The number of Houstonians who work from home has been steadily increasing for several years, but that population just got a lot larger thanks to the precautions being taken to combat the spread of COVID-19.
If you have never worked from home before it can be hard to know where to start and how to keep things organized and productive as you go. With this in mind here are some pointers for new home workers that will help.
Organize your workspace.
If you want to have a structured day, you first need the right place to work. Set aside a spot in your home as your work area, choosing a place that will help you focus and avoid distractions.
Make sure it has all the equipment you will need as you go about your daily tasks. Keep your workspace organized and free of clutter to have a more productive day. Because it’s harder to shop right now you may have to raid your kids rooms for supplies, but outside their computer, and a pen, pencil and notebook, many people won’t really need that much.
Your phone can be a big help too. Make use of note-taking apps that will keep paper clutter off your desk, and simple utilities like a calculator app and virtual ruler app that will also help keep clutter off your desk.
Use a task list.
Without a manager hovering over your shoulder or coworkers stopping by to talk about projects – or just gossip – you may find yourself spending hours going down the proverbial rabbit hole on one task when you need to be paying attention to others. Make a list of tasks you need to complete each day, with the expected time you will spend on each one of them.
Review that list as you begin your day, and continue to refer back to it. At the end of the day, evaluate your progress and make your list for the following day. This will help you stay on track and on target.
Establish working hours.
While you likely have at least some ability to decide when you will start and stop your workday, it’s still wise to set aside some regular work hours. If you change your schedule every day, it will be difficult for you to find a rhythm, both physically and mentally. When you have set your schedule, be sure to share it with your boss and colleagues, too. They need to know how you are structuring your time, so they can contact you when they need to.
Sure, the stereotype of the telecommuter is someone working in their pajamas. While you can do that, you probably shouldn’t. Keep your morning routine. Get up and prepare for the day like you would if you were going to the office; if you do, you’ll find yourself more mentally ready for a day of work.
The simple act of getting dressed, and fixing your hair, can have that psychological effect.
Schedule times to check in.
Include on your daily task list plans to communicate with your manager and colleagues, whether via email, instant messaging, or video call. You’ll likely do this anyway, but it’s a good idea to set up specific times when your coworkers know you will be available to answer questions and collaborate.
It’s vital that you all stay on the same page, even if you’re working from home. This practice will also help you build a more structured day, because it will force you to be present and prepared for those check-in times.
Remember to take breaks.
Some people who work from home get so engrossed in a project that they forget to take a break for lunch, or even to stretch their legs. With no cues from coworkers heading out for a break, it’s understandable how this can happen. However, it’s important to step away from the computer now and then to recharge, refuel, and refocus.
If necessary, set an alarm to remind you when it’s time to take a break. At those times, be sure to leave your workspace. Make a sandwich. Play with your dog. Take a walk around the block. When you get back to work, you’ll find you’re much more productive than you would have been had you skipped the break.
Quit working when the day is done.
Some new homeworkers find that their work hours get longer and longer as they try to get more done each day. However, since you can’t really leave work when it’s in your home, force yourself to wrap things up and stop for the day.
While these suggestions should help you build a more structured—and, hopefully, productive—work-from-home environment, you may find that some work better for you than others. And that’s fine. The big thing right now is that everyone does their best to help others and help themselves, and there is no one perfect way of doing that; only the one that works for you.