Kim Lawton is a self-employed marketing consultant, who offers some advice for those who are new to working from home.
With growing concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of people are in isolation and working from home.
Your first few days were likely spent watching the news, stocking up on food and other supplies, and trying to remain calm while managing an extraordinary amount of change.
Many people love the idea of working from home, and for some, this may even be a dream come true.
As we enter the second week of isolation, plenty of folks are realizing that working from home actually means doing some work.
They are now trying to figure out the best way to do this.
I’ve been working from home for the better part of the last two decades. As a marketing consultant, I’ve developed a pretty good system as I work from my home at least two to three days a week, and I’m on the road in meetings and working from my clients’ locations the rest of the time.
My first recommendation is to keep the same structure as you would normally. Get up at the same time, have a shower and get dressed. Have coffee and breakfast like always.
Since you are saving time with not having to commute, consider using those periods to meditate or exercise.
Start work at your normal time, take a lunch break, and finish your work at your normal time.
Decide where you are going to work. If you have a desk or an office in your home already, you are set. If not, find a dedicated space for the job.
Consider transforming a spot in your basement or guest room into a work-space. If you don’t have another option, convert your kitchen or dining room table into a temporary work-space.
I find that when I separate my work from my home life, it makes it easier to focus on work when I am supposed to be working, and easier to leave it behind when I am done for the day.
Plan your day, just as you would in the office. Prepare your to-do list, figure out your most important projects to be completed. Focus on getting one thing done and then the next.
Just as you normally would, get up and walk around in your office, go to the printer, get a coffee, even walk downstairs and pop in a load of laundry.
When you work in an office with colleagues, you get used to having other people around. You have people to chat with here and there.
Unless you are sharing your home work-space with other people who are also self-isolating, working from home can be pretty quiet.
I try to schedule conference calls at a couple of different points during the day, so I make sure I get the opportunity for social interaction with colleagues.
If you normally have team meetings, still have them virtually using a service like Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts or Facetime.
I know when I don’t have enough social time built into my schedule, I catch myself talking to my dogs Porter and Merlot.
There is a lot going on in the world right now, and it’s easy to get sucked into the vortex of following every news story. My recommendation is to shut off the TV, turn off the radio, and minimize your social media feeds. Give yourself time to check in while you take a coffee break or while you are preparing or eating lunch. My parents are retired and have more time to listen to news updates, so I’ve asked them to text me if an important press conference or news update is happening so I can tune in.
During these challenging times, recognize that everything is changing, and it can be emotionally difficult.
Not only is the world dealing with this pandemic, people are overwhelmed and afraid, and our emotions can be in overdrive.
If that isn’t enough, add into the mix that our schedules have been disrupted, our workplaces have changed, we don’t have access to the same team and tools, and you may not even have the basic technology needed to do your job from home. Give yourself space to be okay with your emotions.
Ask for support when you need it.
Call a friend who is also working from home to ask for advice. Get on a team call and share your struggles, and see how people are dealing with similar challenges.
See if there are online resources that can help with the technology issues you are facing.
When you have time to plan a work-from-home strategy in advance, you can get the technology and equipment you need to be able to do so effectively.
Because of the speed in which this all happened, you may not have all of the files and documents that you need with you at home.
If you are working on a different computer at home instead of your office computer, make sure you set up a system to make sure you can sync back all of the relevant files back to your office computer when you return to your normal workplace.
It can be as simple as emailing yourself all of the documents you need to save back onto your work computer, storing all of them onto a USB drive, or setting up a Dropbox or Google Drive folder where you can save these items.
If you don’t do this, in a few weeks you’ll be scratching your head in frustration looking everywhere for that very important document you created, only to eventually realize it’s on your home computer.
As we keep hearing, it’s important to wash your hands and sanitize. Make sure you also sanitize your work-space. Wipe down your phone and keyboard with a rubbing alcohol pad and stay safe.
Pause. Breathe. These are challenging times. Be kind to others and to yourself. Do the best you can. We will get through this together.
Kim Lawton is the founder of DogLeg Marketing and Business Solutions in the Okanagan. She is a marketing consultant primarily in the craft beer, wine and tourism sector. She writes an ongoing column in What’s Brewing Magazine and is a contributor to the BC Ale Trail blog.
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