Note: The blog has a new format; during this time of crisis, I will be answering your questions. I hope that in some small way this will be of service to you all. If you have a question, you would like to ask, please leave it in the comments or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let me know if you would like your name to be used.
Today’s question is from Laura: She writes, “I am 52 years old and like most of us, I am working from home. My kids are home from school and my husband is working from home as well. I used to pride myself on my productivity at work and at home, but in the last week my productivity has plummeted. My boss was tracking my work and called to say she noticed I wasn’t getting much done. Help!!!!
Okay, that title might be a little over the top, but that is just how I feel now. And as you can see, Laura feels that way too, but to be honest, everything in our lives seems to be exaggerated, out of control, and more than a little overwhelming. But, before we get started, I want to remind you that while you may be working remotely in your corner of the world, you are not alone. We are a community of supportive, loving, quirky folks who have each other’s back. And not even a social distancing directive can change that, I am here for you and so is everyone in our little community. So, if you have a question for us, please write in.
Now, Laura, first let me say I am sorry that you are experiencing so much angst over working from home. Working from home is not for everyone and being put in a situation like this so quickly without time to prepare can be a lot to handle emotionally. The question for all of us is, how can we maintain an optimal level of productivity working from home? As you know, Covid-19 has forced many companies to either shut down entirely or send their workforce with laptops in hand home to work. Remote work can be great, but if you are not used to managing yourself without the oversight of a supervisor or your work colleagues, it can be a bit daunting. These tips will work for you if you are a regular 9-5 worker or if you work for yourself but have used your local coffee shop as your makeshift office.
They will help you to stay on task, boost your productivity, and calm the overwhelm you might be feeling right now because these tips are things that you can control. And that is what we all need right now, a little bit of control.
- You must maintain a regular work schedule. The first days after being laid-off, my daily schedule was all over the place. Which was a surprise to me because I am a Coach who has worked with midlife women on identifying and removing time eaters from their daily schedules. Why? Because if you do not control your time, every area of your life is affected. Secondly, I was just lamenting the week before how much more work I could get done on my business, if I didn’t have a big chunk of my day eaten away by my work schedule. Fast forward a week later, and I am trying to write my blog, answer coaching calls, record a podcast, all while trying to watch the latest news coverage, and do my laundry. That week was a bust. This week, I instituted my regular work schedule using the hours I would have been working outside of my home. So, my work hours are from 9 am-3 pm, this also required me to reinstitute my regular bedtime so that I could rise and do my morning routine before sitting down at my desk at 9 am.
- Create a designated work area and set clear boundaries. Bryan Robinson, a contributor for Forbes magazine, suggests, “Have a space that you designate as your workstation instead of checking emails, voicemails, or texting in front of the TV or spreading work out on the kitchen table.” Having a designated work area will not only keep you focused, but it will send a signal to you and the rest of the family that you are in work mode and should not be disturbed unless it is a real emergency. If you do not set this clear boundary, you might feel like you are working all the time, or your family will interrupt all day, and you won’t get anything done. Both will zap your energy and your focus. You also want to make it clear to family and friends that while you may be at home, you are still working, and they should wait to call you until after your workday ends. It might be a good idea to schedule a family meeting to go over the daily schedule, which should include your designated work time and scheduled time to hang out with significant others and kids.
3. Take frequent breaks. Just because you are working from home doesn’t mean that you can’t take a break, schedule in lunchtime and 15-minute breaks the same as you would if you were in your office. Use your break to refresh your brain and move your body, go for a walk, stretch, sit outside and soak in some vitamin D. My Fitbit reminds me every hour to walk for ten minutes, which helps me to refocus and add some steps to my daily step total.
4. Stay connected to your colleagues and work friends. Working from home can be lonely. Thankfully, we live in the digital age, and platforms like Slack, Zoom, and Mighty Networks make it possible for you to not only share work products but also check in to see how your work buddy is faring during your time of separation.
5. My bonus tip is to plan your day the night before. Start by clearing your work area, lay out your workout and work clothes for the following day, yes you must get dressed, you wouldn’t go to the office in your pajamas. According to a 2012 study from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, clothing may also have an impact on personal performance. If people associate certain qualities with certain items of clothing, it can influence how they act in those clothes. Also, plan your menu for the day and what exercise you want to tackle if you work out in the morning. Doing this the night before will open your mind space and decrease any overwhelm you might be feeling when you wake up. I have found that doing these steps before I go to bed makes my morning run smoothly.
This is a trying time for all of us, however, you might find that when this is over and yes, it will end, that you handled this situation so well that you get a promotion, land the job of your dreams or, double your business if you are working for yourself, Control what you can control.
I hope that these tips were helpful. I’m sure you have heard them before sometimes we have to hear things more than once before we act. Let’s take action.
Remember, you are stronger than you give yourself credit and more blessed than you know.
Guys, if you have any further tips for Laura, please leave them in the comments. How are handling working from home?
It’s that time again
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