*Secondary Locations in Davenport, IA; Columbus, OH; Washington, DC; Tampa, FL; Minneapolis, MN; Raleigh, NC.
I was hired at ICONMA the first week of February of 2020, just weeks before the world shutdown at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. From the beginning, I was given the opportunity to work remotely, but little did I know that my colleagues and most of the working world would be in the same situation. While I was developing new work habits and routines, everyone else had to adapt to their own to fit a new workplace model that, even today, we are all still trying to navigate through.
The remote workplace existed before the COVID-19 pandemic; however, it has undoubtedly increased in popularity, especially for a new generation looking to start their careers. Many enjoy the ability to pack up and take your desk anywhere with a WiFi connection. It is a workplace style many people dream of as long as you’re able to get it, you can meet your deadlines and accomplish tasks in a timely manner.
After two years of working from home, I think it’s a great workplace option. It requires a lot of self-discipline while allowing me to have the flexibility to keep up with my personal goals.
Working from home may not be for everyone, and it is an option that is not likely to disappear in the near future. However, if you have good work habits and a stable routine, it is a great environment that promotes productivity, responsibility, and flexibility. Here are some tips for working from home taken from my own experiences and routines that help me stay productive and focused without feeling overwhelmed.
Everywhere you go, there will always be obstacles in the way of the task at hand and working from home is no different. As soon as you get into “the zone” and have complete focus on something, your neighbor decides to mow their lawn. These types of distractions happen to everyone and in most cases, are unavoidable.
When I come across distractions throughout my workday, I always have my secret weapon; my noise-cancelling headphones. Investing in a good pair of headphones is worth it and allows you to escape in your little world with a good TV show, podcast, playlist, or even just some white noise to regain your focus.
Another common distraction is family members/roommates. No one means to disturb you during an important meeting, but it happens. When my family is home, I give them a heads up when I have a scheduled call so they know not to disturb me. I usually let them know an hour to 30 minutes ahead of time so that it’s timely enough and less likely that they will forget.
Of course, depending on the circumstances, emergencies happen at home and should be taken care of in a timely manner.
Setting a timer/reminders
One of the best ways I prevent getting burned out is by constantly switching between tasks throughout the workday. On average, I spend about 30 minutes to an hour on lengthy tasks that usually take more than one day to complete and cycle through my “To-Do List.”
Another helpful tool is reminders and calendars. For simple “To Do List” items, I use the Reminders App on my phone, where you can set a specific time or location to notify you of upcoming tasks. All Apple devices come equipped with both a calendar and reminders applications automatically programed into the software, and both are easy to access, even by voice commands. Android also has a similar calendar application, but for mobile users looking for an alternative, check out this list of some of the best reminder apps. Calendars are great for deadlines, and you can schedule reminders at certain times to stay on task.
Keep your body moving
I’m not a medical expert, but I believe sitting in the same position for eight hours of the day is not beneficial for your mental and physical health. Your muscles start to cramp up, your eyes begin to strain, and by the time you sign off for the day, your entire body aches.
If you’ve been sitting at your desk for multiple hours, take at least five minutes to stretch. Once I’ve cycled through a good number of items on my agenda, I take a little stretch break, do a quick chore like throwing in a load of laundry or putting dishes away, or sometimes switch work areas to get some new scenery.
Don’t feel guilty about taking your lunch break
To avoid cabin fever throughout the week, try to leave the house/apartment during your lunch break if it fits your schedule. Also, finding time to run a quick errand or squeeze in a quick workout at the gym can increase your productivity and prevent burnout.
During my lunch breaks, I enjoy a brisk 40-minute workout in the park, giving me enough time to work out, enjoy the fresh air, and return for a quick snack before returning to my desk.
Living in New Jersey, the winter months always make it hard to keep up with my workout routines due to the blustery, cold northeast air and the occasional winter wrath Mother Nature decides to throw at us. My limit is 48˚F, factoring in the windchill, so I feel cool and refreshed, without coming home with a cold. For days when I can’t go to the park, I try to spend at least 20 minutes on the treadmill at home, so I still get a little physical activity into my day.
Getting out of the house for an hour makes a huge difference in my workday and I always come back to my desk feeling refreshed and ready to get back to business. In addition, it splits the day in half, working four hours in the morning and four hours in the afternoon/evening, making the workday feel a lot smoother.
It is easy to research the best methods to the work from home approach, but I believe that it is not a “one size fits all.” Every company runs on its own work schedule and has its expectations for their remote work employees; however, it is up to each individual to take those expectations and find what routine works best for them and fits their timetable.
From my own experience, the most important factor of being productive while working from home without overwhelming yourself or getting distracted is to keep track of how much time you spend on each task and keep your mind and body moving throughout the day. Don’t go through an eight-hour workday without getting up to stretch; believe me, you’ll feel much better if you do.
January 20, 2022