Nobody could have anticipated 2020’s huge shift to working from home. The emergence of COVID-19 has seen millions forced to stay indoors. Furthermore, many houses are packed with people, due to shuttered schools and businesses.
Getting used to working from home can prove a challenge at the best of times. It’s harder still in a crowded house, especially if the residents include Children who need education and entertainment.
This unusual situation calls for strategies that go beyond generic work from home advice. How can you protect your personal space, keep clients and bosses happy, AND maintain your work life balance?
These tips in this article will help you do all those things. Let’s have a look at them:
Be creative with your working hours
In an ideal world, we would all keep set working hours, and maintain a firm boundary between work and home life. Right now, that’s not very realistic.
Instead of swimming against the tide, think about how you can make each day work for you and your family.
You may, for example, work out that it’s better to set aside some work time in the evening. You could have fewer things (and people) competing for your attention at that time. Or, if you rise before anybody else, that could be an opportunity to get a head start on some work tasks.
Remember, every home has a rhythm. Right now it’s probably a rather loud and hectic rhythm! Regardless, you’ll do best if you ride it, rather than try to control it.
Communicate with the people you live with
Working in a busy house requires plenty of forward planning and communication. Make sure you arrange things like phone calls and Zoom conferences well in advance.
For example, if 3–4pm on Tuesday is a time where you absolutely must avoid distraction, ensure it’s in a calendar and everybody’s aware.
It might sound very formal to avoid “scheduling conflicts” with your own partner and family. But it makes for a much more harmonious existence.
Get comfortable with working “piecemeal”
It’s only natural to want to divide each day into work time, playtime and sleep time. Many of us like to tick off the work part before doing anything else.
Yet that may not be possible when you’re also trying to educate your children, cook three meals per day and stay sane!
These are not normal times. As such, getting used to an element of “stop and start” makes sense. You may not have hours of uninterrupted time again for a while — so it’s worth learning to be effective in shorter bursts.
Be honest with clients and bosses
Nobody likes missed deadlines and a lack of reliability. Allowances are sometimes made, especially for those new to remote jobs — but you still need to make the grade.
With this in mind, it’s unwise to make unrealistic promises or overcommit. It’s much better to underpromise and overdeliver. Be honest with yourself about what you can achieve, and agree objectives and deadlines accordingly.
Bosses and clients are human too. They face similar challenges in this unpredictable world, so honesty goes a long way.
Learn your tech — in detail
Technology has proved a huge saving grace throughout this crisis. Video calling systems such as Zoom help with everything from school classes to virtual meetings to social meet-ups. Consider recording and transcribing your calls to make sure you aren’t missing any important information.
Offer: ProofHub Readers Get $15 off Your First Transcript or Captions Order at Rev.com
To take full advantage of this tech, it’s well worth learning how to use it in detail. Take some time to discover more advanced features. For example, you have the ability to record calls, or to share your computer’s screen or audio with other participants on Zoom.
It is worth mentioning here that advanced tools like Rev also now offers live captioning for Zoom and it’s currently free for K-12 teachers and in beta for everyone else.
The better you understand remote working technology, the more effectively you can use it. So take the time to work through those menus, options and add-ons. Many can speed you up and ease your stress.
Be flexible about your workspace
It would be lovely if we all had our own dedicated home office. Sadly that’s not the reality for many. Even households with a permanent home worker may find themselves with two or more people competing for the office space.
Now is perhaps the time to throw away the conventional advice about a “dedicated work space.” Ultimately you need to work wherever you can feel comfortable and productive.
Make use of headphones and earplugs
Blocking out the sound of a hectic house can do wonders for your concentration. Music isn’t always the answer, because sometimes it can prove a distraction in itself. It’s worth experimenting with different options, including white noise, or simply the silence of earplugs.
Don’t underestimate the power of headphones for other family members too! Young children are often fascinated and diverted by a pair of headphones and a Spotify playlist. Obviously you must ensure the volume is at a safe level, but you could find this buys you time to finish a task.
Determine which tasks need silence
It’s well worth dividing tasks up into those that require silence and concentration, and those that you can manage in a busier environment.
Say you’re due an uninterrupted hour while your partner takes the children for a walk. Think about how you can best use that time. Don’t waste the quiet time merely checking email. You can probably do that while other people are around.
This is all about planning; Decide in advance which Activities need non-negotiable silence.
Keep your space uncluttered
With a house full of people, keeping things tidy can seem like a constant battle. But there’s plenty of scientific evidence behind the theory of “tidy house, tidy mind.”
Clutter is distracting. Time spent reducing it is time well spent. Even if you’re not a naturally tidy person, make the effort to impose your own “clear desk” policy. This still applies if that desk is a corner of your dining table.
Create diverting activities for children
If you do have children at home unexpectedly, getting the same amount of work done as before can seem almost impossible.
Let’s be realistic: it is hard. Something may well have to give. This could mean giving up some leisure time, or accepting you have to drop some commitments.
However, there are low-interaction activities that can keep children entertained. Furthermore, they don’t have to involve “screen time!” For example, treasure hunts and puzzles can take little time to arrange, but may buy you an hour or so to work uninterrupted.
It’s also little wonder that board game sales are thriving during the Coronavirus epidemic. Children of the right age will happily spend ages playing them together. Who actually wins can sometimes prove controversial!
In all honesty, many of us spend the first part of each working day catching up on news and social media. In these stressful times, both can become a “rabbit hole” that drains away time.
It’s worth working on this. Time is so precious when you’re working in a home full of responsibilities and distractions. Squandering it on Facebook and Instagram is not a good idea.
We’re not saying this is easy. If you’re living in a pressure cooker environment, the lure of comforting scrolling is strong. However, doing it when the deadlines are mounting doesn’t do you any favours.
If you get the work done first, you will find plenty of time for the other things afterwards.
Always prepare for the next day
This tip is always useful, but especially so during these crazy times:
Try to get into the habit of thinking about exactly what work you have to do the evening before. The subconscious mind is hugely powerful, and you will find it gets to work on the day ahead with no effort on your part.
Reviewing your list for the next day and starting to think about how you’ll tackle it is a valuable exercise. It’s like the mental equivalent of laying out and ironing your clothes for the office!
Forgive yourself for bad days
However hard you try, you will experience days when you simply hit a wall. Children, especially, can derail the most well-intentioned plans.
On those days when you don’t get everything done, and you forget the advice here, the crucial thing is to forgive yourself.
The phrase “unprecedented times” has become a cliché in this Coronavirus era. But they ARE unprecedented. Everybody is living with fear and anxiety. Performing at 100% every single day is unrealistic.
So cut yourself some slack. If everything goes off script for a day, it’s not the end of the world. The key thing is to bounce back, and to start off on the right foot tomorrow.
Home working brings with it a mixture of challenge and freedom. Many people are adjusting to a “new normal” at the moment. Existing home workers are getting used to having children at home. Some people out there never expected to work remotely at all!
It’s not easy, but with every day that passes you learn more about what works and what doesn’t. Many people have now been in “lockdown” for over a month, and have managed a level of productivity they never would have thought possible. That may well already apply to you.
Author Bio: Erin manages Content Marketing at Rev. She’s dedicated to spreading the word about Rev’s services and helping people understand the many uses and benefits of closed captions, transcription, and subtitles. Her one regret is that she didn’t use a professional transcription service in journalism school.
Thank you for reading this,before you go
Clap: if you enjoyed reading this article, so others can find it
Comment: if you have a question/suggestion you’d like to ask
Follow: ProofHub to read all the articles
- 25 Remote Work Tools for Happy and Productive Employees
- Pros and Cons of Working Remotely That You Should Know
- Top Attention Management Techniques While Working from Home
- Top Security Tips to Keep Your Team Safe Whilst Working From Home
Tips for Working From Home When the House is Packed was originally published in ProofHub Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.