Most people spend months getting into the rhythm of remote work.
Many Americans are trying to get that rhythm down with day’s notice. COVID-19 has made it to nearly every state including Alabama. With at least 28 confirmed cases (as of midday March 16) in Sweet Home Alabama, some businesses are telling their employees to stay home and avoid contact with the outside world as much as possible.
“It’s a big adjustment to start working from home,” said Tyler Reeves, a financial planner based in Birmingham. Reeves runs a one-man-show and has been working from his home office for a little over three years. First things first, he said, “dampen your expectations.” Working from home isn’t something you master in a day, he said.
“It is going to take a lot to get used to this,” Reeves said. “Give yourself some slack, and realize that these aren’t normal times.”
There are steps one can take to feel a little more “normal,” he said.
Find a routine
If you don’t work past 5 p.m. normally, said Kevin DeLeon, a web developer working remotely in Mobile, don’t pass that point when you’re at home. If you don’t work earlier than 8 a.m., don’t start that early from your bed.
Using the time you’d spend commuting, DeLeon said, to accomplish a personal goal, make breakfast or take a walk with your dog will get your day started on a better mental note.
“Office life gives you a forced schedule that you have to follow,” he said. “Form good habits early on and develop a routine.”
And developing a routine is important when trying to avoid feelings of guilt, he said. It’s easy to get locked in because you want your company to know you are putting in the work, he said but discussing trust and making others aware of your schedule can prevent harsh thoughts like, “Am I doing enough?”
Tarah Keech, coach and founder of Burnout Survival, suggests blocking out time for lunch or breaks on a public and personal calendar.
Listen to your mind and body
Blocking time out for yourself is crucial, Keech said. “You’ll be amazed at all you can do from home.” Letting the “new normal” sink in, she said, and taking breaks when you need them will better your performance.
DeLeon likes to step out on his back deck for a breath of fresh air, take 15 minutes to jog in place, do stretches or pick up the guitar in between jobs to refresh.
During these times, Keech said, mute your devices and go offline if you need a moment away from work. Simply getting up and walking around will help pass the day. In addition to physical activities, make sure you are eating regularly and drinking water, Reeves said.
“I know people who started working from home and didn’t realize they were eating more or less or not drinking enough water or spending too much time sitting,” he said. “Anything you can do to get outside and not just sit in front of the computer for eight hours straight will make this a better experience.”
And your co-workers can help a good bit with that too.
And if you don’t have a built-in work network, create your own for the time being. Reeves, who owns and runs his business alone, is a part of a financial planning organization and the group hosts video chats to see how people are doing, what they are going through and more.
Switching from emails to calls and calls to video chats is a brilliant way to kill some of the isolation, Keech said. “Connect on platforms and chats that you already love,” she said.
And if DeLeon can make it work from Mobile, Alabama, with co-workers on both coasts in New York and California, he said, we can make it work for the time being as a community.
Create a dedicated workspace
But, making it work involves more than a connection. Finding a place to do your best work is important, Reeves said. Setting up wherever you feel comfortable and focused will better your at-home work experience.
Whether that be at the kitchen table, on a couch, at a desk or on the floor somewhere, find a place that you can make your own, Keech recommends.
Julie Kenney, owner and designer at Inspired Closets Mobile, suggests finding a place that is quiet for phone calls and when the work is done, “close the door.”
And finding that place might be difficult for parents who have their children at home, Kenney said, but letting them help you draft a schedule for them can give parents the time they need to get work done.
Stay positive, take advantage of being at home while you can
There are probably tons of projects that have been put off, and now you have nothing but time at home to complete them.
Kenney, whose business specializes in helping people get organized, recommends cleaning and sorting drawers with the kids, going through closets and sorting to donate, working in the yard, painting a bedroom or organizing family photos.
Planning during the weekend or after 5 p.m. for the next day can keep you busy, she said. “Review what’s in your freezer, pantry and fridge,” she said. “Toss out any old, expired food that may be taking up space, and create a shopping list that can be available for a couple of weeks.”
Clean out your medicine cabinet, and make sure you have the basics on-hand if anyone gets sick, she said.
In the end, “how we think about what we think about will change our view,” Keech said. “If you have been unhappy in your career or job, this is an opportunity to show up and be who you want to be,” she said. “Think of ways you can be 110% from home.”
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