Within one week, life has changed dramatically for you, your friends, family, co-workers, and constituents because of the Coronavirus outbreak. Offices, gyms, and schools are closed. Restaurants are either closed or only open for takeout and delivery. Many of us are being asked to shelter in place and practice social distancing. This situation has forced all of us to make changes to our daily lives. One of those changes is the need to work from home. Many in the workforce have been relegated to their homes for work and are scrambling to figure out exactly how to do it. This can be a difficult transition for people who have rarely or never worked from home.
I had a discussion this week with a customer who was completing his first day of working from home, and despite technical difficulties and a positive attitude, he was still a little out of sorts. Thinking back to my early days working at Andar Software as a work from home employee, I totally understood the situation. It’s an odd feeling to have to work in your living space where you relax, make your meals, spend time with family, and wind down after a long day. Congratulations, your work-life balance is now turned upside down!
Oh, sure, you may think it's going to be amazing, but before you know it, you will find yourself checking email in your jammies and taking phone calls long after quitting time. You’ve lost your commute time, which is great but is also a double-edged sword. You may even ask yourself, “Why am I so stressed?”
What are some ways to manage all of this change?
This week, I took the opportunity to poll the Andar Software telecommuting staff. I have pooled our collective knowledge from a well of over 115 years of combined experience in working from home to bring you some tips and tricks to stay sane and productive while you practice social distancing!
If possible, set up a workspace that has natural light, a comfortable chair, and monitors.
Create a Dedicated Workspace Environment
One area that seems to have garnered the most attention is the environment in which you’re working. It seems everything from the workspace to the chair you’re sitting in has an impact on your physical well-being, your work-life balance, and ultimately, your productivity. If possible, try to set up a separate workspace in a room with a door. Having a workspace away from your non-workspace helps create a physical distance between work and leisure. Having a dedicated workspace is especially helpful if you leave your workstation powered up — you don’t want to hear those email or IM notifications during dinner! If you don’t have enough room to create a dedicated workspace, make a point to pack up at the end of the day. Close your laptop, put it in its case or bag, and clear it from sight. If you can see it, you won’t be able to forget it.
Eliana Franco, our Marketing Director, sums this up perfectly, “I make a point to pack up my laptop, keyboard, mouse, notebook, etc. every evening when I’m done working. I may not have an office at home, but I create as much physical separation between my work life and my personal life by packing everything up in the evening. The ritual of bringing everything out every morning also helps me mentally prepare for the day ahead.” Speaking of which, if you can, hook up a keyboard, monitor, and mouse to your laptop. Many people have challenges moving from a desktop to the constraints of a laptop. The key takeaway here is to remain as comfortable as possible while working rather than adapting to too many changes at once.
"I like to have proper ventilation and to be able to breathe fresh air. It keeps me invigorated."
Amy Buckley, Processing Manager at Andar Software
Other items in your environment, such as furniture, are just as important. If you will be working at home for an extended period, consider picking up an office-style chair. The chairs at your dining room table are not meant to be occupied for forty hours a week. Your back and your backside will thank you for doing this. Also, try to have adequate ventilation with fresh air and sunlight. Now is your chance to have that office with a view! Choose a window location if possible, and consider it an upgrade. If at all possible, take a few hours to go outside to a porch, patio, or balcony with your laptop. It’s a nice little benefit and is good for your headspace. Teresa Lowe-Hodges, one of our Technical Support Specialists, suggests, “Do not set up your workspace in your bedroom! It’s better to use a corner of the dining room.” I agree. Your bedroom is the last place you want to bring the stress of work. It is your place of rest and sanctuary, so avoid bringing work into it at all costs.
How will you get to the office in the morning now that you’ve lost your commute? Although often seen as anything but a burden, your morning commute acts as valuable prep time to begin your day as it involves the transition from being a spouse, partner, and parent, to being a productive employee. I suggest not changing anything from your regular routine and adding in a few extra steps. Awake at your usual time, get dressed for the day, and add in a walk or run before settling into work. This can be used as that transition time to replace the commute. It’s kind of like that Audible commercial where the woman does a round trip commute from home to her home office just so that she can have time to enjoy her audiobooks. (Just stay away from crowds and practice social distancing!)
Set your work schedule and stick to it. Take a lunch break and get away from work with a walk or a little exercise since you won’t be getting up through the day to go to colleagues’ desks for a chat. If you don’t, you will quickly burn out and lose focus. Peg Stuber, an Andar Software Support Analyst, suggests, “Get up from your desk and walk around periodically. If necessary, set alarms to remind yourself to get up and stretch/walk.” Tom Henry, our Software Development Manager, adds, “Set aside some down-time for yourself immediately after work, but before you become a Mom/Dad/Husband/Wife again. Go for a jog, run an errand, etc.” This again comes back to that missing commute/transition time.
Working at home while taking care of kids can be a real challenge. Consider setting a formal schedule, inclusive of breaks, that everyone will follow.
Set Boundaries with Your Housemates
What about the people around you? Come up with a signal to indicate to those around you that you are busy or on the telephone. Those in your circle may think that since you are ‘working from home’ that you don’t have a ‘real job.’ That is totally false. Be sure to define clear boundaries with others. You ARE working, and the work IS important. Sally Hartlaub, our Andar Software Hosting Services Manager, says, “When you work from home, family and friends assume you don’t have a ‘real job.’ You’ll have to be firm with them and yourself about managing expectations.”
Since most schools are closed, you may have children at home with you as well. My kids have learned over the past nine years that if my headset is on, I’m invisible. They always come in from school quietly and check for the headset before anything else. Chris Smyth, an Andar Software Support Analyst, shares his experience with his daughter, “What has worked best for me/us throughout the years is setting lunch/break times. This benefits us with increased time together, and provides an opportunity for her to move about/do things that might otherwise be distracting, noisy, etc.”
Stay Calm and Continue to Support Those Around You
Finally, working at home can be quite isolating. While you may not be able to go out and socialize right now, consider calling your co-workers rather than emailing. Ask how they are doing in their situation and how they are dealing with the changes. These little social interactions are more helpful than you can imagine.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it many challenges and an incredible amount of ambiguity. Nonprofit organizations across the world are responding to the global emergency in different ways. However, the similarity lies in their resilience to keep going despite all odds. Many organizations have set up emergency relief campaigns to support those in their communities that are facing financial hardship. Many have organized assistance programs and webinars to keep their communities informed with accurate and educational information about the Coronavirus.
We appreciate all of your efforts as a frontline responder during times of need. The work you do to provide food, housing, and health care resources to those in need is critical. Thank you for pulling through and continuing to make an impact when it’s needed most.