- Rising cases of COVID-19 and social distancing practices spark more organizations to adopt remote work policies and flexible schedules for their employees.
- Working from home can be a privilege when millions of people get laid off and lose access to some of the most basic services.
- As workers experience doing their jobs in different ways, not all may find it easy to be productive.
To stop the spread of the 2019 Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19), social distancing and working from home is becoming the ‘new normal.’ Ultimately, this is to help ‘flatten the curve.’
Governments worldwide are limiting the movement of people by temporary stopping flights, encouraging everyone not to gather socially, and to just stay at home. This is a crucial time to prevent the coronavirus pandemic from causing more damage beyond our existing health care systems.
“Social distancing helped blunt the pandemic in China, and it will work in other nations, including the United States,” says Dr. Francis S. Collins, Director of the United States National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Social distancing is one of the most important public health strategies for everyone. It needs to be taken seriously to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The general public plays a vital role in this pandemic.
Establishments such as schools, restaurants, and gyms have closed down to keep people in their respective homes. This, along with other recommendations by various government units, is supposed to encourage compliance to social distancing.
Social Distancing and the New Normal
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends maintaining at least a one-meter distance (or three feet) from anyone who is coughing or sneezing. On top of this, staying at home is also highly advised.
Benedetta Allegranzi, Technical Lead of the Infection Prevention and Control Unit of the World Health Organization, gives several recommendations to limit human contact and reduce transmission rates.
Aside from social distancing, the WHO recommends the following:
- Wash your hands frequently
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth — all of which are entry points of the virus
- Practice respiratory hygiene by covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing; and
- Seek medical care early if you have fever, cough, and difficulty breathing.
While experts are at a consensus that the spread of COVID-19 cannot be halted, it can still be slowed down significantly. This will give governments more time to conduct mass testing and other necessary measures to mitigate COVID-19.
The World Economic Forum reports that countries like Italy, Spain, France, and Germany have seen cases multiply every three to four days. For the rest of the world, controlling the rise of cases is essential to avoid the paralysis of several healthcare systems.
Social distancing and orders of staying at home have cratered economies, more so the lives of citizens. Such preventive strategies have become the norm. It has given rise to something called the social distancing economy.
With the globe experiencing intense trade-offs between public health and economic vitality, not all can stay at home. New studies are quick to show the effects of social distancing. It showed that we must take social distancing seriously in our daily lives.
Working Successfully from Home While Social Distancing
Rising cases of COVID-19 and social distancing practices spark more organizations to adopt remote work policies and flexible schedules for their employees.
Social distancing means maintaining a greater-than-usual physical distance from other people. Avoiding gatherings with ten people or more is applicable not only in public but also at home, especially if a member has travel-related exposures.
Working from home can be a privilege when millions of people get laid off and lose access to some of the most basic services. However, for some of us who can, it is one of the things we can do to avoid worsening the pandemic.
As workers experience doing their jobs in different ways, not all may find it easy to be productive. Here are some tips to help increase productivity at home in the time of COVID-19.
Establish your modes of communication with your teammates and housemates.
When you work from home, your bosses and co-workers have no idea what each of you is doing. This may ultimately lead to forms of unnecessary micromanaging and unfound worries.
Instead, you can let your team and housemates know your office hours and stick to them. Having clear communication will allow your workmates to understand when you are available while your housemates can avoid bringing interruptions while you work peacefully.
Create a workspace that works for you.
Assign a space that you can use and set up as a home office. Ideally, this is a space where you can shut the door and get rid of other potential distractions. This can also be a space that could send your housemates signals that you are busy with work and must avoid distractions.
If possible, create a distinct work-only area so that as soon as you sit on your working desk, your brain eases into a working mode. Having a table and an office desk where you can relax and work comfortably while having the things you need just within your reach can be very helpful.
Taking a shower and changing clothes from pajamas to fresh, casual, day-to-day clothes will also prepare you for the tasks ahead. This allows your mind to distinguish between your personal time and work.
Instead of feeling cozy in your pajamas or working in bed, you are more likely to succeed in doing work in an environment that does not resemble your bedroom. More-so, having an ergonomic arrangement can keep you comfortable while being productive.
Set a daily schedule and stick to it.
Making a schedule that’s direct and easy to follow is very important. It can help you be accountable to deadlines and stay productive up until the end of the week.
“It is tempting to work for 30 minutes and then put in the laundry, then work for an hour and watch your favorite show on Netflix,” says Angela Hall, a professor at Michigan State University’s School of Human Resources and Labor Relations.
This is an example of how easy it is to be distracted while working at home. In managing your time wisely, it is crucial to maintain consistent working time, as well as waking up at the same time every day.
Avoid procrastination, task-switching, and doing a daily chore simultaneously with work. Having a daily strategic plan can help a lot to guide you. Update it every now and then to stick to your daily priorities.
Set goals and time limits for each task. You may cross it down after its completion. Tasks not related to work can be included so you can sort your work and personal time better. This technique can be both productive and fulfilling.
Follow a morning ritual.
A day of hard work should begin with some positivity. Not only will it set the mood for the rest of the day, but it also promotes a better mindset and outlook in life.
In the past, waking up is followed by preparing for and traveling to work. Nowadays, you are left with more time to do other things in place of what used to be a part of your routine while going to the office.
It can be tempting to slide your laptop or phone in bed to check your emails upon waking up, but this habit is not sustainable. Instead of jumping straight to work, you can enjoy a morning routine filled with meditation, journaling, and reviewing your tasks for the day.
Create boundaries and set limits.
“Set boundaries for family, roommates, and even your pets! You need to set up a quiet area in which you can have the least amount of distraction and interruption from others, including our four-legged friends and kids,” says Hall.
Indeed, it is best to set some clear boundaries with your family or housemates when working at home. It can sometimes be a challenge to make them understand that the work you do at home is as important as what you do in the office.
Just like how you should do with co-workers, let them know your schedule and ask them to respect it. These can help avoid interruptions and unnecessary tensions, which may result in better performance at work.
Manage your time with Pomodoro.
The Pomodoro Technique is useful for avoiding distractions. It uses a timer to break work into 25-minute intervals each, separated by short breaks. Each interval is called a Pomodoro, the Italian word for ‘tomato.’
This technique encourages breaks, which are essential for productivity and better mental well-being. The 25-minute breaks also induce you to work and focus within the timeframe since it usually tends to go by pretty quickly.
Avoid distractions and watch your social media use.
There can always be distractions while working, regardless of the place and environment. In working at home, there can be a whole new set of things you can do, which can easily take you away from tasks at hand.
Mindless use of social media and other electronic devices for things unrelated to work can consume a lot of your time. It is best to avoid distractions and focus on getting more work done.
It can be helpful to schedule time for checking emails, engaging in social media, and taking mindful breaks. Choosing which notifications to keep and to mute until the end of the day is also a strategy many people use to be more productive.
Remember to sanitize your tools and equipment.
Aside from setting the rules above to promote distancing while working, it is essential to check your tools as well. In light of the COVID-19 issues, fewer businesses are open and could cater to specific needs.
With alcohol, water, cloth, and some cotton buds, you will be able to sanitize your tools and equipment. To do so, simply wipe screens and surfaces with an alcohol mix (50% water and 50% alcohol) with a cloth. Do so gently.
You can also clean edges and unreachable crevices of your work devices with cotton buds. It is also essential to make sure that your devices are turned off while you are cleaning them. Do not forget to wash your hands afterward.
Take a break, stretch, and drink water!
It can be easy to lose track of time and miss lunch and water breaks when you are too busy working. Setting the alarm for lunch, stretching, and breaks can help you give more time to eating healthy food and keeping your energy levels in check.
Working in an office means having spontaneous breaks. At home, it may not always happen, but they are helpful in boosting productivity. For example, five to seven-minute breaks every 30 minutes can help improve your focus.
Drinking more water, eating healthy food, and boosting your immune system are also ways to avoid COVID-19.
Know when to turn off.
“Working at home may make you feel that you are always at work. So, set limits when you will read emails, do meetings, and write reports. Always being ‘on’ is a surefire way to burn out,” advises Hall.
Admittedly, it can be hard to stop working when you know there is still time to do so. If you are working in a limited space, you can try doing different activities after a hard day’s work to relax your mind.
Otherwise, you can build the habit of relaxing in your bed and never bringing work while on it. This will condition your mind and body to have a distinction between your personal and work hours while you are at the confines of your home.
Even with all these tips, being productive while working from home can be challenging.
Have a Self-Care Checklist
If you feel like you are having a hard time, do not judge yourself. Let your employer or team leader know and figure out a system that works.
Since all of us should be supporting each other right now, here is a simple example of a self-care checklist to avoid productivity stagnation and burnout.
- Meditate in the morning or before going to sleep
- Practice deep breathing when feeling anxious
- Try out new home workouts
- Read a good book
- Take a break from social media
- Try a new recipe to cook and eat nourishing food
- Do a craft project
- Connect with family and friends via online apps
- Clean or organize your space
- Value stillness and use psychological practices to manage your stress
Staying honest and fair to ourselves is key to success in doing remote work. With much luck, social distancing can prove itself to be effective. Once this happens, we can all go back to our daily routines sooner than later.
Working from home offers many benefits and conveniences, but it may also mean not leaving home for several days at a time. Minimal social interaction can affect people and how they perform
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