Covid-19 and remote work go together like peas in a pod. If one of those peas was an evil, disruptive little virus. I’m one of the lucky few though. Because I regularly work from home and I deal with all of my clients online, life hasn’t changed much for me as Covid-19 gallops around the world messing everything up. But so many others haven’t been so lucky.
Rather than attempt to pitch the benefits of content marketing at this point in time (I’m crass, but I’m not that crass), I thought I’d give people my 2 cents with respect to remote work and how they might make it work for them. Hopefully, it will be of use to some people.
(By the way, smarter folks than myself have already written about the transition to remote work. But I thought I’d give it a shot anyway.)
Just a quick word about me if you’re unfamiliar with me. I’m a legal and business freelance writer based in Bermuda. I work from home ever since my wife and I moved to the island from Canada when she got a job at a cancer center here. By the time the Covid-19 crisis hit, I’d been working from home for several months. (For more About Me, click that link.)
Some Things I’ve Found Helpful
There are quite a few things that I’ve found helpful while remote working through the Covid-19 epidemic (and before it).
First, the usual suspects that you’ve already heard about. Get up at the same time every day. Dress and groom yourself as if you’re going to work. Keep a separate working environment in your home. Take breaks at the same time every day. Call it quits at the same time every day. Go to bed at the same time every day.
No surprises there. Basically, you want to keep a routine and some level of separation between your work and home life. But, beyond the obvious, a few things have helped me keep a consistent level of motivation and morale while working from home.
- Schedule social time – Working from home is lonely. You’ll miss the time you would normally get with coworkers (even the ones who annoy you). So set aside time for social interaction. These days that means a Zoom call or videoconference. But in more normal times you should try to actually get out of your home. If, when Covid-19 dissipates you’re still remote working, get outside!
- Challenge yourself – You’ll want to keep things interesting. When you’re working from home you’ve got be largely self-motivated. One of the best ways to stay motivated is to ensure that you’re challenging yourself on a daily basis. Take on jobs that are a stretch for you. Take an online class and learn something new. Whatever you choose to do, make it difficult.
- Find partners – Even if your work is essentially solitary (which is true for a lot of professionals), try and find people with whom you can work. If your work doesn’t allow for much collaboration, find people you can work alongside. Also, do what you can to interact with people in your industry or field on message boards, social media, and other avenues for interaction.
- Take advantage of the flexibility – One of the truly great things about working from home is the increased flexibility. Make sure that you take time to enjoy that aspect of the experience. While you generally want to maintain a solid routine (see above), don’t be a slave to it. If you feel like breaking for lunch early one day, do it. If you want to take Friday off and work a few extra hours on Monday, do it. Remote work during Covid-19 shouldn’t be a prison.
- Take advantage of the family time – If you live alone you’ll need to make some adjustments to keep from going stir crazy. But if you don’t, use the time you spend working from home to incorporate more family time into your daily routine. Hang out with your kids. Have a nice dinner with your partner. Do a family game night.
Some Things That Are Decidedly Unhelpful
Not everything I’ve tried so far has made me more productive or happier. A few things were downright disastrous.
- Too much flexibility – While taking advantage of your new ability to adjust your schedule from time to time is fine, abusing that ability is not. When I first started remote work before the Covid-19 outbreak I was far too liberal with extra “breaks,” days off, and other perks. I had to bring the hammer down on myself. Flexibility can become laziness if you’re not careful.
- Not taking breaks – It’s easy to refrain from taking breaks when you’re on a roll and feeling productive. It’s usually a mistake. Just as taking too many breaks reduces your productivity, working too much will lead to burnout pretty quickly. Stick to a regular schedule of a few breaks a day. Not too much, not too few. You’ll be happier for it.
- Incorporating housework – In the beginning, I thought to myself that I’d incorporate housework into my work routine. Why not? I could kill two birds with one stone and my wife would love me for it. What actually happened was that I started counting housework as “work hours” and devoting less time to my job. I found that it was important to keep the two separated.
- Dual-use workspaces – When I started out, I just worked from anywhere in the house. What did it matter? One space was as good as another? In reality, by failing to designate a workspace and a living space I found it difficult to concentrate in any space.
Hopefully I’ve been somewhat helpful. For a lot of you, this attempt at working from home will be your first experience with the process. If you’re finding it difficult, be assured that it gets easier when you get used to it. It even gets fun!