Working Remotely During a Pandemic: Tips for a New Year

I’ve been working remotely in various forms for over seven years and even I have felt 2020 to be particularly difficult. It’s not easy to stay productive and focused when there’s a worldwide pandemic! I first wrote several tips way back in 2014 (Working Remotely: I Do It, & So Can You!), and now I’d like to offer a follow-up post of additional advice that I have learned over the past few years.

One of my tips from that blog post centered around finding a coworking space. With most coworking spaces temporarily closed, and many coffee shops offering takeout only and no dine-in, options for working outside of the home are limited and not recommended. However, staying in the house 24/7 is not ideal either, as long as you take the appropriate precautions to keep you and others around you safe. Here are a few alternative suggestions to break up your workday:

  • Get outside at least once a day! “Commute” to work with a walk around the block, or get in a bit of exercise with your activity of choice. This is probably the easiest and safest thing you can do to simulate getting ready for the day. You can even go for a walk at the end of the day before transitioning into leisure/family time as well.
  • If possible, turn one of your walks into a coffee adventure and support your local coffee shops and cafes. While my morning meeting schedule can sometimes be too crammed together to do this as often as I’d like, I enjoy going to one of my local coffee spots at least once every week or two to pick up a cup of caffeine to take back to my home office.

I have found that it can be quite challenging to stop working at a reasonable hour when working from home, especially when I don’t make time to take a walk or go for a run, and it’s something I hope to improve on in 2021. It’s important to remember to take breaks, and that you shouldn’t feel the need to be 110% productive all of the time. Some additional guidelines I also try to follow:

  • If you’re fortunate to have your own dedicated office space and separate work devices, leave your work there. Except in rare circumstances, I only work in my home office. My employer also provided me a work laptop and phone, and as easy as it might be to move either device throughout the house, both stay locked in one area as much as possible. If you don’t have an office or you use your own personal devices for work, establish boundaries and consider turning off certain app notifications so that you aren’t regularly checking your work email at midnight on a Tuesday evening.
  • Set a consistent schedule and try to work the same hours every day. This is a hard one because working remotely is meant to allow for flexibility in your day. Running errands, caring for family, homeschooling children — it should be okay to break up your day so that you’re able to handle the other commitments in your life, but don’t let work take advantage of you. If you were to typically start your day at 9am at your office 20 miles away, there’s no reason you should now be expected to be up and working at 8am or 8:30am — just because you no longer have a commute doesn’t mean that you should be working longer hours. If you have to occasionally work longer hours because of dealing with a personal issue or errand earlier in the day, do it, but try not to make it a habit!

I hope you’ve found this post helpful as you look ahead to a new year of working through a pandemic. Admittedly, I’m not always great at following my own advice, so I know I’ll be returning to these suggestions often to keep on track.

If you have any additional tips for others, please leave them in a comment below! And, if you’re looking for other inspiration and tips, I recommend “7 Ideas to Improve your WFH Life” published by Office Nomads.

Wishing you all a happy, healthy, and safe 2021,
— Robert

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