JEN Miller, an experienced freelance writer, gives tips on working from home because of the coronavirus.
More and more companies are having employees work from home to help slow the spread of coronavirus. I’ve been a freelance writer for 15 years, setting up first in the small corner of an apartment and then moving into space with a dedicated office where I could shut the door.
I love it, but I know it is not an easy transition, especially if it is not one you’ve been planning for. Here are some tips on how to make the best of it until you start commuting again.
Keep the same schedule
Start out by sticking to the same schedule as when you went into an office. “Try to get up at the same time, and do all the things you would typically do to get ready for work,” said William Castellano, a management and labour relations professor. “Make sure you’re thinking about how you’re going to structure your day similarly” to how you did before. If you made a to-do list every morning, continue to make it. If you checked in with the same person every morning, check in with that person.
Of course, your work day can’t possibly be the same, and while I admit I initially laughed at a Google employee who asked about how to get morning coffee, his experience is not unusual. Your routine will change and you will need time to figure out how to accommodate those changes, like making coffee at home if you’re used to picking it up on the way to work.
As for what to wear in your home office, I am squarely in the “be comfortable” camp, although Barbara Pachter, the author of The Essentials of Business Etiquette and a long-time work-from-homer, said that in the beginning, you should get dressed as if you were going to the office. It will help in giving some structure to your day, but you can change your home dress code later as you adjust to your new working arrangement.
Pick a spot for your office. It doesn’t have to have a door, but it should be away from distraction. You don’t need an expensive set-up. I have an office, but I’m much more likely to write at a stand-up “desk” I’ve fashioned with a stack of books on my kitchen counter. The boundaries you set up also relate to other people who may be sharing the same space.
This will be especially important if a partner or roommate is also working from home or children’s schools are closed. Pachter suggested that if children are given assignments to do at home, they work alongside their parents as if they were going to the office with you. The effectiveness of this may vary, depending on your children’s ages and needs.
Treat exercise, meals and stretch breaks as you would any other meeting. That means putting it on your calendar, at least to start. If your commute used to include walking, and now you have no reason to leave the house, you might forget to move. When you suddenly lose the pace of your day, everything can start to bleed together.
You may be used to relying on cues from your workplace, such as other people, to remind you to get up and stretch or get lunch. While going to the gym may be out of the question, you may be able to walk or run outside while still practising social distancing or use workout videos online or on demand to give yourself some kind of workout.
Prepare for isolation
Even introverts who work in an office can suffer from isolation at suddenly being moved home. Suggestions include proactively staying in touch with others rather than waiting for someone to reach out. That could mean emailing colleagues more often, having conference calls, video conferences, using chat tools or just picking up the phone.
Put work away
For those who are used to working in an office, the evening commute is often a way to end the work day and begin home life. It is important to continue to make the same transition, even if you’re just moving from one spot on the couch to the other. Put your work materials and your laptop away or close work applications if you want to use your computer for something else.
This article first appeared in The New York Times.