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Recently, we shared seven telecommuting tips to help newly remote teams stay productive during the coronavirus pandemic. None of us knows how long the social distancing and work-from-home orders will be in place, but one thing seems clear: we won’t return to business-as-usual any time soon. As the crisis continues, whether it’s a few weeks or many months, it is important to create a work-from-home structure that lets you balance work productivity with personal health and wellbeing.

Although Research Solutions was a fully virtual company prior to the pandemic, we are all adjusting to the additional challenges that come with social distancing. As we look for ways to improve our own work-life balance, we’ve been talking with our peers, engaging in social media discussions, and figuring things out through trial and error. Here are some insights, tips, and tools that we've found most helpful:

  1. Create a routine: Create an opening and closing routine at the start and end of your workday. For example, if you have set up a dedicated room as your home office, shut the door at the end of your scheduled workday. If something absolutely critical comes up, you can always go back in, of course. But taking the physical action of closing the door can be a very powerful mental trick to help you switch out of work mode for the day. If you are working from an open space in your living room or kitchen, take some other action to end the day, like closing down your computer, clearing off your workspace, or tilting your work chair up against the table. The key is to create some sort of barrier, however slight, to make you think twice before doing any work during your non-work hours.

  2. Take power breaks: When working from home, you may feel like your working hours have become less focused due to a range of at-home distractions, as well as news about the pandemic. If you have kids at home, you've likely had to cut down on your normal working hours—or you've started waking up earlier and going to bed later in order to fit everything in. No matter your situation, taking a few "power breaks" throughout the day can help you avoid fatigue, improve your focus—and get more done during the hours you have allotted for your work. For example, do five minutes of exercise (jumping jacks, push-ups, lunges); read an article in your favorite magazine (not related to the pandemic); do a short guided meditation; or just have a cup of tea and let your mind wander.

  3. Keep a notepad handy: One of the toughest things about working from home is that work and personal life become blurred together (one of the critical tips from our post on staying productive is to create a work schedule and stick to it). An easy way to compartmentalize your work and personal activities is to always have a notepad nearby. That way, if you're working and you suddenly remember that you need to buy dog food, you can just make a quick note—rather than switching focus to place a "quick" online order. After work (or when you're scheduled for a work break), you can go back to your notepad and handle anything that needs your attention. Similarly, if you're "off work" and suddenly remember that you need to send a Zoom invite to a co-worker, jot it down and don't think about it again until you're back in work mode.

  4. Put pen to paper: During this time of heightened stress, getting your thoughts down on paper can be a great emotional release. Whether you use a journal or just grab some loose paper, take a few minutes each night to write down whatever is weighing on your mind. Oftentimes, the simple act of getting the thoughts out of your head and on paper will help you put things in perspective, relieve some stress—and get a better night's sleep.

  5. Download a productivity app: Consider downloading an application designed to help you block out distractions and stay focused. There are a wide variety to choose from, ranging from productivity trackers to site-blocking tools to focus-driven soundtracks. Focus@Will, for example, uses “features of sound discovered by neuroscientists to help you focus and retain information.”

  6. Plan virtual social interactions: Without the everyday social interactions we're used to, it is natural to start feeling isolated from the outside world. The longer this crisis goes on, the more difficult the isolation will become. Aside from your household interactions and work-related calls and meetings with co-workers, be sure to maintain personal, social interactions. For example, schedule a virtual coffee break with a friend or colleague during the weekday. Plan a virtual wine and cheese party with a few friends via Zoom. FaceTime a friend. Make an old-fashioned call to someone you haven't spoken to in a while and see how they're doing.

  7. Prioritize what matters: In order to create work-life balance, you need to figure out what's most important to you—and then prioritize those things. If you need to alter any obligations at work in order to focus on personal priorities (e.g. homeschooling your kids, attending to a sick family member), make sure to discuss any changes with your coworkers ahead of time. When working from home, you may feel pressure to be available for work, meetings, and emails anytime. By establishing reasonable expectations, you can spend time on personal aspects of your life without feeling stressed that you "should" be working. When you have time to focus on the things that matter most to you, you'll be more motivated, happier, and more productive overall. 

The steps for achieving work-life balance will be different for everyone, but the underlying goal is the same: to create a structure in your life that allows you to enjoy success at work, while optimizing your long-term health and happiness. Faced with today's work-from-home restrictions, achieving that balance is more challenging than ever.  We think this tweet from James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, sums up the concept of creating balance quite nicely:

"Balance is timing, not intensity. It is not doing multiple tasks at 80%, but developing the skill of turning it on and turning it off. Sleep fully, then work intensely. Focus deeply, then relax completely. Give each phase your full attention."

 

 

Topics: productivity home office tips remote working COVID-19 coronavirus well-being

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