Shift Gears and Stay Connected While Sheltering in Place

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If you’re new to the remote-worker crowd, feeling befuddled by the need to install new hardware and learn new skills, and dealing with all these changes amid the panic of a pandemic, you are not alone. The coronavirus pandemic has changed nearly every aspect of human life for the time being, and everyone is struggling to adjust. 

If you’re used to going in to work every day, it can be unsettling at first to switch gears and work from home. But, armed with gratitude for still having a job (let’s not forget!) and the following tips, you can set up a functioning workspace at home and continue to get the job done. 

Set Up a Home Office 

Your livelihood depends on your ability to function well with good work habits. Working from home is a serious thing, meaning you need to make room for a home office. But don’t worry: A workplace in the home can be a fancy home office or just a certain table and chair.

First, you can take this opportunity to clean up and declutter as much as possible. You may want to price out renting a dumpster to throw out junk that’s collecting dust in space you could otherwise use. 

If you must go shopping for supplies, practice social distancing of six feet and take your own washable custom-branded tote bag to carry things home. Wash everything off and your tote bag after you get back, to make sure you do not bring the virus into your house accidentally.

Reserve your workspace just for working. Keep it neat. Resist the temptation to procrastinate. When you’re there, try to sit down and work just as you would do in a regular office with the boss breathing down your neck.

Use the Available Tools

There are some excellent tools designed to enhance the productivity of those who work from home. Many of them are open-source or low-cost, and many offer free trials. Above all, cloud computing is the capability that can offer you safe and secure storage of all your work files, as well as easy access from anywhere there’s an internet connection. This can be a boon for collaboration with other team members, as well. 

Start on Time, Know When to Quit

When it becomes possible in your life to always be working, you may end up always working — so set a time limit for your work. Setting ”office hours” with a defined start time and quitting time can help you mentally by providing some structure and accountability. Designate consistent times to start work, take breaks and lunch, and conclude business. You’ll likely end the day feeling glad that you were able to put in a full day’s work. 

Communicate Properly

The overnight boom in video communication and real-time chat functions has made it possible for businesses to continue operating and for people all over the world to stay in touch despite our enforced isolation. But you might notice several new requirements when communicating with colleagues via messaging apps or video. Consider these tips: 

In chats, texts, emails, and other written formats, make communications short and to the point. NEVER USE ALL CAPS. (They read as though you are yelling.) Even on casual platforms like chats and instant messaging, be professional and polite, just as you would in person. Set your out-of-office status whenever you’re not available and, if possible, let others know when you will be back.

On phone or video calls, especially if you are in a group conversation, consider muting your mic or phone until you need to talk. (The host might mute all mics except the ones of those who are speaking.) If you contribute to the conversation, try to do so from a room that’s isolated from excessive noise. You may adore your kids and dogs, but nobody wants to hear them making a ruckus in the background.

Manage Your Kids, Pets, and Stress

Speaking of kids, you suddenly may have discovered that teaching them is harder than you thought! This makes you appreciate the efforts of teachers who normally do that hard work day in and day out. 

Keep your kids on a regular schedule, just as you do for yourself. They’ll benefit from whatever structure you can impose. If their schools are offering online classes and you have a decent internet connection, it’ll be worth it to take the time out from your work and set up their tech properly. Then, you’ll need to make them responsible for doing their work, just like in school.

If you have pets that eat at a designated time every day, these feeding times can provide a wonderful chance to take a break and relieve some stress, as well. And bonus: No social distancing is required with pets, so you can hug them often to reduce stress.

Avoid Distractions

During your working hours, do not watch television, avoid emails from non-business sources, and, most of all, avoid the news. There will be plenty of time after work to indulge in the things that would pose major distractions while you work.

Hire Help

If you need help that you can’t get from your team members or other co-workers, consider consulting one of the many freelance platforms available online to get the expertise you need. Anything you could ask someone at the office to do or to explain, you can find online, as well. For example, if you need to get a report done by a fast deadline, hire a ghostwriter. If you need some financial analysis, graphics built, editing completed, etc., put up a project for bid on a freelance site.

Think of learning to work from home as an adventure in liberation and independence. You can succeed by setting up a nice home office, organizing yourself and your household with a schedule, avoiding distractions, and staying focused on the job at hand. And who knows? After this shelter-at-home period passes, you may realize you enjoy working from home so much that you’ll continue doing it.

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About Author

My name is Jessica Larson. I’m a married Midwestern mom and a solopreneur. I create online courses for students, and I’ve started and run several other businesses through the years. My goals are to support my family while still actually spending time with them, to act as an entrepreneurial role model for my two daughters, and to share what I’ve learned through The Solopreneur Journal.

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