Because of the current pandemic, many people are now working from home who never expected to do so.
Working from home when you didn’t plan to
Due to the effects of the current worldwide pandemic, there have been lots of discussions lately about adjustments to working from home. We’ve talked about working from home in the past, but when the decision is made for you suddenly and with little time to prepare, it’s a very different thing. It brings with it a whole new set of challenges.
Add to that the fact that for many of us, we are making this adjustment at the same time our children (of all ages) are home from school, and for some of us, our spouse or significant other is either working from home or has been laid off.
One great example of this ongoing conversation was a question Elena O. asked in The Productive Woman Community Facebook group:
“Reaching out to ask for help with suddenly working remotely! I’m very anxious and having a very difficult time with self-motivation. Life does go on, though, and I need to figure this out. I want to create a schedule that includes my job, exercise, a daily home project (organization or cleaning) and some downtime each day, as our home is very full and I am easily distracted. Do you have ideas, templates or productivity tools that might help? I’m thinking of real basics. I need to replace this fear with confidence.”
I’ve worked from home for the past couple of years, serving my legal clients as well as producing the podcast, working with coaching clients, and at times facilitating TPW mastermind groups.
Even for me, it’s different right now–the stress of what’s going on in the world, my son home from graduate school, so trying to help get him set up to finish his grad school semester remotely; my husband working a different schedule so home an extra day during the week
Challenges of working from home
- Disruption of change
- Distractions, both external and internal
- Mom guilt
A few things that can help
We talked last week about mindset issues–managing our own thinking. This is important all the time, but especially when adjusting to unexpected change in difficult times.
In addition, there are some practical steps you can take to be able to work effectively and efficiently:
1. If you can, set aside a space for work.
When we bought this house in December, we looked specifically at houses that had a home office, because we knew I’d continue working from home. But if you’re not used to working from home, you might not have a whole room for a workspace. If you can take over a guest room for a while, great. But even if you can’t have a whole room with a door to close, find a space, if possible, where you can leave your work “stuff” without having to pack it up every day.
Gather the materials and gear you need. Find the most comfortable chair you can.
Make it a priority to make a functional and pleasant place to work–move things around from other parts of your house if needed (e.g., lamps, work table, etc.)
2. Create boundaries between work and non-work.
3. Use time management tools like time blocking.
This may be more workable than scheduling the day hour by hour, create blocks of time for certain activities, like deep work, phone and/or video calls, administrative tasks, education for your kids, household tasks, and personal care.
4. Develop routines and rituals to help get your mind on task. (Check out James Clear’s excellent book, Atomic Habits, for help in creating habits that help.)
This is always important, but even more so when change and uncertainty are making it hard to stay focused. Some routines and rituals to consider:
- Begin your workday by lighting a candle, 2-3 minutes of meditation or just quiet deep breathing, turning on a special playlist or a service like Focus at Will
- If you struggle to stay focused because too much on your mind, maybe 10 or 15 minutes of freewriting to unload the thoughts that are distracting you
- If isolation is a problem, schedule periodic calls with a friend or colleague
- Schedule breaks–get up from your desk and move around; walk outside for a few minutes if weather permits; take an actual lunch break away from your desk
- Develop a shutdown ritual for the end of the workday
5. Seek out tools that can help you work effectively and efficiently
- Zoom or Skype or Microsoft Teams for video conferencing (Note: Some people are experiencing issues with Skype or Zoom, trouble connecting, etc. Consider scheduling your call at 10 after or 10 till the hour, to avoid the crush of people trying to get on at the top or bottom of the hour)
- Focus at Will, Spotify playlists
- A good scanner (I love my ScanSnap)
- An excellent task/project manager
- Order supplies/equipment online for delivery if you can
6. If you have others in your household, make it a family effort
- Kids of all ages can learn to cooperate to one extent or another
- Communicate! Let the others in the household know ahead of time if you have an important call or need uninterrupted time to finish a challenging project.
- Coordinate with your spouse or significant other to share the workspace, work time, household chores, child care. If you are both at home and don’t already have a “fair” division of labor, now is a great time to work on this.
Ideas from the TPW Community
- Try using a Pomodoro timer
- Schedule your key tasks on your calendar
- Give yourself grace!
- Creating a schedule can help keep you on task and give you a sense of control that will help keep anxiety at bay–but make your schedule work for you
- Create a dedicated workspace
- Take breaks!
- Get dressed
- Check out this post by Community member Janeen M.’s son
- Longtime TPW Community member Claire has written a blog post about work-at-home productivity
- Hear even more great ideas in the episode!
Thank you to Elda, Andrea S., Janeen M., Elena H., Lucy B., Elizabeth B., Christine G., Gabrielle G, and Claire K. for sharing their great ideas!
What do you think?
Are you new to working from home or have you been doing it for years? Share your questions or your best tips in the comments section below this post or in The Productive Woman Community Facebook group, or send me an email!
Announcements and Reminders
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Royse City, Texas