5 Steps to Master Working from Home (WFH)

John A. Vardalas, CAE
Founder/CEO The American Boomer Group

The Covid-19 Pandemic has forced many changes on American businesses and the workforce. Due to shutdowns and social distancing, millions of employees have been laid-off or forced to work from home. For many employees remote working is now becoming a trend and the new normal.

When you are used to driving to work every day (especially with a hectic commute), sitting through long meetings, being in crowded spaces, and the constant interaction with staff and sometimes temperamental technology, working from home can sound like a great alternative.

It’s a great option to have but working from home can be stressful, as it takes a special kind of discipline and flexibility to make it work right. This is especially true if your spouse or companion is also working from home or if you have children that are out of school.

If you are a “newbie” to home-office life, I offer these “5-step” suggestions to help you transition, manage, and “cope during Covid” to make “WFH” go smoothly.

1. Designate a Work-only Space

You might be tempted to set up shop on your kitchen counter, in your bedroom, or in front of your TV but chances are, you won’t get too much work done. Do what you can to find a private dedicated space to make your own, away from traffic and commotion so you can focus. It will make you more productive and will allow you to separate your work from your personal life.

2. Make a Schedule

Set a time to work and stick to it. Try doing shift work; an AM and PM schedule. Be flexible with yourself to maintain a work-life balance. Sometimes you will need to extend your day by working early morning or late night, depending on your business. Make sure to get a proper amount of sleep to be in line with your extended work schedule, if needed. Once you set your schedule, keep everyone at home and at work in the loop. Set boundaries and maintain a regular routine of work hours, if possible.

3. Prioritize Your Work

The key to bring productive while working from home is to prioritize your work load. Set aside time at the beginning or end of each day to list out the key things you will need to do. Focus on your list as much as possible and avoid distractions. If you have time left over tackle the other to-dos. Likewise, make sure your daily goals are realistic given your overall mood, schedule, and responsibilities. Try to keep the list shorter rather than longer to motivate yourself each day of having all items “checked” off and set small rewards once a certain goal is achieved.

4. Build in Some Exercise

Working from home will disrupt you regular routine. Make exercise part of your new schedule. You’re not moving around as much as you did at work, going to meetings, moving from one part of the building to the other, or stopping off at your local health club. Schedule some sort of physical activity on your to do list/calendar or set a reminder on your smart phone. There are numerous ways to work out at home, especially since many health and fitness gyms and experts have put their workout routines online for free.

A simple activity is engaging the outdoors. Going for a walk or bike ride (depending where you live and stay-at-home regulations), stretching your legs, and simply getting some fresh air and direct sunlight can do wonders to help de-stress.

5. Be Social/Eat & Drink The Right Stuff

Unless you are self-employed, working from home can feel isolating and perhaps lonely, especially if you get your energy from your co-workers and other people. Schedule social time with others and use chat and video platforms if you need real-time interactions.

Its important to maintain the right nutrition while working at home. Avoid “quick-grab” junk food and stay hydrated during the work day. Stay away from too many distracting trips to the kitchen for snacks. Stick to regular meal times and healthy foods. Don’t over eat or drink alcohol. A recent survey indicated that one-third of all US employees who are working from home drink during the work day. Similar work space rules should apply to stay coherent, aware, and productive.

My final suggestion: Get your work done—then have fun. Cheers!