By Tami Dobbins
It’s been a long few weeks. COVID-19 has changed our lives overnight. It seems like each day we have to adjust to new guidelines and when we get that figured out, we have to readjust again. One of those areas is the way we are working. Those of us who are still working don’t take a moment of it for granted. We are stretching ourselves to be creative, to maintain normalcy and be productive. It doesn’t matter if you’ve worked from home before or if this is your 1st time, this time is different. It’s challenging. It’s isolating, stressful, scary, and for most of us with all of our loved one’s home with us, it’s distracting. My husband and I are both working from home, we have 2 high schoolers and a middle schooler who are now essentially home schooled. It’s been tough. I’ve never noticed that my son talks ALL THE TIME, but he does. The high schoolers get stuck on work and need help and then there’s the fact that everyone needs to eat which means our sink is constantly full of dirty dishes. I’m not sure if the fact that the laundry load is down is a good or bad thing but we’re rolling with it for now. And let’s talk about our office situations. Not everyone has 2 extra rooms in their homes that can be immediately turned into a home office. Because my husband’s offices closed before mine, he got dibs on the home office. My home office is at our kitchen table surrounded by activity, kids and pets so I live in a constant whirlwind of distraction. Nothing is normal. So how do you work amid all the distractions? We’re still trying to figure it all out. I came across an article from one of our manufacturers (Dauphin) so I thought I’d share their tips and I added a few more in because you can’t leave off happy hour!
Tune Out Noise
Noise can be defined as an unwanted sound that affects the body on a physical and psychological level. But what about a desired sound like listening to music while working from home? Research by psychologist Nick Perham found that listening to music impairs the ability to recall information and to even to do basic arithmetic. But sometimes you’ll find you need the music to block out unwanted noise while working from home so try playing classical music, hip-hop, or use a white noise application (note: kids are NOT white noise). It may help to incorporate soft surfaces to your home office area--a rug, wall textiles or upholstered furniture will help absorb sound. Take your office outdoor and step into Mother Nature’s office. Bees are busy pollinating, birds are busy building nests, hawks are busy hunting and I don’t know what flies are doing other than being annoying, but nature is working too – be a part of their team!
Clutter creates stress and according to the World Economic Forum, stress can reduce our productivity by as much as 20 percent. Research shows that our brains like visual order-- constant subconscious reminders that we need to tidy up will drain our cognitive resources and our ability to focus.
Your home office (including a temporary makeshift space) should have a proper desk and chair. Many dealerships are offering 24 hour quick and drop ship items to your home (including ours – yes, I had to get a plug in this thing). Find a space that’s comfortable, ergonomic and clutter free. Nothing is more distracting than legs that fall asleep or a sink full of dishes staring at you.
Your work area should be clutter-free and include a storage area and proper cable management. Ensure daily or at least weekly cleaning rituals. Avoid digital clutter by managing your email inbox as well as your computer desktop. If you need help with clearing the clutter, check out Marie Kondo on Netflix.
No desk or cozy office? Welcome to my world. Spend your first and your last 10 minutes organizing your files, emails and paperwork each day. Set your space up so that you have everything you need within your reach.
Organize, Schedule and Prioritize Tasks
At the office and while at home, we are susceptible to interruptions that have a major negative impact on our productivity. We need to have a defined schedule that allows people at-home to know when you are working. Let everyone know the times you are available and when you should not be disturbed to avoid any embarrassing interruptions during a video call. If the door is closed, or you’re at a certain table, then that’s a ‘do not disturb’ place. Daily, take a hard look at your workload and prioritize your to-do list. Review this list every morning and night and re-prioritize when needed. Create rules for yourself and try not to self-interrupt your work with minor tasks. Focus on what is most important first, and don't forget to delegate tasks even if coworkers and employees are not physically present.
Take a Lunch Hour and Breaks
Allow space to step away from your workspace for things like eating and connecting with your family. Fix a bite to eat, take a walk around the neighborhood, check in with your kids, pet your dog. Clear your mind so that you’re ready to knock out the rest of the afternoon rejuvenated.
Wear Pants that Button
We’re only kind of kidding. Get dressed as if you are going to the office--psychologically it will add structure, make you feel more professional, and encourage you to use video chat. But some days, embrace the beauty of working from home and the comfort of elastic banding.
Working from home makes social media an easy distraction--schedule times to check social networking applications and websites. In a time when the world can change in 5 minutes, we have the urge to constantly check in. Schedule a couple times a day to allow yourself to check in but turn off all notifications so that you aren’t feeling tempted to take a look every time you get a chime.
Quit Working at a Scheduled Time
Schedule a hard stop for the day. Close your office door, close your laptop or put all your office items in a neat stack away from your sight. Allow your mind and body to have time away from your work. It’s important to rest and reset for the next day.
Connect with your Co-Workers Outside of Work Hours
Zoom and Facetime happy hours are all the rage these days! Don’t lose the personal connections you have with your teams. Schedule a hard work stop at 4 or 5, grab a beer from your kitchen and just check in with each other. Have a few laughs and a few drinks and enjoy the fact that no one will have to endure the ridicule of having to Uber home from a weeknight happy hour.
Give Yourself Grace
For the love, don’t be so hard on yourself! This is hard, it’s not normal and you won’t be super productive every single day. You will have days where you don’t stay on task, where you’re distracted more, where your kids need more help with homework, or your pet needs more attention. Give yourself grace on those days and know we all have those days. Refocus, button those pants and get yourself ready to try again the next day!