In light of the pandemic, many corporations have closed offices temporarily, and employees are working from home potentially until 2021, while other facets of daily life have changed as well. Before these lifestyle changes and closures, I would work from home a day a week in order to complete some housework and errands if needed but was able to separate work and home life since I was at the office for most of my work week. I was very fortunate to have the best of working in the office and working from home. Over the past ten weeks, I have worked from home full-time and have a few reflections to share with others who are also struggling with working from home.
Maintain a Routine
Before COVID-10 I had a generally consistent schedule. Waking up, going to work, working out at the gym, and going home for dinner before attending other activities at night. After COVID-19 began affecting life, however, everything I listed above needed to happen from home or stop happening altogether. To maintain my fitness, my workouts shifted to at-home workouts and I have been meeting virtually with friends and family in the evening instead of in person.
Separate Your Workspace and Personal Space
Even though I have been able to adjust my fitness and social components of my routine, working from home did not go as easily for me, and it is especially difficult if you live in a small home or an apartment. My desk and bed are in the same room—within arm’s reach—and many people in apartments may experience this same issue. This is the change that has affected me most about adjusting to working from home, and I have been able to fix this with a couple of minor changes.
- Leaving my apartment in the morning and “traveling to work.” After preparing for the day I go on a walk around the block near my apartment in Fargo. Normally I would walk or bike to work at this time of year, but I continue to go on a short walk to get into the mindset of going to work.
- Working out at the end of the workday. Fortunately, my gym recently re-opened with strict guidelines to keep people safe and I am comfortable going there to continue with my fitness. Just like going on a walk in the morning, this is something I need to do when I “leave work” and go home for the evening.
Having this separation allowed me to think about going to and leaving work even if I was in the same space.
Another issue I have run into now that I am not in the office is that I have all the distractions of home around me all the time and friends and family who want to connect virtually. For some, children and pets are regular, albeit distracting coworkers to navigate while on conference calls. Setting boundaries with friends and family so they understand you need to focus is important to be able to create your workspace from home.
It is important to schedule your tasks but also schedule your breaks. For some time, it was easy for me to sit in my office chair and stay there all day, losing energy—and productivity— through the morning and afternoon until I count the minutes before I go to the gym. Ever since I scheduled time on my calendar it has been great to get a walk-in around the block every afternoon to get some fresh air.
Working from home is a skill that I did not realize I needed or did not have. I have learned how to work from home more effectively over the last few months and hope that others have had the same experience. In the future, working from home may become more normal and these new skills will be important to have if the opportunity presents itself. Taking the time to reflect before returning back to the office may help you be more effective in your work once you do so!