Maintaining Productivity – and Sanity – at Home
Monday, March 23, 2020
The whirlwind that has been the last two weeks has caused a variety of confusion, changes, and rapid decisions as people across the state try to adjust to this new temporary ‘normal.’ Some decisions may have been made for businesses without their input – such as the Governor’s “Stay at Home” mandate for non-essential businesses. Employers may have also decided to switch to a remote environment for the health and safety of their employees. Regardless, many in Ohio (probably safe to say ‘most’) are now finding themselves at home for work. Dangerously close to the pantry filled with extra boxes of Girl Scout cookies.
So, how exactly does this work?
Good news, before joining Apple Growth Partners, I spent about two years working 80% remote full-time (with 20% travel). Let’s say I was doing this before it was cool. And in all honesty, I’ve found I’m more productive at home, but it did take me finding the best groove for productivity and socializing to truly make it work. Here are some of my best tips:
- Create a dedicated workspace. – Setting up shop at the kitchen table isn’t the best option for a variety of reasons. I’ve found establishing a separate part of the home dedicated to work makes the best for productivity. If you don’t have a home office space – or if it’s been taken over by the new homeschoolers in your house (more on that later) – find an area that you can make it your own. Basements, mud rooms, master closets, empty bedrooms, or even attics can work. Make sure your home’s Wi-Fi can reach to where you’re located, and if it doesn’t, you may need to purchase a Wi-Fi extender.
- Stay comfortable. – When it’s time to go to bed, are you changing out of your Day Sweats and into your Night Sweats? You’re not alone. One of the best perks of working from home is the luxury of loungewear. Enjoy being comfortable, but remember to actually change every day, don’t start off your week with the robe you wore all day Sunday.
- Establish times for breaks. – It can be tempting to work next to your pantry full of quarantine snacks, but pace yourself, or you’ll find you can’t get anything done. I find it best to break for lunch and one afternoon snack time, using the time to stretch and get some movement, before finishing the day strong.
- Monitor external influence. – I learned early on it was best for me personally to not have a TV in my dedicated workspace. I also don’t turn on the TV while I’m making lunch or taking a break. But I did find value in a pair of Bluetooth headphones to stream music while checking emails or other tasks. This provided some background noise needed, but without interruption to my daily workload.
- Stay social. – The tools for messaging and video conferencing are getting better by the day. If you’re missing the person-to-person interaction, be sure to message co-workers, even if it’s not work-related. Downloading apps like Marco Polo can send quick videos to your contact list in the form of a video text chain, providing the socialization you’re missing at home.
Ok, now that we’ve established some great work from home routines, let’s throw a wrench into the system – like canceling school! I’m one of the many families trying to juggle working from home with two (young) kids, which can basically cancel out #1, #3, and #4 during the day. Here are some tips for working parents with school-aged kids:
- Focus on surviving. – I fully admit we were behind in our first week’s packet from the school, while our house adjusted to two parents working from home with kids all day. This is not a time for a color-coordinated calendar of every school subject (I tried that on day one and gave up quickly); this is pure survival time. If you didn’t get the reading done this week, it’s okay. You will. Don’t get overwhelmed and take it one day at a time.
- Try to establish working periods during the day. – Our home’s schedule tries to incorporate working time for my spouse and me within the day, while the kids do their schoolwork. When the kids have free time, I can get away to my home office to work alone, but I mostly find the best time is at night when they’re in bed. ‘Normal’ work hours don’t exist in this new norm and get your work done when it’s best for you and your family.
- Keep meals together as a family. – Take a break from working for lunch as a family, without the news on. Maintaining family routines has helped keep our stress levels in check.
Working from home can be a great experience, albeit it may take some getting used to if you’ve never done it daily. Each day will bring more experience and a better schedule structure, especially with younger kids home. We can do it, and we’ll get through this together.