With all the restrictions that have been put in place since the outbreak of the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, many of us find ourselves with a need to work from home. In many ways, it is much more convenient to live and work in the same space. But there are also challenges — especially if you live in a household where there are now multiple family members working and/or attending classes from home.
Try these tips to reorganize your space in ways that make it easier to work from home during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions.
When you were first told that you'd be working from home full-time you were probably pleased. Your office may have allowed you to work from home one or two days a week already. So you're already set up. The transition should be easy, right? Maybe not. Very few of us are accustomed to work from home in the same space concurrently being used by our partners who are also now working from home. And don't forget the school-age children. Most are trying to complete the school year in virtual classrooms. This means that they too are "working from home". If you're lucky, you have a single home office. But many of us don't even have that. How do you keep from tripping over each other? How can you ensure that the kids have proper supervision and still create a quiet environment for yourself that lets you get your job done? There's bound to be a few hiccups While figuring it all out
Work from Home Tips
Get the Kids Settled First
Your first and foremost responsibility is to your family. Besides, you won't get any work done if the kids aren't settled. What you do with the kids will depend on their ages. Older ones can probably be trusted to get their assignments from the teacher and work independently from a desk in their bedrooms. Younger children will need more supervision. Locate them close to where you are working. Initially, this may be the other end of the dining table. But unless you can simply reallocate a rarely used formal dining room into a home office, you'll want to eventually find a space where you don't have to clear away your work-in-progress every mealtime. If they have schoolwork, make sure they do it. If they don't have any work, assign them some yourself. They can read, draw, or work on a computer. There are a lot of e-learning games that the kids can do which are educational and also fun. They are designed for pre-school and up. Download the app and get them started. My own daughter favored games from PBS's Arthur and Sesame Street during her pre-school years. She spent many hours quietly working at my side while I completed my "work-at-home" freelance projects.
Get Serious at a Desk or Table
You may see pictures of people lying in bed with their laptops or lounging on the couch while they supposedly work, but I guarantee that those people are not getting a lot done. Everyone is expected to maintain productivity while they work from home. Our economy is under enough strain as it is without having to deal with slacking off by workers who still have jobs. That means working from a desk or table just as though you are in the office. It will help your mindset that you are now "at work," allowing for better concentration. A good chair that won't give you a backache from sitting for long periods of time is also important. Ergonomics make a difference in your productivity and happiness. If you don't have a decent desk chair, get one. Our medical system is strained enough from Coronavirus patients. Doctors do not need more people coming in due to backache. Most online shopping is still available and some, like Amazon, can get you a new chair overnight. If you prefer the cushiness of the sofa that's okay. But you better make sure you have a large coffee table (not an ottoman) in front of it that can be used for working.
Make sure you have a table or desk for working with a decent ergonomic chair. The desk and chair, along with adequate lighting, have a big effect on productivity.
Create a Separate Workstation for Each Person
It doesn't matter if you're an adult, child, part-time worker, or full-time worker. Everyone needs their own workstation where they can set up and not have to worry that their work materials will be disrupted by another family member. If you are lucky enough to already have a home office, it's fairly easy to make a few adjustments and get it set up for multiple workers. If your desk is extra-large, divide it into two workstations. If not, bring in an extra chair and convert that credenza or side table into a second desk. If you have a couple of 2-drawer file cabinets, you can place a piece of countertop over them, leaving enough space in between for your legs and voilà, you've got an instant desk. You can purchase a more permanent table, or custom-made desk that blends in with your décor, in the weeks to come. The priority is to get up and running for work-at-home quickly with the things you have available now.
What to Do if you Don't Have a Dedicated Home Office:
The Coronavirus is predicted to be with us for a while. That means family members may be working from home together for some time. Ideally, you will want a separate room where you can "go to work" while still at home. But what if you don't have any empty rooms or a dedicated home office? For most people, that means making another room do double duty. It can be the dining room, spare bedroom, basement, attic, or even a closet. Select the space in your home that feels the most under-utilized. If you choose a bedroom, switch out the regular bed for a Murphy bed that can close up when not in use. This will take up less space than a sofa bed and won't wear out as fast. Think about also adding a fold down Murphy table that can be stored in a cabinet against the wall. These kinds of amenities allow the switch from bedroom to board room to be quick and painless.
This combination home office and guest room accommodates two work from home employees. The use of a queen size Murphy bed and a fold out Murphy table give the room a lot of flexibility.
The Closet/Home Office Nook:
Some people are really tight on space and don't have any spare rooms. Others may feel the need to have multiple home offices so that certain family members can be more secluded while they work with fewer distractions. In either case, the closet/home office may be the best solution for you. While you may not have any extra bedrooms, everyone has multiple closets. Sometimes it is easiest (and cheapest) to pack up out-of-season clothing and empty out closet space. Try it and, eureka, you've found an empty room in the home that can be used as a home office. And it doesn't have to be a clothes closet either. Laundry closets often make good home office nooks. In fact, any reach-in or walk-in closet can be transformed into a home office (with the possible exception of the broom closet). Entry closets near the front door are frequently another good choice for a closet to office transformation. Most families find it more convenient to keep their coats and jackets near the back door or in a mud room anyway, leaving the front entry closet under-utilized and ripe for a closet to office transformation. This type of home office is generally small, allowing only one worker. But what if everyone in the home has their own? Now that's a nice work from home arrangement that even allows for recommended social distancing practices!
Stick to a Schedule to Better Separate Your Work from Your Private Life:
Privacy can become a real issue when you work from home. It's very easy to lose the boundary between home life and work life if you're not careful. Sticking to a schedule can help with this. If you usually work 9-5, try and make those your at home office hours as well. Some flexibility may be required if you have young children at home. Come to think of it, I used to get a lot of my best work done after the kid's bedtime because it was quiet and free of interruptions. The important thing is to have a regular time when you are on-duty and available to coworkers. You should also have set times when you are not available to be contacted about work. It's all part of a healthy work-life balance that can get a bit tricky when boundaries are blurred. Mealtimes especially should be reserved for family. Since everyone eats lunch at different times, try and let your coworkers know the specific timeframe that you will be unavailable.
Working from home is definitely a mixed blessing. But with a little extra effort, we all can make it work. Social distancing is the new reality. We all need to follow the Governor's mandate and do our part to slow the spread of the Coronavirus. We are currently surrounded by a lot of gloom and doom, but we are also surrounded by each other. Take advantage of the added "togetherness" at home. Enjoy the time spent together with your family members. Life is changing and we all need to adapt in order to stay safe in this brave new world. Working from home is only a small part of the strategy, but an important one.