Remote Work Can Work for You During Quarantine

woman working from home

A guest post By Jessica Larson,

In just a month, life as we once knew it has significantly changed across the planet. Processes once set in stone have been adjusted — sometimes dramatically. Not so long ago, we knew just what to expect on any given day, but now things change daily. Many people are working from home for the first time, and their managers are thrust into learning how to run remote teams. Add isolation and shelter-in-place requirements, and you’ve got a huge — and abrupt — transition for millions of workers.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused stress and chaos for many, demanding an unusual transition and creating an uncertain future. If you’re feeling anxious about your newly designated remote work status, don’t get discouraged. Though it might feel like it, you’re not alone. By making a few adjustments, you can make the situation work for you, even amid the current self-quarantine and social distancing restrictions.

Solidify your online connection

Chances are, you already have a solid internet connection at home, but you’ll want to test it out to make sure it can handle your workload (plus that of anyone else in your household needing to connect for work or school). Is your Wi-Fi signal strong enough? If not, see what you can do to boost it.

Maintaining reliable internet access is vital to staying in touch with your boss, colleagues, and clients. Not to mention, with businesses closed and social distancing rules in place, it’s also everyone’s primary link to the outside world — not only for procuring food and supplies but also for communicating with far-flung friends and loved ones. Right now, connectivity is your lifeline, so be sure it’s working effectively.

Ensure that your software works correctly

If your employer doesn’t provide you with a fully-loaded laptop, you’ll need to download and install any software and/or applications you need to be productive. Ask about which apps your team and boss prefer for communication, scheduling, and collaboration. 

Many employers are strict about which software or websites can be used securely (i.e., many are shying away from the popular Zoom). Additionally, check to see if your employer will require you to use a virtual private network or VPN, as most do, likely because it helps teams work more securely.

Establish an organized workspace

Those lucky enough to have an established home office will find it much easier to transition to remote work. Those who don’t will face a bigger challenge, especially if they’re quarantined at home among family or roommates. In these situations, there’s a good chance everyone is going to be struggling to find a dedicated space to work.

Coordinate with your family or roommates about clearing out functional space for one or more work areas. If your living quarters are sufficient but more cramped than you’d like, maybe its time for a serious purge. You can wait until right before trash day and haul it to the curb or maybe even consider renting a dumpster (which doesn’t cost as much as you might think), It can help you clear out valuable interior real estate, then repurpose it for remote work. There’s no telling how long the pandemic and accompanying work-from-home requirements will last.

Put yourself in working mode

People not accustomed to working remotely may find it difficult to transition to “working mode” when they wake up in the morning and stumble to the next room to begin work. The temptation to sleep in, catch up on missed episodes on Netflix, or otherwise start the day in a leisurely mode can be strong.

Nip that problem in the bud right away by setting a schedule, just as you did before in the workplace: Set your alarm, take a shower, get dressed, and bring your coffee “to work” as you’ve always done. To further help you stay focused, let family and friends know your “office hours” and ask that you please not be interrupted during this time. Repeated interruptions can significantly hinder productivity.

Keep in touch with your contacts

These are unusual times. In the past, you may have spent a good portion of your day interacting with customers or clients in person. Now, however, you’ve got to balance the importance of staying connected with the need to keep your distance. The COVID-19 pandemic has upended the way we’ve traditionally conducted business. Yet, social distancing doesn’t have to mean total isolation or the end of productivity.

Maintain relationships with clients from afar by sending them each a friendly “thinking of you” note and a gift with your logo on it. Your clients are your business’ lifeline, and the more proactive you are, the better the chance that these relationships will stay strong once life gets back to a semblance of normalcy.

Remember to take breaks

While some people may find it tempting to play hooky in a remote-work environment, others will experience the opposite effect and stray over into the pitfalls of overworking. After all, with no co-workers around to remind you to power down occasionally (and nowhere to go but the bathroom or kitchen), it’s easy to work straight through, and long past your traditional quitting time. 

But if you’re working too long for extended periods without a break, this could hurt your productivity, and the quality of your work could suffer — not to mention your overall mental health. Set alarms if you need to, but take breaks. And when you’re done for the day, make a full stop.

Change your environment from time to time

This goes hand-in-hand with taking breaks but is another necessity to keep you from being overwhelmed by cabin fever. Many of us have only used the phrase as a cliché, but now we’re learning it’s a very real phenomenon. However, a quick change of scenery can work wonders to dispel cabin fever. 

For example, a short drive in your car can do wonders for your mental health without violating social distancing guidelines. Pick a scenic route, roll down your windows, and start your favorite playlist. Then hit the road. If the mood strikes you, drive barefoot! (It’s legal in all 50 states.) It can help you feel “footloose and fancy-free” during this time where you’re feeling so restricted.

Working remotely if you’re not used to it is a major adjustment — and our current situation requires adjustment even for seasoned work-from-home veterans. Taking deliberate steps to optimize your new work situation (and giving yourself and everyone nearby a break) can give you a far better chance of achieving success. 

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