While the number of Americans who work from home has tripled during the past 15 years, over these past few weeks, millions more now telecommute. The coronavirus has drastically changed life around the globe as people isolate themselves in order to slow the pandemic. Remote work is one of those changes as Google, Amazon, Facebook, JPMorgan, and even the federal government have requested that non-essential employees stay home.
Remote work has always been a trade-off. It’s important to recognize the pros and cons.
More flexibility. It’s easier to walk your dog and pick up your child in between home-based conference calls.
No commute. With the average commute in the U.S. at 27 minutes one-way, that’s almost an hour added to your day!
Some people who work from home are lonely without the comradery of office life.
Loss of creativity. In person collaboration is often where great ideas arise.
How to Successfully Work from Home
At first, your company’s mandate that you work from home may seem like a lucky break. Pajamas all day long! Freedom from that over-chatty colleague! In fact, remote work demands a deliberate action planto avoid complacency, boredom, and distraction. In order to successfully work from home, begin each day with these five questions:
What are my goals for the day?
How many hours will I work? What are those hours?
When/how often should I check in with my manager?
What are my possible distractions and how will I handle them?
When can I take breaks?
Accountability is key, so write down your answers daily as you become accustomed to your new at-home role.
Communicate often with your team. Just because you are home alone, online collaboration with colleagues leads to creativity and solution-finding. Platforms such as Zoom, Skype, Slack, Outlook, Google Hangouts, and TalkDesk will help you collaborate with your team.
Turn off your notifications. Social media and the constant news cycle are your telecommute enemies.
Take breaks. There’s a difference between a break to get some air and lost time and energy due to distracting housework. Breaks are healthy; laundry is a distraction.
A Home Office to Support Your Goals
The space you designate as your office should feel as separate from your home life as possible. Even if you live in a small apartment, set up a card table in a corner or allocate one half of the dining room your “office” to help you maintain focus.
Your ability to control your environment is one of the advantages of remote work. Here are some home office optimization strategies:
Natural light can keep your mind alert.
A comfortable chair will dissuade you from leaving your desk to pursue non-work tasks.
Control your noise level – work in silence if that’s what you prefer or rock out to energizing jams.
Studies show color choice can impact productivity. White, grey, and beige promote sluggishness. Blue, green, and yellow are linked to higher productivity.
Declutter often. When the piles start to pile up, be brutal – recycle and let go.
Remote Work is a Luxury
This pandemic has brought difficult social realities to light. Workers who telecommute tend to be wealthier and better educated. But much of the U.S. labor force – especially those who work in healthcare, retail, delivery, restaurants, and childcare– do not have the ability to work from home, and either lose their jobs or risk their health to keep them.
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