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  • 5/6/2020

    Mid-Term Working-from-Home Refresher Course

    Here’s a riddle for you: What have some of us been doing once or twice a week for years, others among usworking-from-home-small-(1).jpg have always wished they could do, still others have been doing full-time (and tell you that it’s not always as much of a walk in the park as you might think) — and suddenly, like it or not, almost all of us have been forced to do for the past couple of months due to the coronavirus shutdown?
     
    That’s right, working from home. It’s one thing to strategically plan for months to set up a home office, complete with all the necessary furnishings, supplies, technology, and perhaps employer support for those who are not self-employed. It’s quite another thing to be required literally overnight to create a professional environment in the midst of our personal world (which has been thrown into its own state of uncertainty and chaos) and to be expected to perform a job that was not designed for nor has ever been adapted for remote delivery.
     
    By now most of us have figured out ways to function this way temporarily and have concluded that we either: a) must have been crazy ever to have wished for this arrangement; or b) have found that this suits us very well and we’d like to continue to work from home permanently.
     
    Now that we’re likely at least “mid-term” in this virus shutdown, this might be a good time to boost your morale and productivity by refreshing and reorganizing your working-from-home strategy — particularly if you found yourself in this situation with little or no time to prepare. Following are some tips based on our own experiences working from home.
     
    Identify and set up a dedicated, functional workspace. You may not have the option of an official office, but you need a space that signals to your mind (as well as to the other occupants of your home) that you are “going to work.” Whether it’s a guest bedroom or the corner of the dining room table, the location doesn’t matter as much as your ability to focus and be productive there. Be sure to clearly communicate your work schedule and your needs for privacy and lack of interruption with others in your household.
     
    Maintain a morning routine. You are not on vacation. It is not the weekend. It's essential to have a morning routine that allows your mind to shift from home to work, especially now that work is at home. 
     
    Get dressed. It’s easy to fall into the trap of staying in PJs when working from home. You don’t need to break out the corporate attire, but changing from sleepwear into daytime clothes sends a clear mental signal that it’s time for work, and we need this signal to maintain productivity as the days turn into weeks.
     
    Schedule your time so it doesn’t “get it away from you.” Having a schedule for the day is critical to completing tasks and meeting deadlines. Having the kids at home adds a layer of complexity, but adhering to a game plan for the day will allow you to maintain balance. Make sure you have set starting and stopping times. It’s important to disconnect at the end of the day. And it’s fine to make adjustments as needed; one of the perks of working from home is flexibility. But starting with a solid plan will help keep you on track and productive.
     
    Here’s a helpful tip I learned recently from productivity expert Ellen Goodwin. As an economic developer, I always have a lengthy to-do list, with many tasks that are equally important and urgent. It can be almost paralyzing, and create a productivity logjam. Ellen recommends, when we have a short window of 20 minutes or even an hour between other obligations, writing down a list of the tasks and numbering them as we go. Then, simply and literally roll the dice! Instead of wasting time fretting over which task to fill that window of time with, do the one next to the number that you have rolled. This eliminates the fear of choosing poorly and losing time with indecision. So keep your dice close by and when you feel yourself being slowed down with indecision, simply roll the dice and get busy.
     
    Don’t forget to schedule time for breaks. It’s too easy when working from home to get lost in your work and not move for hours, but the result is that you are likely to become mentally and physically lethargic and achy. Get up and take a quick walk around the block, do some yoga, hop on the treadmill or put on your favorite tunes and do a little dancing. Both your mind and your body will thank you for reenergizing them. You can also use time on the phone to get moving. I do some of my best thinking while talking to clients as I walk the neighborhood.
     
    Eat regularly and healthfully. Another mistake many of us make when working from home is skipping meals and/or snacking all day. Either of those scenarios is likely to have undesirable consequences. One of the bright spots of our current work-at-home lifestyle could be the opportunity take lunch breaks with family members or roommates, or over Zoom or Skype with a friend or coworker.
     
    With a little planning and an open mind, you can emerge from this unprecedented time with a new appreciation for those who work from home. You might even find that you like it enough to join the club. I wish you good luck and hope you enjoy a safe and productive work-from-home experience. 
     
    Dave Quinn, Fairview Economic Development

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