Human resources

Surviving the Apocalypse: How to Work From Home Productively During Coronavirus Outbreak

Surviving the Apocalypse: How to Work From Home Productively During Coronavirus Outbreak
Diana Hilsdon
March 19, 2020
Last updated: March 20, 2020

Is it possible to retain the high level of productivity (we hope) you had while working in the office? We say “yes” and if you have already sanitized your hands, scroll down to find out how. 

What a time to be (still) alive! The deadly coronavirus is sweeping through the planet, stock markets are going sideways, and countries are closing their borders - those post-apocalyptic movies don’t seem so funny now, huh?

For most people, however, this COVID-19 outbreak resulted mostly in mild inconveniences - restricted traveling, event cancellations, and switching to working from home.

Despite sounding quite mundane, the latter is actually not that easy - most people do not have the experience of working from home for periods longer than a few days.

As no one knows how long exactly this quarantine is going to last, we ought to be prepared to stay home for at least a couple of weeks. To do that, we need to:

  • Ease the transition from one environment to another and make it smooth
  • Set up our working place at home and remove any distractions
  • Stay calm and keep doing our job

Let’s begin!

Facing the Challenges of Working From Home

Most people will have to face the following challenges when working from home instead of the office:

  • Adapting to the new reality and having to (re)create your daily work routines
  • Setting up your workplace with the right tools
  • Distractions coming from everywhere
  • An environment that’s too comfortable to work in
  • Achieving the same level of productivity

Naturally, some of these overlap and need to be addressed with not one, but several strategies.

Why Are You Making It Seem So Complicated?

complicated.jpg

Of course, some of you might say “What’s all the fuss about? Working from home ain’t no rocket science - get your laptop or whatever hardware you need, connect to the Internet, and start doing the same stuff you’ve done a million times before in the office. Stop making a big deal out of it.”

And you will be probably right. Kind of.

The main challenge here is not in the hardware but in the software - that software being your brain. Switching from the busy, uptight atmosphere of the office to the comfortable, relaxing atmosphere of your home is difficult by default.

Scientists Say

To spare you all the scientific mumbo-jumbo, it’s all about the way our brains are wired. We get used to certain triggers, patterns, and environment directing our behavior and telling us how to act.

You don’t wear a suit to the sauna, neither do you come to the office in pajamas. Call it stereotypes or prejudices but this is the way it works. We change our social masks (and, therefore, behavior) based on our surroundings.

Since most of us work at work and rest at home, you may find it challenging to create that working atmosphere in a place your brain normally associates with rest.

Considering the fact that most schools and kindergartens are also closed down during the outbreak, that “switching your mindset” challenge becomes even more challenging.

Your family members (especially kids) may cause unnecessary distractions and decrease your overall efficiency - most of the time unknowingly. For them, your being home means immediate availability and readiness to indulge their requests.

These two main challenges aside, there’s plenty of other little issues you need to address before you can start working efficiently from home - so let’s address them one by one.

Addressing the Challenges of Working From Home

These simple tips will help you not to notice the switch and continue to work with the same efficiency from home or any other place that’s not office.

Tip 1. Set Up Your Workplace Properly

Before leaving the office for the quarantine, make sure you have everything you need to work from home. That includes both hardware and software:

  • Hardware
    • Laptop/desktop, keyboard, mouse, printer, scanner, phone, charger, surge protector and anything else you think you might need
  • Software
    • Make sure you have all the right software installed and working properly on your devices from home
    • Ensure the access to all the files, directories and data you had when you were in the office

Last but not least is the furniture - as we mentioned before, it is hugely important to recreate the working atmosphere of the office. That’s why you shouldn’t work from your couch in a lying position.

Get yourself a proper office chair and a desk that has nothing on it but your work stuff - obviously, the dinner table in your kitchen won’t do. Think of alternatives.

Hook up all your devices to the Internet and make sure everything’s within a hand’s reach so that you won’t have to move around the house frantically looking for something that should be immediately available.

Tip 2. Remove Distractions

As harsh as it seems, you have to create a wall - metaphorical, or course - to protect your working atmosphere from any distractions.

Only in the pictures on the Internet do these fake hipsters look happy making millions of dollars off their couch or sitting on top of some beautiful mountain.

In reality, you need to create a piece of office in your house where nothing else is done except work.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Find a spot in your house that you can modify to make it dedicated to work only - in the simplest case, it can be a desk and a chair. Ideally, it should be a room - like a study or an office
  • Tell your partner and your kids not to bother you whatsoever every time you’re in that room or at your desk - unless it’s a zombie attack (which is not funny) ((but still a bit chuckle-worthy))
  • Bring some items over from your office desk - calendars, pictures in frames, stacks of blank papers. Anything that will put you in the right working mood
  • Remove any things associated with comfort and/or wasting time - your TV, game console, tablet, sofa, and anything else that might evoke even the slightest intention to slack off

In short, you have to become a bit of a recluse - but only for a limited period of time, which is what the next tip is about.

Tip 3. Develop Routines

We really don’t have any strict schedules or routines when we are at home. You can watch TV, play video games, eat and sleep pretty much anytime you feel like doing it.

In a properly organized office, however, we do have such routines and schedules simply because they prove to be effective when you need to coordinate the effort of a few dozen (hundred, thousand) people.

Therefore, you need to develop routines and schedules that will be repeated on a daily basis and tell your brain that it’s time for this particular activity. Plus, it will teach you additional discipline which is never a bad thing.

Here are a few tips within a tip:

  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time - preferably, before 10 am=)
  • Take small breaks and your big lunch break at the same time
  • Before starting your working day, change your clothes from pajamas to something more appropriate (after all, you may have to take part in video conferences)
  • Take a short walk outside before and after your working day - just to get yourself in the right mood for work

Tip 4. Plan, Plan, Plan

A great way to boost your discipline when there are so many distractions around is to set goals and plan everything.

Normally, you would just do the tasks you gotta do at work. At home, however, it won’t be unwise to write down even the obvious things like “send a weekly report to the boss” or “notify Mr. Smith about the zombie threat”.

Therefore, try planning all of your activities and mark tasks completed as you go through them - that will give you an instant pleasure.

Tip 5. Stay in Touch

These days, when we have to isolate ourselves and resort to online communication, it is very important to stay in touch with your colleagues, friends, relatives, and other people via online communication tools.

Although they cannot substitute real human interaction, video calls and chats are great for solving work problems and keeping in touch with the world.

That being said, you have to take all the necessary preventive measures and keep social distancing in strict accordance with the recommendations from your local health services. Be responsible and stay safe.

Conclusion

Despite the ongoing mass hysteria (which is rather typical for any major outbreak), people still need to buy stuff - perhaps, even more so than usual. That’s why businesses are nowhere near slowing down and, in fact, some online businesses are actually growing.

Take this quarantine for what it is and try to accept the challenges it poses for you. If you do it right, you will come out of it with more skills and motivation ready to take on any project. 

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