COVID-19 has definitely changed life as we know; sports are over, events are canceled, and if you are like myself and many other Americans, you are probably going to be working from home for the foreseeable future.
The New Normal
I like to think of myself as a logical man and so I am not usually the one to be superstitious. However, it is an odd coincidence that the President announced a national emergency in light of the recent COVID-19 on Friday the 13th. Although this was not the first time that life as we know it was about to change, it definitely was the biggest. Three days later the virus hit closer to home as Indiana announced the state’s first death. Since then we have seen state after state and company after company announce new plans or changes in their operating practices as an attempt to slow down the spread of COVID-19. Needless to say, the COVID-19 outbreak has seriously altered the day to day life of every American. First and foremost, my condolences go out to the family and loved ones of those who have passed as a result of the virus. For those of us fortunate enough to have not been infected by the virus (yet), we can still do our part to help slow the spread of it. One thing that many companies across America are doing is having their employees work from home. A new concept for many workers, but fear not for this blog post will give you some pointers on how to adapt to your new office arrangement as well as the new normal.
Even though you may not be physically going into the office, you still need to maintain the same mindset as you would have in the office.
You Still Need an Office
At first glance this sounds like a sweet deal; no more traffic, short commute, and a dress code cannot get more casual than pjs! However, work is still work and deadlines still have to be met, so how can you ensure that you will still be productive while working at home? Well similar to our previous blog post Clear the Clutter, it all starts out with the right workspace. Even though you may not be physically going into the office, you still need to maintain the same mindset as you would have in the office. The easiest way to achieve this is by setting up a designated workspace separate from the usual gathering spots at your home. I say home because this holds true whether you live in an apartment or a house. Best case scenario, you have a spare room or home office. Of course, the best-case scenario is not always available and thus you may need to get a little creative. The main things you want to keep in consideration are as follows. You want to make sure that you have easy access to an outlet. They don’t call it “telecommuting” for nothing so it’s important that you can keep your computer and phone charged up. The next thing you want to consider is your new desk. I say desk but really any table will work. I myself am currently writing this blog from my kitchen table. Surprisingly this makes a perfect desk for my temporary office as we usually eat our meals at the coffee table in front of the TV. Which reminds me, I know I said any table but I want to emphasize that the coffee table is not your friend when it comes to working at home. The obvious reason for this is that most coffee tables are located in front of TVs or in active parts of your typical home. This will leave you sidetracked by all the tempting distractions not normally found in your usual office setting. However, the more underlining negative to using a coffee table as your desk is the harm it can do to your posture. Just like your desk at your real office, your home desk should be about waist height and allow you to work in an up-right position. If you are used to a standing desk, then a counter top or breakfast bar will work as a good stand-in. Wherever you settle on, make sure that you clean any clutter before beginning to work.
Keeping a separate and clean working area will not only help you stay focused but also productive.
Just like your TV, household chores can surprisingly be quite the distraction when working at home. It’s easy to put off Spring Cleaning when you are out of the house 8+ hours a day. However, when you spend your whole day in your house, you start to notice the buildup of household chores. Keeping a separate and clean working area will not only help you stay focused but also productive. Another important reason to make sure that your workspace is separate from your usual living areas in your home is because you still need to maintain a healthy work/life balance. Especially since you no longer will have a physical separation of the two. For those with the home office this may mean shutting the door when you are no longer on the clock. If you are going with the kitchen table route, then pack up your computer when you’re done for the day. It doesn’t matter what you do as long as you have a clear end to your work day.
It is important to remember that life goes on and we will soon return to the normal day to day we once knew.
Keep Up Your Routines
Clocking out at 5 pm isn’t the only routine that you should keep up while working from home. The true key to success is maintaining as much normalcy as you can in your new office. This means you should continue to act as if you are still going into the office. I used to have a coworker who Telecommuted to work every day. Even though she never physically came into the office she still dressed for work and put on makeup. When asked why, she explained to me that this was her morning routine when she worked in the office, and thus she kept doing it as it mentally prepared her for the workday. We all have our own little routines before we head into the office or even before we sit down at our desks in the office. Maintaining these routines will help ease the transition into the new working arrangement. The same goes for taking breaks from work. Having a dedicated lunch break can be easily forgotten once you start working at home. However it is still important for you to take time out of your day to eat as well as get away from sitting at a computer.
It’s Only Temporary
Even if we stay at home all day, life still rolls on so we should do the same. Even though stores are currently out of stock on some items, you can still place back orders. This will help assure that you are the first to receive new inventory when it arrives. Additionally, it also helps businesses plan accordingly to the needs of its customers. As you begin to settle into your temporary office it is important to remember that this is all temporary. In the midst of cancellations, closures, and news alerts, it can be easy to get discouraged or worst of all panicked. However, it is important to remember that life goes on and we will soon return to the normal day to day we once knew. Although the end might not currently be in sight, we can all do our part to help return to normal, and in doing so, we will all get there a little quicker.
Here is view of our home workstations.
What does your home office look like?