The spread of the coronavirus—COVID-19—has resulted in an estimated 5 million Canadians who previously worked from an office to find ways to work from home.
Forty percent of the Canadian workforce has been forced to set up makeshift offices anywhere they can in their homes. Non-essential workers are grabbing their laptops, setting up their Zoom profiles, and finding ways to make working from home work for them.
If you’re one of these 5 million Canadians, you may be finding it difficult to be productive while at home. And that’s not surprising—working-from-home poses some unique challenges that may be new to you.
You need to figure out when to work, where to work, and how to maintain boundaries between work and your personal life. What office equipment do you need? How will you continue to develop your career during this time? What training opportunities are available to you from home? How will you build and maintain relationships with colleagues?
When you are working from home, you will need to find the answers to these questions and many more.
As a coworking community, we know a thing or two about remote working. And while we’ve also had to move our operations to our couches, home offices, and kitchen tables, our community has years of experience working from home. We’ve pulled together their top tips to make working from home work for you.
In a perfect world, we would all have a separate room to use as our home office. But as we all know this is not a perfect world. If you do have a room where you can close the door and focus in on your work, use it. If you don’t, carve out a space in your home that is dedicated as your workspace during your work hours.
It’s easy to say, “I will be sitting in my workspace by 9:00 am every day.” It’s a whole other thing to plan how you’re going to make sure you get in that chair day after day. This routine will be different for every person—do you need to spend 30 minutes meditating, brew a fresh cup of coffee, or take a shower? Whatever helps you get up and at ‘em, try to start your day off on the right foot.
Creating a schedule that you stick to whenever possible will help you with your work-life balance. While some people may have somewhat strict guidelines for working hours from their companies, others may have more flexibility when it comes to setting their hours. You can also use a time tracking app—we love Timely and RescueTime—to help you stick to your schedule. As an added bonus, a time tracking app can help you determine what times of day you are the most productive.
It’s important to speak with the people who share your home to ensure that your work hours are respected and also maintainable. In our current situation, you might not be the only person in your home working from home. You might also have kids home from school 24/7. Speak with your roommates or family members, and work together to determine a schedule that will serve everyone in your home.
Whether you are self-employed or work for a company, it is extremely important to speak up about what you need to effectively complete your work. If there is equipment you need to set up your home office, add it to your cart or speak to your manager about acquiring it. Keep in mind that during this time, it probably isn’t prudent to ask for a new desk and office chair. Try to focus on the smaller things that will make your life easier—think a keyboard, printer or ergonomic mouse.
Taking time away from your desk, even when your desk is at home, is extremely important for your mental health and productivity. Stick to your company’s guidelines on breaks and make sure to not short change yourself. If you have to, set a timer and take your full 30-, 45-, or 60-minute break.
Now this one can be a bit tricky during our current COVID-19 reality. But as long as you can maintain social distancing and stay safe, try to get out of the house and into the outdoors at least once during your workday. Take a walk, sit in your backyard or on your balcony, get into your garden.
You may already have a corporate cell phone, but if not, it’s a smart move to set up a separate number for work purposes. It doesn’t have to be a landline or cell phone—a VoIP service like Skype or Google Voice will do the trick. This will help you maintain the all-important work-life balance.
Loneliness is a common side effect of working remotely. Add to that the social distancing measures in effect because of COVID-19, and feeling closed off and isolated is an ever-present danger for everyone. Take this time to digitally connect with your colleagues—Zoom calls after-hours for drinks, playing an online game, or even just chatting throughout the day are all great ways to stay connected.
Even if all you have to contribute to the meeting is hello and goodbye, it’s important to speak up at video conferences and conference calls. You want to make sure that your presence is known and that you can speak up when you do have something to add to the conversation.
If you are working on a team, or if you work with clients, it’s important to constantly communicate with them—share your schedule and availability, tell people when you reach project milestones, and inform everyone about any upcoming time off.
If you are unwell, take a sick day—if sick days and vacation time are part of your compensation package, take the time and report it as per your company’s policies. If you are a freelancer or self-employed, it is equally as important to take vacation and sick days. It’s easy to fall into the trap of never taking a day off, but this is not sustainable. Plan for your vacation, and take sick days when needed.
If you are not in the office, it is easy for people to overlook you for potential training opportunities. You should be actively seeking out these opportunities to ensure you get the training as well as get to spend some face time (even digitally) with colleagues.
As you and your company adjust to this new way of working, it is a given that there are going to be roadblocks in your path. You may miss meetings, internet connections might let you down, and you might find your productivity suffers at first. As you find your groove, these issues will be a thing of the past. Until that time, have grace with yourself and your colleagues.
Above all else, you need to make working from home work for you. There is no one-size-fits-all solution—you need to find what works best for you.
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