Updated: Apr 17
Sometimes, things come up… from a last-minute school cancellation and no childcare to a long-planned vacation during a busy time at the office… all the way to a pandemic, complete with a National State of Emergency. The point being, sometimes you find yourself needing to work from home when that is not the norm.
In this day and age, much of our work is virtual anyway. As long as you’re prepared and have access to the internet both at home and at the office, working from home doesn’t have to be a huge setback; in fact, with the right preparation, it can be a blessing!
Have a Plan:
First thing’s first. In order to make virtual working from home a dream instead of a nightmare, you need to put in a little prep work before you know if you’re even going to need a WFH setup. It pays to be prepared, and you never know when a Statewide Lockdown will occur!
1. Discuss with your Boss:
You’ll need to know if your job even enables you to work from home; certainly, if it is a possibility, your boss will understand and perhaps even admire your preparedness!
2. Set up an "office" at home:
Some people are fortunate enough to have a dedicated home office - if that is the case for you… Excellent! You can probably skip on to the next step. If that is not you, however, read on… experts say that it is best to have a space designated specifically for work to be your most productive self. While it is certainly very comfy to lounge in bed on your laptop all day, you may find that you don’t get much work done that way. If you can, set up shop at a desk, a dining room table, even your kitchen counter if you must… make that space your official Working Spot so that you will be able to focus your attention on your work and not on how much you wish you were napping right now.
3. Make sure you have what you need:
Make sure it is possible to access necessary systems while out of office, and double-check that you have all the files you may need. That means making digital copies and storing them in an accessible place, like the Cloud, or in your G Suite, or on a flash drive. Whatever the case may be, working from home or not, it may pay to have backed up files one way or another.
How to make WFH productive and meaningful:
So, you have your plan in place. Now that disaster has struck, it’s time to actually enact that plan. Working from home is very different than working in an office when that is what you’re used to… so it may take some time to adjust. Here are some tips on making the most of an emergency Work-From-Home situation:
1. Keep as much of your usual schedule as possible:
If you usually wake up at 7:00 a.m. to get to work at 8:00 a.m., try to stick to that instead of sleeping in for what would usually be your commute. If you usually drink a cup of coffee when you get to the office, make yourself a fresh pot and settle in. If you usually dress business casual (per company dress code), consider changing out of your pajamas and into what you had planned for the day. This might seem silly, but it does help switch your brain from “lounging at home” to “working and being productive.” So, when possible, do your best to keep some of those workday rituals as part of your WFH routine.
2. Set goals for yourself:
Some even go as far to make themselves an hour-by-hour schedule! However regimented you like to be, it is useful to have some sort of “To-Do” list for the day to keep yourself accountable for the work you will be doing. This ensures that you are still being productive and achieving your goals without having co-workers or a manager necessarily checking in on you throughout the day. Plus, it feels so rewarding when you check something off your list!
3. Give yourself a break:
All that being said, sometimes it is tempting to extend your hours while working from home… after all, would it be such a bad idea if you check in on your work email after hours or finish up that one project later that night? It is important to keep your professional life in your “work” sphere while your home remains your home; otherwise, it is easy to get burnt out on the WFH lifestyle. That means being sure to take your lunch break, and really logging off when it’s quittin’ time.
4. Stay connected:
If you find yourself needing to work from home for an extended period of time, it can be difficult. When you’re used to leaving the house every day, getting to your place of work, chatting with colleagues in the breakroom, and just generally interacting with co-workers, suddenly working from home can get a little lonely. Be sure to check in with co-workers when you can; schedule Skype or Zoom conference calls, even if it’s just to catch up on casual “water cooler” conversation. This will ultimately keep productivity up and make everyone much happier with their new circumstances for the time being.
Finally, the good part! There is a huge plus side to working from home when you have a good virtual contingency plan in place. Once you have all your preparations taken care of, get ready to reap the benefits of all your planning.
1. Time with family:
Sometimes you find yourself needing to work from home at the same time that family members are also being asked to stay home. When you have young children, this can seem daunting at times; but once you find a good balance, you’ll be grateful for the extra family time you’re getting… they really do grow up so fast, don’t they?
2. Home comforts:
I know, I know, I just told you that you still need to wake up at your first alarm and get dressed in your blazer every morning. However, even when you stick with your usual routine, there is something comforting about not needing to deal with a long commute and your squeaky desk chair all day. Just because you aren’t laying on the couch doesn’t mean you can’t stay comfortable while you do work in your own home… and, when the work day is done, your couch is that much closer than it would be otherwise.
3. More "you" time:
That 30-minute commute really does add up; with the time you’re saving by staying at home, you have that much more time to dedicate to your hobbies. Maybe you want to take up birdwatching! Or hey, you can use that extra time to just relax and do nothing - it’s your extra hour, it’s all up to you how you get to spend it.
4. Finding a new, event better routine:
Sometimes it’s hard to break out of the structures we place around ourselves; the idea that you have to go to a physical office every day to do your job is very old-fashioned. You might find that you really enjoy working remotely and want to investigate that as a long-term option! Even if that’s not the case, needing to work fully virtually for a time can help you reassess what aspect of your professional habits needs to be revamped or updated. It makes you see things that you never saw before; that change in perspective may revolutionize the way you view, and do, your work.
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Written by Jordan McAndrew