Small Business Advice

Tips for working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic

Learn how to work from home like a pro with our tips for remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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One of the major features of the COVID-19 pandemic is that it made teleworking the new normal for many people. Up to 42% of Americans worked remotely in 2020, up from 22% the previous year1. By December 2021, 42.4% of workdays were worked from home2, and Upwork reports that 61.9% of managers are planning even more remote work for their employees now and in years to come3. Everything points to the fact that working from home (WFH) is here to stay.

For a majority of Americans, telework became a sudden necessity that brought with it new experiences and challenges. And while most employers and employees are embracing and implementing the idea of working from home during covid 19, it’s still a new experience. You may find yourself feeling anxious about it. It may feel awkward; in fact, many things may not go according to plan at first.

However, it’s a learning experience from a situation that the world is still coming to grips with. Be kind and patient with yourself and the people around you – including family, friends, employer and colleagues. The most important thing is that you’ve made the transition to start working from home during pandemic times. Oftentimes things end up falling in place as you go. And to help you get a smoother transition, we’ve put together 13 of the most essential remote work tips.

Plan for the transition to working remotely

The most important thing you can do when starting remote work is to plan for it. Adequate preparation for being out of office will set you up for early and sustained success. Start by assembling and testing all the equipment you’ll need. Whether they are computers, cameras, monitors, phones and whatnot, put them through their paces.

Proceed to update your contact information so that your employer, colleagues and clients can easily reach you should they need to. You can also consider setting your office phone to forward calls to your remote phone at home. People who you may have forgotten to notify of your new contact details will find it easier to reach you through call forwarding.

Most likely you’ll have to figure out how to create lines of communication on your own. Research published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that employees are not provided with the “necessary skills required for remote work”4 when transitioning to working from home during COVID-19 19.

The takeaway

Test all your equipment and establish a line of communication.

Create a workspace

Find a quiet, comfortable and well-lit area and designate it as your workspace. If you can get a separate room, the better. If you can’t, then by all means carve out some space from what’s available. Make sure it fits all the equipment you need to be productive and comfortable as you work. It should also be somewhere you can work from regularly so that you don’t have to shift locations frequently.

Something else that came with working from home during COVID-19 19 is video meetings. When choosing your workspace, you’ll want to ensure that it’s clear of things that can cause distractions during video meetings with colleagues, employers and clients. And if you’re a business owner, keep in mind that you can add remote workspaces to the list of deductible expenses and lower your tax burden.

The takeaway

The “office” may have moved to your home, but make sure to create a workspace that can help you be productive

Collect all the resources you need

This is up there with the most critical working from home tips. You can’t achieve personal and organizational goals without the resources that you need to do your job. Work with your manager and colleagues to figure out the tools – hardware and software – that you need to start working from home during a pandemic.

Ask whether you can take your work computer home because that’s the one you’ll need most. Make sure it has all the software that you need to do your work, submit reports, and communicate. Things like Office 365, Google Meet and industry-specific applications should all be installed and ready for use.

The takeaway

Put together all the hardware and software resources you need to perform your job before you start to telework.

Get ready like you would if you were going to the office

A perk that comes with working from home during COVID-19 19 is that you can dress casually. However, avoid it if you can. Hit the bathroom and dress for work as you would if you were commuting to the office. Doing that will mentally prepare you for work and keep you on task. Besides, you don’t want to start scrambling for decent clothing when you get a video call on short notice.

The takeaway

Dress up to get your mind in the grove for work. The lure of the couch will be stronger if you stay in your pajamas.

Create a work routine

Set specific hours for work and stick to them. This is among the most important remote work tips because it’s easy to overwork when you’re in the comfort of your home. Plus, you might overdo it in an attempt to prove to your supervisor that you’re being productive.

Rather than burning yourself out, work with your manager to set expectations and boundaries as far as work hours. You also need to separate from work at the end of the day as you usually do when commuting.

The takeaway

Maintain consistent work hours so that you neither burn out nor underdo what’s assigned to you.

Set and track goals

To ensure that you don’t fall behind with your remote work, set daily and weekly goals. Include measurable ways of tracking your goals and then share the progress with your supervisors and colleagues who may be working on the same project. Again, this will help you achieve your tasks without burning out or underdoing them.

It’s not uncommon for your manager or supervisor to follow up more frequently when you’re working from home during a pandemic. Respond to their evaluation and report whenever you’re falling behind due to a lack of resources that you would otherwise have in the office. Informing them of the unique challenges that come with working from home during COVID-19 can prompt them to avail more resources and training as necessary so that you easily achieve your goals.

The takeaway

Set daily and weekly goals, and work towards achieving them. Always provide a progress report to your colleagues and manager. It will calm them down knowing that you’re diligently playing your part.

Brace yourself for changes in communication dynamics

Face-to-face communication with colleagues, managers and clients is generally easier. Unfortunately, it’s not an option when you start to telework. You may be forced to rely on phones, emails and video calls for communication, all of which can suddenly feel more difficult.

It’s not uncommon to feel the need to postpone that phone call or leave the email in drafts when you’re working from home. If such feelings start to creep in, ignore them and make that call anyway – preferably a video call. As social beings, we need face-to-face communication. Otherwise, you may start feeling lonely and left out, all of which are not good for your productivity and wellness.

The takeaway

Feeling like you don’t want to communicate or make a call? Make it anyway. It will help you stay social and catch up with your colleagues and supervisors.

Reduce distractions

If you have family at home, there will certainly be moments of distractions and interruptions. If you can anticipate them, the better. Ideally, you’ll want to set boundaries and guidelines for the people in your house so that they know not to interrupt while you’re working. It will be more challenging if you have toddlers, but it does give you a chance to teach them how to politely request your time.

The takeaway

You may not be able to completely remove all distractions from family, but you can tell them not to disturb you while you work from home.

Manage feelings of anxiety

It’s natural to feel stressed and anxious during the COVID-19 pandemic. The KFF reports that four in ten Americans have suffered from anxiety and depression as a result of the coronavirus5. You may even feel sadness and grief if you have lost loved ones to the virus.

The best way to keep anxiety at bay is to stay informed. Watch the news in moderation so that you stay up to date without feeling overwhelmed. Talk to family, friends and colleagues frequently to stay social and alleviate feelings of anxiety, loneliness and isolation.

More importantly, practice self-care. Your wellbeing is more important than anything else. Get enough sleep, eat healthy, go outside and get some fresh air (if there are no restrictions), interact with nature, drink enough water and generally do everything possible to maintain your wellness. Research 6 shows that physical activity has a positive effect on mental wellness, and helps reduce anxiety.

The takeaway

Communicate with your colleagues and loved ones as frequently as possible, and engage in physical activities like walks to alleviate feelings of anxiety and improve your wellbeing.

Make time for breaks

Offices do have times for breaks. Don’t break that routine when working from home during COVID-19. Pause your work and step away from the workspace for lunch or for morning and afternoon breaks. After all, effective breaks have been found to increase productivity 7.

The takeaway

Include breaks when creating your work-from-home schedule. They’ll help you refresh and refocus on work.

Maximize your commute-free time

Since you’re not commuting to work, you can use that time for other fun activities. It can be anything from hitting the home gym to doing a school activity with your kids, or even working on a personal project like a side gig for some extra bucks. Whatever the case, keeping busy with fun activities will ward off any feelings of anxiety, stress and depression.

The takeaway

Don’t let the time you would have spent on a commute go to waste. Use it for something good like engaging in a side hustle.

Allow room for adjustment

Making the switch to telework will feel more like an experiment, so approach it as such. It will come with radical changes for you, your colleagues, your employer, and even friends and family. As you keep trying new ways of doing things, you’ll figure out what works for you and what doesn’t. For example, you may find that working from one room is better than working from another. You might realize that video calls are more effective than phone calls, or Google Meet works better than Skype.

Make these adjustments as you go along. At some point you’ll have a perfect schedule with all the resources you need and a routine that you can stick to. But as long as you’re not there yet, treat it as an experiment that needs some tweaks here and there. And don’t forget to be kind to your colleagues and others. We are all in this together.

The takeaway

Working from home during a pandemic is a learning process. Once you’ve started, you may need to adjust your workspace, hardware, software and even schedule to suit remote working.

Don’t be shy to ask for help whenever you need it

Rounding off our working from home tips is an obvious yet overlooked pointer. Don’t hesitate to ask for help when you need it to navigate these COVID-19 times. Not sure how to set up a video call? Call your supervisor or IT person in your organization. Don’t have a piece of hardware needed for your job? Ask the company.

It doesn’t end with resources. If at any point you feel overwhelmed, anxious, stressed or depressed, ask for help. The CDC provides a guide that may help you cope with negative feelings associated with the coronavirus pandemic. Also included are lines to call for emergency assistance.

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