy to feel isolated or disengaged when working solo.
- Maintain company rituals. One of the daily rituals at WHITE64 is stopping by the reception desk to catch up with our Office Manager LaVonnya. While we can’t physically do that now, LaVonnya emails out her “Daily Download” at the end of every work day sharing tidbits of what employees are up to at home – from funny pet stories to cocktail recipes. It’s a nice way to feel connected again. We also have a company-wide virtual happy hour every Friday to share stories from the week together.
- Focus on wellness. Our HR Team sends out a weekly e-newsletter with tips and resources for physical and mental wellness, reminders of how to use our EAP services for counseling if needed, a virtual yoga class with our HR Manager (who happens to be a yoga instructor) and a work-from-home playlist to keep team relaxed while they work.
- Keep the kids occupied. We’ve been developing fun at-home challenges for our kids to participate in while we work. They’ve created t-shirt designs for a client and made signs to thank first-responders. We’re also hosting a weekly virtual video storytime where our Office Manager reads different books to our kids.
- Stay true to your company culture. We’re a weird and wacky bunch at WHITE64. We’ve always taken our work seriously, but not ourselves. But when faced with such a serious pandemic, it can be hard to find levity. Our quirky and fun culture is exactly what we need right now – we just need to find different ways to express it. Thanks to one of our Group Creative Directors who – along with her husband – made a funny video sing-a-long for our team mocking our timesheet process. Thanks to the video chat filters that allow us to turn into pickles and potatoes for some light-hearted fun during internal meetings. Thanks to our team for brainstorming fun virtual happy hour themes – tomorrow is wacky hair day!