By Sapana Panday, MPH, CCMEP
For many, working remotely is a routine part of our professional lives. For others, the emergence of COVID-19 has forced working from home upon us under stressful circumstances. Below is some advice to help you make the best of working from home.
Your work space: Whether it is a separate room, a specific chair at the dining table or the edge of your bed, designate a space of your house as your “office.” Sit/stand in this space during business hours. At the end of your work day, leave the space and do not continue in that space for personal time. This will help you maintain a distance between work and home life.
Working with kids: If you have an infant, invest in a good baby carrier and wear your baby all day. It may be a bit tough on the back, but it will give you peace of mind while keeping your baby close and calm. If you have young kids, working a 9-5 day will be impossible. Accept that reality. Inform you co-workers and supervisors about your erratic work hours and be prepared to work all hours of the day. Evenings, when kids are asleep, are the best times. You will have to work in shifts. Maybe even sit in front of the TV with your laptop. If your kid walks into your video conference (remember the BBC interview with Professor Robert Kelly?), don’t try to pretend they are not there. The best solution is to offer them a toy, or even pick them up and put them on your lap. I’m sure you are an excellent multi-tasker and continue your call while entertaining a child on your lap. If you have teenage kids, trust them to take care of themselves. Give them an assignment to help keep them occupied during the day.
Furry coworkers: If you have pets at home, follow the same routine you would on days you are in the office. Crate your dogs and leave cats in a different room. My co-worker’s dog once got tangled in her laptop wire and ran off, laptop and all, in the middle of a video conference. And, then there was that time my cat walked on my keyboard and sent out cryptic emails. Never leave pets alone with your work computer.
Work and home separation: Some tips to help keep this balance:
- Get changed to “go to work.” Even if you are just changing into sweats, avoid sitting in your pajamas all day.
- Turn your computer off at the end of the work day.
- Don’t do house chores during work hours, even if it’s just putting a load of laundry in.
- Make sure you have lunch already made or have the ingredients to make a quick lunch. Avoid cooking gourmet meals in the middle of the day.
- Define your office hours (like 9-5) and stick to them.
Social Interaction: Lack of human interactions throughout the day can be isolating and lonely. Just because you can’t talk to your coworkers at the water cooler, doesn’t mean you can’t talk to them at all. At the beginning of meetings, take a few minutes to engage in some social banter. Use email or other chat messengers to stay connected with your coworkers about more that work-related stuff. Connect with friends throughout the day with social media (although, be careful not to let that become a procrastination vehicle). Take a lunch break. Go eat lunch at your local café (or take out these days and enjoy with your family).
Physical activity: When working from home, you will realize that the amount of physical movement is drastically less than working in an office. Just the fact that you aren’t commuting into the office or walking to meetings, you will barely be moving all day. Remind yourself to get up and stretch frequently. I had a coworker who actually had a reminder on her email calendar to get up and stretch every few hours. Standing or treadmill desks are really great options if you want to invest in one, but you don’t need extra equipment to stay active. Do 10 squats every hour or stand while on phone calls.
Infrastructure: When was the last time you checked with your internet provider to see what type of service you are getting? Internet providers have different bandwidth options. Inquire about improving your connection, although avoid mentioning a home office. Your internet provider may want to charge you a small business rate. Also, use a wired connection for your internet — you know, the ethernet cable that hooks into your computer. VPN connections will work much better on a wired connection than a wireless one.