Long before a global health pandemic changed the workday as many of us know it, remote work was on the rise. In fact, according to the Federal Reserve, the number of people working remotely in the U.S. has tripled since 2005.
While working from home has a number of benefits, it can also feel isolating and result in unproductive habits. Here are six tips, from two IU career experts, for tackling an at-home workday:
Reestablish a morning routine
While it might be tempting to toss the alarm clock, Emili Sperling Bennett, BA’08, MS’17, associate director of career and professional development at the IU Alumni Association, suggests sticking with your normal morning routine. Get up at the usual time, walk the dog, work out, make breakfast, change out of your pajamas—whatever your typical morning pre-COVID-19 looked like, reenact it. Bennett especially stresses the importance of keeping up with self-care habits.
Set your hours
Honoring a specific schedule, just like you would if you were going into an office, will help increase your productivity, efficiency, and success. “There’s a temptation to blur the boundaries between personal life and work life when you work from home,” says Caroline Dowd-Higgins, BM’89, MM’95, former IUAA executive director of career and professional development. A set schedule allows you to focus on your work without distractions. She adds that it’s important to clearly communicate your schedule to both colleagues and family in order to maintain clear expectations.
Take a break
Setting your workday hours includes scheduling, and taking, breaks. Try to step away from your computer or workstation while you have lunch and incorporate a few “coffee breaks” throughout the day to clear your mind and get your body moving. In its guide, 8 Moves You Can Do Anywhere, Healthy IU suggests following the 20/20/20 rule: Every 20 minutes, get up, look 20 feet away, and do 20 seconds of movement.
Create a designated workspace
Find a specific place in your house to conduct business. This might be hard depending on the available space and furnishings in your home, but Bennett strongly encourages finding a place to work that isn’t your couch. Even designating one end of the kitchen table can help keep things organized while also creating a space that offers structure and fosters productivity.
Feeling disconnected from your co-workers? While it’s not quite the same as chatting around the watercooler or popping into your boss’s office, virtual resources such as Zoom and Slack offer great substitutions for in-person interactions, says Bennett. And for those feeling uncomfortable on camera, these IU-themed Zoom backgrounds can be great icebreakers at the start of a meeting.
Once the clock strikes five, virtual happy hours are another fun way to engage with your peers—and an opportunity to talk about anything but work.
Cut yourself some slack
This one is less of a suggestion and more of a necessity for all of us working from home. Whether you’re new to remote work or a seasoned pro, allow yourself (and your co-workers) time to adjust to this “new normal.” We’re all navigating uncharted territory, and it’s only fair that we make allowances for the learning curve.