Office employees have had to quickly—and suddenly—transition to working from home in an effort to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19.
If you had a previous work-from-home (WFH) policy, where most of your workforce could choose to work from home and likely already had an at-home office setup, your employees might have experienced a smoother transition.
However, if your workforce switched from their office desk to the dining table with little-to-no WFH experience, they might be finding it a bit tough to stay focused and maintain work-life balance in a work environment that’s also their home.
1. Start each workday in the same way
Our brains are wired for routine. Start each workday off in the same way: set your alarm clock at the same hour, have breakfast (if you usually do) and check your work email to begin your day—in short, do exactly what you used to do when you were getting ready to go to the office. These are all cues that your brain needs to shift into work mode.
2. Change into work clothes
Pyjamas are comfy but if you want to feel like you’re ready for the office, then you have to get ready for the office. You don’t necessarily have to dress up entirely but even changing into anything but PJs can help you feel prepared and ready for the workday ahead.
3. Create a dedicated office space in your home
If you don’t have a dedicated home office (and most of us probably don’t), it’s important to create one. Even if it’s half of your dining table or a comfy chair, having a designated office space in your home helps you get into the “office” mindset in the same way that sitting at your desk back at the office used to do.
4. Make daily and weekly to-do lists
Keep on top of your tasks with detailed to-do lists. Take 5-15 minutes at the start of each workday to write down what you’d like to accomplish for the day. Also write down which tasks need to be completed by the end of the week. Cross off each finished task as you go to give yourself some quick wins and get energized for the next task.
5. Stand up and stretch at set intervals
Refresh your brain and your body by taking short stretching breaks. A good recommendation is to stand and stretch for one minute at the end of each hour. You might need to set reminders on your calendar at every hour until you get the hang of it but it’ll soon become second nature to stand up and stretch.
6. Coordinate schedules with your housemates
Chances are you’re sharing your home with at least another working professional—who might also need to join video check-ins or meetings once in a while. If possible, share your weekly schedules and try to coordinate any video conferencing to avoid overlap or one of you having to find a different workspace.
7. Do your lunch meal prep the night before
You might think that since your kitchen is right there, you can prep your lunch during lunchtime. However, it might take longer than you think (causing you to rush through your actual lunch) or you might end up relying too much on quick-to-cook unhealthy food. Instead, prep your lunch the night before, as you’d do if you were going into the office.
8. Keep in touch with your coworkers
Start off your morning by greeting your team, either through email or a communication tool like Slack. Ask how their evening was or if they have any weekend plans, the same questions you’d ask if you were making small talk in the office. Also let your team know if you’re going to be away from your desk for longer periods of time or if you need to be head-down and on ‘do not disturb’ to tackle a deadline.
9. Limit distractions and remove temptations
Contrary to popular opinion, you might find it easier to lose focus when you’re by yourself than when you’re surrounded by colleagues. You could find yourself tempted to scroll through your Instagram feed or send off a quick tweet. If you have a smartphone, put it away while you’re working and consider signing out of your social media accounts on your browser. By limiting social media distractions, you’re able to stay productive while working from home.
10. Set a timer for the end of the workday
When you’re in the zone and away from cues such as coworkers leaving for the day, it’s easy to lose track of time. Prevent burnout and fatigue by setting a timer for when you’re due to finish your workday. If needed, you can extend the timer for urgent deadlines or if you took extra breaks during the day.