The ability to shut the office door as a signal that you cannot be interrupted does not work in quite the same manner when working from home, particularly if you have small children. These seven tips may help make your workday be more productive at home during COVID-19.
1. Create the right kind of space.
The perfect scenario would be a home office in a secluded area of your home, but this may not be possible for many because you do not have an extra room or because small children require close supervision. So, if you use the dining room table as an office, put office supplies in small vessels and keep those on a tray that can be moved easily. A small table with chairs gives young children a small version of Mommy’s desk.
2. Understand household routines.
Whether you have children or are home alone, set routines, and adhere to them. Very few things reduce productivity more than being out of sync with daily schedules. When you set your office area up include a whiteboard with an outline of the daily schedule. School-age children should have their own schedule and be responsible for keeping to it. If a schedule is derailed, try again tomorrow.
3. Work out who does what.
Families are like small companies and this is a good time to have all members sit down for a board meeting. Obviously, babies are excused from this one. The discussion should revolve around a list of priorities that would increase productivity. Make lists of everything important to the household. Address issues that are maddening as well as fun.
The next step is to discuss who will be responsible for each item. Talk about when chores will be done so no one can say “I didn’t know.” Small children may need some prompting, but a simple chore chart can help.
4. Have built-in breaks.
Working from home, especially with children, can be mentally and emotionally taxing. When you have read the same paragraph in a report more than three times in a row it is time for a break. Set a timer and take a twenty-minute pause. Read a book to your toddler, take the dog for a short walk, or run up and down the stairs for a few minutes. Physical movement for your kids helps de-fog your mind and allows you to focus on business more clearly.
5. Devise signals.
A part of childhood includes being “shushed” by a parent. Everyone can recall a parent waving frantically to let others know to leave the room because of an important telephone call. Those were some interesting hand gesture signals! Make sure children old enough to understand have a pre-designated signal when you must have quiet. A simple card attached to a wooden spoon that says, “THIS CALL IS IMPORTANT, PLEASE BE QUIET UNTIL I AM DONE,” will do the trick here. Respecting the quiet sign is an indication of respect for you and your work.
6. Create a family calendar.
A large family calendar can help everyone feel a sense of order. Make sure you include fun family activities as well as work schedules. Extra-large wall calendars are available online and this is an opportunity for younger children to learn days, dates, months, and years. As the stay-at-home period grows longer, a calendar can help keep adults grounded too. Current memes that have bedraggled cartoon characters asking, “What day is it?” are based on some truth.
7. Consider the importance of physical activity.
Make sure you participate in a physical activity that increases your heart rate; do this for at least 20 minutes per day. A brisk walk or a lively dance party with the kids are great ways to move your body. Physical activity improves circulation, the lymphatic system, digestion, enhances your mood, and boosts your energy levels.
Productivity does not need to be sacrificed while working from home during COVID-19; it simply means you have a different environment. Take care of yourself, organize your space and your work will not suffer in the least.
Bonus Tip: Keep in mind that virtual meetings are now a necessity. Much like virtual tours for apartments and increased online shopping are a new thing that everyone needs to adapt to in life, so are the virtual meetings with your clients and teams. That said, ensure that you have the proper technology at your home office to make working virtually as seamless as possible.