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A Few Simple Tips for Working from Home

Working from home…where do we begin? First, if you are one of the fortunate people who CAN work from home, be grateful. Keeping your job and being able to do it while safely social distancing during this pandemic means that you are one of the lucky ones. However, that does not necessarily mean working from home is going to be easy, especially under these erratic circumstances. So, if you are struggling a bit, you are not alone. Let’s look at some different scenarios with tips to help you navigate your new working environment.
Perhaps you have been working from home for years and you have already established the perfect setup. Well, that setup likely did not include your family members being home with you. Now you may have a house full of people; meaning distractions will abound. Whether it is your spouse who is also working from home or your children who are continuing their schooling, everyone will likely need the internet and a designated place to do their work. Here are some steps to take to make it a little easier for everyone:
1.     Communication is vital. Be sure to communicate to your employer that you have kids at home and that you cannot guarantee that conversations will be interruption free. Also let them know that you will require some flexibility since you may be helping your kids with their schoolwork, feeding them, and just generally dealing with their care while also working.
2.     Create a schedule that works around your kids. For example, if you know you will need some uninterrupted time, schedule it for when your spouse or significant other (or an older child) can be around to take care of things. If you have a partner who is also working from home, create an arrangement where one of you takes a morning shift with the kids, and the other takes the afternoon; that way you both get several hours of uninterrupted time.  If you are a single parent, it will be more challenging; especially if you have young children. Try to schedule phone calls or virtual meetings during times when they are napping or engaged in watching a movie or video.
3.     If your children are older, have a meeting to establish guidelines for your work hours. Let them know that during specific hours, you will not be available to hang out with them and that they should only interrupt you if absolutely necessary. Tell them to please knock before entering your workspace and that if you have a “do not disturb sign” on the door, to wait unless it is an emergency.
4.     Relax your expectations. If you are a parent who normally would not allow a lot of “screen time”, now is not the time to worry about that. While you may not want your child on a screen all day, needing them to be occupied and engaged while you are working is understandable.
If working from home is new to you due to the pandemic, here are some tips to help you establish your new normal:
1.     Get dressed. This may sound overly simplistic, but it is important. Getting up and getting dressed signals that it is time to get into “work mode”. This does not mean you have to get as dressed up as you would when you work outside the home. You can dress comfortably. But changing out of your pajamas into clothes is crucial for getting into the mind set of your workday.
2.     Designate your workspace. If you do not have an “office” at home, pick a spot and make that your workspace. Working at the same spot every day will establish a line between “home” and “work”. Try to find a spot that has good natural lighting and a comfortable chair. Entering your workspace will help you get into work mode and leaving it will allow you to “turn off” and engage in home life.
3.     Designate work hours. Consistency and routine will help you create a work environment at home. If you live with others, they will know when you are working and when you are “home”. Setting boundaries with your family members will help eliminate distractions during your work hours.
4.     Avoid distractions. When you are working on a computer all day, it is tempting to check the news or social media. When you do that, it is easy to get sucked in, and next thing you know you have been on a “break” for longer than you intended. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take breaks, but maintaining a schedule – even for breaks – will go a long way toward creating a work from home atmosphere that is organized and effective.
Whether you have done it before or working from home is new to you, doing it because of Coronavirus makes it feel different. It is important that you take steps to care for your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Remember that you are not alone and that we are all attempting to navigate this “new normal”.