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7 effective tips for working from home as a first-timer

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6 mins

This is a time like no other. COVID-19 has also been the catalyst for many Americans having to adapt to an entirely new mode of employment: working from home.

For some, it's a sigh of relief to be able to work in their pajamas. For others, it’s a painful adjustment to working outside of a structured environment. Either way, it’s likely taking some getting used to.

The following 7 tips for working from home are designed to help you not only to make do with this new way of work, but to thrive as you make the necessary adjustments to remain productive in your new working environment.

Here's how to work from home.

1. Get ready for work

You probably have had morning rituals for years. They likely consist of getting up at a set time during the workweek, bathing, grooming, having a good cup of coffee or a smoothie, and maybe enjoying a light breakfast.

When working from home, following your usual morning routine and starting your day off as if you’re headed out for the office is the best way to get off to a great start for a productive day. We’re creatures of habit, and when we get off track from our normal routines it can send us into a tailspin. Keep doing what you normally did and you’ll be on your way to sustained productivity.

2. Keep your regular office hours

When no longer having to be at the office at a set time of day, it can be tempting to hit the snooze button and stay in your warm bed. This short-term comfort can be a major tipping point that keeps you from meeting the day’s objectives.

If your regular working hours were from 8-5 with an hour lunch break, keep these same hours faithfully. Your weekly success is a by-product of consistently meeting your daily goals. Having an unwavering commitment to putting in a full day can only be realized by starting and stopping on time.

[ Read: What COVID-19 means for paid sick leave ]

3. Designate your ideal workspace

If at all possible, have a dedicated place in your home where you conduct business. Ideally, you’ll have an office in your home where you can set up shop and have a desktop computer, monitor, and printer. You’d then have a laptop dedicated to personal use.

For many of us, our office will be at the kitchen table. And that can work just fine. You’ll want to clear off the table and have it be a dedicated workspace for the day. This will give you plenty of room for your laptop and documents you need and will help keep you focused on the task at hand.

4. Don't forget to take breaks

Time flies when you have your complete concentration focused on your work. It can be surprising to take a quick glance at the clock and find that you haven’t gotten out of your chair for two hours straight. This can be to your detriment since studies show that our productivity drops after 50 minutes of sustained work.

Set the timer on your phone to notify you that it’s time to take a break. You can do this every hour and take 5-10 minutes to stand up and move away from your workspace. Do something that relaxes you, like a five-minute walk outdoors, doing some deep-breathing exercises, or spending a few minutes pulling weeds in your garden.

Don’t forget to take your lunch hour. That one-hour break can be very refreshing and be the gateway into a fruitful afternoon working session. A 5-10-minute power nap during the noon hour can also be of benefit.

[ Read: The official coronavirus insurance review ]

5. Set healthy boundaries

If you have other people at home with you, the close proximity to each other can lend itself to many distractions during the workday. They may feel inclined to approach you regularly since you are readily accessible to them. It will be difficult to not be available to younger family members that can’t fend for themselves yet, but older children and spouses need to be gently reminded that when you’re working…you’re working.

A television, music playing in the background, and talking can easily distract most of us when we’re trying to concentrate. Don’t be afraid to gently remind family members that you’d appreciate it if they would keep the background chatter to a minimum while you’re working. Noise-canceling headphones might be a good investment for you.

6. Stay connected

It’s easy to fall into isolation when you work from home. Before you know it, you’ve gone a week without talking with anyone outside of your family and your immediate supervisor.

You probably miss some of the office banter that you used to find irritating. Maybe sitting back and chatting with the person in the office or cubicle next door was stress-relieving and enjoyable for you. They probably miss it as much as you do, so don’t hesitate to call them on the phone, or do a Skype or FaceTime call. Maintain your relationships so they’re intact when you do return to your office.

Make sure to keep in touch with coworkers, while also practicing social distancing.

7. Be patient

It may take some time to get into a routine that works for you. This new format of doing work from home will require adjustments that you didn’t know you’d have to make. You may need to talk with friends or family that are used to working from home and find out what some of the productivity hacks are that they use to keep their work at the standard of excellence they aspire to.

Bottom line

You can do this. Remember that you’re a successful professional in your field and you can be flexible and adapt to change that comes your way. This is a great time to shine and show your management team that you can self-manage yourself and produce work that is praiseworthy even under the most difficult of circumstances.

Jack Wolstenholm is the head of content at Breeze.

The information and content provided herein is for educational purposes only, and should not be considered legal, tax, investment, or financial advice, recommendation, or endorsement. Breeze does not guarantee the accuracy, completeness, reliability or usefulness of any testimonials, opinions, advice, product or service offers, or other information provided here by third parties. Individuals are encouraged to seek advice from their own tax or legal counsel.

— Published March 31, 2020
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