If the COVID-19 pandemic, now a global health emergency, has taught us anything, it’s that circumstances can change in an instant. It only takes scrolling through social media, talking to a friend, or turning on the news to see the countless lives being affected by the virus.
As the country prepares for the worst, many companies have proactively sent their employees home to work remotely. With the right business continuity procedures in place, this can be a smooth transition from a leadership standpoint. What about individual employees, though?
For some, the transition from the office to home is easy, stress free, and even welcomed. But for others, as the novelty of being home wears off, concerns grow about how long the situation will last. As the days stretch into weeks, the prospect of being home can quickly turn to drudgery.
If you find yourself counting down the minutes until your workday ends, being easily distracted, or are nervous about making the transition to remote work, this article is for you. These three tips will train your brain to adapt to changing times, provide a stable work environment, and help you crush your professional goals.
1. Designate a workspace
We’re programmed to think of our home as a place of relaxation, where we turn off our brain after a hard workday, recharge, and rest. Perhaps the biggest challenge of beginning remote work is that you are forced to switch your mindset regarding how you view your home. To counteract this, it’s important to set aside a workplace that is designated specifically for work.
Of course, the most ideal situation would be a separate room where you can shut the door to all distractions. Otherwise a desk or dining room table will suffice. Avoid sitting in your bed or on the couch, as these are objects associated with comfort and homelife. The main reason of having a designated workspace is to train your brain to switch into work mode, even when you’re at home.
Once you’ve established a workspace, make sure to set boundaries. Be intentional about entering “work mode”. If you have roommates, children, or a spouse, let them know when you are starting work, and turn off the TV and put away your phone. Be intentional about telling your brain that you’ve left home and are now at work. Essentially, you want to recreate as much as possible the feeling of going into the office as you would on a regular day.
A designated workspace and consistent boundaries help you change your internal mindset and get over the initial distraction that can result from working at home.
2. Keep a detailed schedule
Good organizational skills go a long way in training yourself to adapt to a new work environment. Begin each morning like you normally would by getting up at a set time, eating breakfast, getting changed, and going through the motions of getting ready for the day.
When you begin work, keeping to a detailed schedule will help you optimize your time. Setting goals for yourself, no matter how small, also give you motivation and help you keep track of what you need to get done. For many people, working from home is difficult because you no longer have the accountability of your coworkers or boss standing nearby. It can also become easy to slip into bad work habits, especially when no one else is watching. This is where keeping to a strict schedule can help.
It’s equally important to designate time in your day for breaks. While many people have trouble staying on task, there are also those who will struggle knowing when to relax and take a break without the usual rhythm of office life to guide them. If you find yourself in this category, make sure that you schedule breaks into your day. You can take a quick walk outside, get a snack, or step away from your computer screen for ten minutes to give your eyes a break. You may find it easy to ignore the fact you’ve been sitting for five hours straight when no one else is around to remind you that time is passing.
When you’re starting out, be as strict and detailed as possible with your schedule. Until you slip into a regular workflow, the consistency of a schedule teaches you to adapt to a new situation. It’s important to make sure you’re focused and working hard during designated times, and then reward yourself with a chance to breathe and relax before moving on to the next task.
3. Daily communication
When working from home for the first time, the silence and absence of your coworkers alone can become a distraction, and it can also take a toll on your mental health. It’s easy to feel disconnected the longer you’re away from your familiar work environment.
Make it a point to check in with your manager and coworkers, whether it’s a quick social call or a more in-depth conference call to discuss any goals and tasks that you have for the day. Sharing daily conversations with your team reminds you that you’re not alone. It also provides an accountability factor to help you stay on track. Social connection will help foster the idea that you’re part of a team and are still contributing to the success of the company.
During a stressful and frustrating time of social distancing and isolation, creating a space where you can interact with others, even virtually, can greatly boost your mental health and help you stay motivated. From a professional standpoint, staying connected during a time like this is also important as guidelines and work procedures change by the day.
When you take the time to check-in with your team and manager, you’ll provide yourself the security and peace of mind to know that you have all the information you need to succeed.
Time to Get to Work
Now that you’ve designated a workspace, set boundaries, and made a detailed and goal-oriented schedule, it’s time to go to work.
It’s going to take practice. These are helpful suggestions to self-motivate and get the most out of your day, but the truth is everyone is different and will respond differently to being home. Part of the struggle is finding out what works for you. If you find another way to optimize your remote work experience, then go forth and use it.
However you choose to structure your day, it will be an adjustment from working in the office. Inevitably you will face different distractions at home, especially if you have children out of school, or a spouse who is also working from home. Remember to be gentle with yourself and those around you during this transition. In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re all trying to figure it out as we go along.
The most important thing is that you just get moving and continue to structure your days as you would in the office. Stay consistent and make sure that you surround yourself with the support you need from your manager and team. It won’t always be easy, but it is possible to train your brain to adjust to a new work environment, and to continue to produce excellent work from home.
Monica Eaton-Cardone is an international entrepreneur, speaker, and author. She possesses more than two decades of experience in the eCommerce space as both a merchant and service provider, and is one of the world’s leading experts on payments and consumer disputes. Monica is the Co-Founder and COO of Chargebacks911®, a global risk mitigation firm helping online merchants optimize their profitability through chargeback management. Chargebacks911 has more than 350 employees globally, with offices in North America and Europe.
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