5 Tips for Working from Home During the Coronavirus OutbreakLast Updated by Chase Williams on March 19, 2020
With a global pandemic making its way through the population, countries around the world are closing their doors and suggesting companies switch to remote-work mode. This considered, you might quickly find yourself in a sticky situation: working from home.
To those unfamiliar, it may seem exciting or even daunting initially. However, once those chores, pets, and other attention-sucking things start stealing your focus, you could easily become overwhelmed
Here are some quick and easy tips to help you focus and make sure you keep working as normally as possible – for as long as it might be necessary.
The chances are that your colleagues are probably working from home, too (or will be soon). That means it’s no longer as easy as popping over to someone’s desk to ask a question, or having a quick chat by the watercooler.
You still need to communicate with other people – and surprise phone calls can be long and draining, not to mention inconvenient. Chat software provides an alternative yet solid, reliable solution. Whatever you choose, always make sure that you’re using secure tools for work.
- Secure messaging
Not all chat platforms are created equal. Avoid the distracting lure of Facebook and other social platforms, and stick to communicating with more secure options, such as Signal or Telegram.
- Secure email
Whether or not the government is tracking you, keeping your privacy when it comes to email messages is something you need to be thinking about. Tutatnota is an email platform with high-level encryption.
- Collaboration software
A great SaaS tool can be conducive to better workflow and communication across your organization as a whole. The most popular option by far is Slack, with alternatives such as Chanty and Fleep giving them a run for their money.
- Video conferencing solutions
If you have a schedule filled with in-person meetings, video conferencing apps will quickly become your go-to solution. You can take advantage of Google Hangouts and Skype, which are more prevalent, but have relatively less functionality when compared to more modern competitors. There are more flexible options, including BlueJeans, GoToMeeting, and Zoom, that include better features for co-working, internal teams, and access options.
2. Stay Secure
Because you might not be aware as to just how far your workplace goes to keep their information secure, you might find yourself an easy target for hackers once you go into quarantine or work from home.
More likely than not, if you’re on a work computer or a company-issued mobile device, you’re probably already set up with some basic essentials for protection. As a business owner or executive, you’ll also need to ensure that these measures are in place for your team.
- Secure your connection
If you don’t have one installed already, ask your designated IT person about a VPN. It will help ensure your work activity is secured. Public wifi – whether you’re accessing a local hotspot or sharing with a neighbor – is more susceptible than your own private network, but a VPN will protect you from threats on both.
- Secure your cloud
Having a top-notch solution for cloud security (CASB) can keep access to your cloud-based data limited to only authorized team members across the board.
- Don’t install unauthorized software
If you’ve brought your work laptop home, don’t install any software that isn’t work-related and don’t use USB keys without being sure what’s on them.
Mixing business with pleasure? In some cases, you may not have much of a choice.
- Check for malware
Check that your antivirus software is up to date and scan your home computer or personal cell phone for any malware.
- Keep your passwords safe
Utilize a password manager to keep up with the best practices of using different safe passwords across the web.
- Use a VPN
As we mentioned before, a VPN will keep your information encrypted as you work throughout the quarantine – plus you’ll have the added bonus of accessing the entire Netflix catalog of content around the world once your workday is done.
- Close applications running in the background
Don’t use any software or apps that are not related to work, including keeping them running in the background. Also, avoid downloading new, unrelated applications during this time.
- Don’t save without authorization
While you’re working from your personal computer, avoid saving any of your work-related data, aside from what’s absolutely necessary to work.
- Keep things separate
If you’re using a shared computer, create a separate workspace. Create a new user for the computer, if possible. If not, create a new browser session with your work-specific information and for work only – and don’t forget to log out each time!
3. Preventing Burnout and Cabin Fever
One secret that all people who work from home regularly will tell you is that you need to get out and about, change your scenery. Unfortunately, if you’re quarantining yourself (either actively or not) during the coronavirus outbreak, that might not be an option.
A way to prevent this is to keep to a structure:
- Create Separate Spaces
Set up your home into zones – the work zone, the rest zone and the eating zone. It doesn’t matter how big your area is – it could be a room, a studio apartment, or a whole floor of a house – make sure that you have distinct places for each purpose – eating, resting, and working. Stick to these zones as much as possible, and your brain will reset itself to align to each.
- Keep a Routine
Stick – as closely as possible – to your usual workday routine. Whether that’s taking your break at 11 and your lunch at 1pm, your day shouldn’t change just because you’re at home. Try to keep to your usual coffee/bathroom schedule too, as this will help you stick to the other parts of your day as usual.
- Stay Hydrated
This is especially tricky for anyone who struggles with this at work. Rather than refill your cup of water every so often, keep a jug close to you so you don’t need to get up (and be potentially distracted) when you need a refill. Try to drink one glass of water at least once every two hours, if not once every hour.
- Get Fresh Air
Open the windows and enjoy a cross-breeze. Keep the curtains peeled back and the blinds up to allow as much sunlight as possible into your quarters. This will help ventilate your home, keep it smelling fresh, and allow you to avoid feeling like you’re stuck in a stuffy box all day.
4. Set Daily Goals
While during the workday in an office environment you’re likely surrounded by people who’ll keep you on task, or remind you where you’re falling short (or have some human interactions, at least), working from home doesn’t necessarily afford the same luxury. As such, you need to make sure that you set yourself goals, and hold yourself accountable.
- Start the day prepared
Take 10 minutes at the beginning of each workday to go over what you need to do.
- Create 3 big goals
Choose up to three significant goals to accomplish during your workday, and break these down into smaller tasks.
- Track your accomplishments
Cross off each task as you complete it. At the end of the day, look back at what you’ve achieved and be proud. Then assign yourself tasks for the next day.
- Move from big to small
Start with the biggest, most daunting task first – getting it done earlier in the day will give you greater sense of achievement, and prevent procrastination or postponing it.
- Manage your tasks
Do some research into free online software options to keep you on-task: free sites like Todoist creates interactive to-do lists, complete with scheduling and reminders, while sites like Trello allow you to visually plan your goals, all for free.
5. Avoid Distractions
If your kids are quarantined with you, this might be a little tricky, but if it’s pets, chores or the TV that’s drawing your attention away, then luckily there are some easy preventative solutions:
- Place your pets in another room
If they cry, make sure they have everything they need – toys, water and otherwise. If they have separation anxiety, play some relaxing pet music on speaker – you might even enjoy listening to it too!
- Keep the kids busy
If you have small children at home or the schools have switched to virtual classrooms, you’ll learn that they can quickly become the number one hindrance to getting your work done. For those who need to complete homework, make sure they have their own designated space and device, if possible. For the little ones, keep them busy with kid-friendly arts & crafts at a separate table.
- Create a schedule for household chores
If dishes, laundry or otherwise are on your mind, remember that you’re still on a workday schedule. Stick to a timetable, and either start or end your day with those dishes – doing them during a break in the middle of the day may only serve to distract you further!
- Avoid any tempting entertainment
Other distractions, like TVs, gaming devices, and streaming sites, can quickly become problematic. Although it might be tempting to just reach for the remote and binge that new series you’ve heard so much about, don’t. This is still a workday for you, and you need to segment your day into appropriate activities during the quarantine period. If you can’t stand the quiet, put on your favorite Spotify playlist or keep the news on at a low volume in the background.
- Take designated snack breaks
This is easily one of the most dangerous threats when quarantined: however active you usually are, procrastination-by-snacking is something that you need to work hard to prevent. Just as with the TV remote and devices, put any potential snacks in a high-up cupboard (even better – put them towards the back, with other items in front of them) to add potential blockades for yourself.
Bottom Line: Keep on Track While Working From Home
Although it might sound like fun to the uninitiated, working from home can be really tough – especially if you’re not working from home by choice.
Keeping yourself focused, hiding or avoiding distractions and making sure that you remain secure online are the quickest and easiest ways to prevent cabin fever, until you can return to the office.
And one thing’s for sure – once you’ve worked from home, we guarantee you’ll be more than happy to eventually return to the office … and whoever thought that could have been possible?