Never worked from home before? How to do it like an old pro

Your guide to working remotely as the COVID-19 pandemic continues

A woman at her laptop
A woman at her laptop (Moose Photos/Pexels stock image)

Have you been asked to work remotely as coronavirus concerns continue to sweep the country?

It seems as though that’s becoming more of a common request, and it makes sense: whether we’re talking about COVID-19, the flu or any other virus or disease, it’s always best to avoid places with a high concentration of people. You don’t want to be in close quarters with anyone when there’s a concern involving germs.

Regardless of whether you work from home on occasion or you’ve never done it before, we thought we’d pass along the following advice.

1.) Parents, make sure you have solid childcare lined up.

As the author of this article, a mother to a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old and a person who works from home frequently, I’m often told, “What a blessing. You don’t have to pay for day care!”

Well, that’s half true.

Some day cares sound insanely expensive and I would mostly hate dropping my kids off away from home all day.

But if you’re really trying to get anything accomplished during normal work hours and you’ll have kids underfoot, please note: You’ll need a babysitter, spouse or some kind of available family member to help out.

It sounded easy in your head, didn’t it? You’d open your laptop and continue to function like it was any other day -- but it’s not any other day. It’s a work day. You won’t have time to fill sippy cups, cut up fruit or chase down your kids if you’re legitimately working.

Admittedly, if you have older kids who are more self-sufficient, you might be able to hold it together longer than those of us in baby-land or the toddler years. But still, you need uninterrupted work time.

Trying to do it all is going to leave you pretty behind on the job. So enlist help! It’s a fair request.

Be prepared to pay for help, as well. If you’re nervous it’s too big of a job for the grandparents or your partner, just Venmo a sitter -- unless you want to get up at 5 a.m. to log a few hours and then stay up until midnight, finishing your shift. We all have those days!

2.) Barricade

Pick a room, if you don’t have already have a home office, and set up shop. Shut or lock the door, tell the babysitter or your spouse that they’re in charge 100% -- although, I always say, “Text me if you REALLY need," and dive in.

Let go of the idea that you’ll also be doing laundry or dishes or around-the-house stuff. Again, it sounds good in theory, but it’s not practical.

Would you do those things at work? Nope.

Get in that room and largely stay there, outside of bathroom and snack breaks, of course.

3.) Communicate your plans and expectations with whomever you’ll be around.

Do you live with a roommate?

Do you have a family?

I like to tell my husband, if he’s the on-call house person parenting our children, “Hey, I’m going to knock out six of my work hours. I’ll make dinner when I come up for air. Just wanted to let you know!”

That way, there’s no confusion about the expectation.

Perhaps if you have roommates, you could set boundaries involving loud music, having company over or anything else that might distract you from your workday. All of this is most effective when it’s done well in advance. You don’t want to blindside the people with whom you live about your new arrangement.

4.) Set yourself up for success.

For some, this might just mean a good pair of noise-canceling headphones.

For others, perhaps it’s a nicely stocked room with your coffeemaker and plenty of Post-Its.

We don’t know what your work quirks are.

But set yourself up a space that brings you joy and will help you become your most productive self. If you work full-time, you could be in this room for up to eight hours a day, which is no small chunk of time.

Make it someplace you don’t mind hanging out.

5.) Check to make sure you have separation of office and home.

This means, when you’re working, actively work. Don’t pay your bills online, give yourself a manicure or play around on social media.

I jot down my “in” and my “out” times just on a sheet of paper -- to make sure I’m really getting those productive eight hours in.

If you step away for more than a few minutes, check out. Then when you sit back down, check in. Most people are likely on an honor system, so you’ll want to ensure you’re logging your time honestly and not falling behind when it comes to your tasks.

And then when you step away at the end of your shift, try NOT to check your work email (unless there’s something you’re waiting on specifically -- this one can be hard for some people!), don’t log onto Slack and don’t do anything extra. You’re off the clock now, remember?

If you let work and home meld together too much, you’ll always feel like you’re at work, and that’s not a great feeling. Our lives need balance.

Some people swear by taking a shower and putting on work clothes, just to mentally get in that “working” zone -- or even taking a lunchtime walk around the neighborhood to clear their heads and make room for fresh air and new ideas. It’s most important to evaluate who you are, how you function, what motivates you and what would work best for your personal circumstances.

OK, what did we forget? Drop your tips in the comments!

About the Author:

Michelle is the Managing Editor of Graham Media Group's Digital Content Team, which writes for all of the company's news websites.