I don’t normally invite guest bloggers, but when Jessica Larson emailed me, I was intrigued. She has a great website of her own. Go check out her article about being a mom and solopreneur. Thanks for reading. ~ Bridget

This “work from home during a pandemic” thing caught most of us entirely off guard. As employers scrambled to develop a safe work situation for their employees by sending them home, employees scrambled to figure out how working from home and being productive can mesh. By now, you might think you’re getting into a groove and you can handle this, but if not, we have some great tips to help you continue to navigate these uncertain waters.

Reassess Your Work Space

If you didn’t originally have a home office available, you’ve probably gotten really creative at establishing a workspace in the past few months. The space you’ve carved out may or may not be ideal. But since most employers don’t know how long they plan to keep their employees at home, consider giving yourself a workspace worthy of the work you do.

You can start this process simply by clearing out clutter. Sharing your space with junk is an almost certain productivity zapper. If you have friends or neighbors in your community who are also in need of some decluttering, why not consider sharing the cost of a dumpster? A medium-sized 20-yard bin can hold about six truckloads of debris, which could be enough capacity for everyone’s cleanout.

Double Check Your Internet Capabilities

Before you began working from home, you may have felt satisfied with your internet abilities. Your WiFi had your back when it came to Netflix bingeing and your kids’ Fortnite marathons. Now that you’ve added online learning for your children, videoconferencing for work, and possibly running huge work-related platforms from your home computer, you may find yourself thinking, “What is this, dial-up?”

This might be a good time to check in with your internet provider and ask about upgrades or replacing components that could make your WiFi faster, more secure, and more reliable. Now is not the time for sketchy online performance. Your sanity and your productivity depend on reliable internet access.

Take Care of Hardware/Software Issues

Even if you brought your double monitor and ergonomic keyboard home from work, you can’t handle your workload without the requisite technology. If you need to upgrade your external mic or grab some noise-canceling headphones, see if your company will pay for the purchases.

Also double-check that you’ve got the latest versions of the software you need. If there are clunky moments in your daily operational functions, load the software that will help you iron them out. And if you’re set up with an account, the cloud can keep your working files secure and accessible from anywhere.

Plan Out Each Day

If you’ve experienced a few days of “quarantine oblivion,” that’s OK. PJs all day, “Tiger King” binges, ice cream for dinner? We understand. We aren’t judging. But just remember, every day can’t be like that. At this point, you should definitely be working toward your personal new normal.

Making a plan and sticking to it is the best way to keep yourself on track so you don’t feel like each day is just slumping into the next one, with little variation. Using checklists, schedules, and check-ins with co-workers will help you decide what needs to get done. It’s OK if you can’t get to everything every day. Just make sure you’re making some forward progress.

Editor’s Note: Here is Bridget’s YouTube Video on Time Blocking.

Set a Check-In Schedule

One of the dangers of working from home is the inclination to fall off the radar as far as communication goes. In a traditional work environment, it was easy to stay in touch because you were seeing your co-workers every day. By now, you’ve probably realized you need to communicate from home much more intentionally.

Make sure you set reminders to help you remember your meetings. And keep in touch with your clients, too; social distancing doesn’t have to mean total isolation or the end of business as usual. Remind your clients that you miss them by sending them each a handwritten note and a fun branded item with your company logo on it.

Take a Break

One of the perks of working from home is you can customize your day. If you’re having an off day and need to take a long break, do that. Sometimes our brains just need to disconnect for a while. Don’t be scared to take advantage of your new work-from-home freedom. Do you need to shut down the computer and go for a drive, for example? Do it.

A short drive can be great for your mental health, and it doesn’t violate any social-distancing rules. Roll down the windows, play some music you like, and even drive barefoot if you want (perfectly legal in all 50 states), even if it’s just for a lap around the block. You’ll come back refreshed and ready to work.

Create End-of-Workday Boundaries

One of the biggest traps in working from home is the temptation to be available at all times. Everything is right there at your fingertips, so it’s difficult to ignore an email coming through your phone at dinner, asking you to hop online and deal with some work-related issues “for just a moment.” Then one thing leads to another, and before you know it, you’ve been at your computer for hours, your dinner is cold in the kitchen, and your family is getting ready for bed. This is not a good work-from-home balance.

When you were working at an outside location, you left work when you left work. Then you went home to be with your family or friends. These days, you probably need to muster a tremendous amount of self-discipline to set strict end-of-day boundaries for yourself. Once you shut down your office for the evening, leave it alone. If an email arrives after hours, let it sit until work begins the next day. If you do this, you’ll be able to bring more energy and motivation with you the next morning to tackle whatever needs attention.

Working from Home and the New Normal

We’ve all heard the phrase “new normal” till we’re sick of it, but it’s an unavoidable fact.

This is your new life right now.

Quarantine may ask us to acclimate to dozens of weird experiences, and some are easier than others. But at the very least, you can take some steps to rock your new work-from-home career.

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