COVID-19 has changed the way America works. During this time, many people who are in quarantine find themselves working from home. Maybe you’re reveling in the opportunity to telecommute. However, if you are new to this way of working, you need to make adjustments to perform at your best.
This task can prove challenging especially if you inhabit a tiny apartment. Regardless of the size of your home or who you share it with, you can accomplish a lot with the right practices. Follow these tips to get a handle on your altered routine and take your career to new heights despite the changes.
Organizing Your Workspace
One of the most critical factors to successfully telecommute is to establish a dedicated workspace. If you live in a studio, this may be more challenging, but clearing out a corner you don’t typically use can work. You can use a folding divider screen to separate your desk from the rest of the room.
It’s important to make sure your apartment design works for you. Having a dedicated desk or table for work is a good move, but it may be discouraging if you’re staring at a pile of dirty dishes all day. Try positioning yourself toward a window or a wall with simple art so you can hone in on your screen while you work.
If you share your living space with others, distracting noises can prove trickier to block out. However, a quality set of noise-canceling headphones can help you drown out your house-mates or home-bound neighbors when they slam cabinet doors and flush the toilet.
1. Technology and Security
You need a way to connect to your workplace, so make sure to get your technology in order. If you share a laptop with others in your family, go online and investigate free resources to get everyone the tools they need to stay up-to-date with their responsibilities. Some school districts will issue free laptops to children who are studying at home during the pandemic.
You also need to make sure you have ample bandwidth for necessary tasks. Contact your internet service provider and see what packages they have available. You might even be able to score a fabulous deal on faster speeds due to the current circumstances.
Finally, you need to protect your data. This includes any personally identifiable information for clients and your employer's confidential intellectual property. Make sure you have quality anti-virus and anti-malware software installed on your work device. If your company doesn’t use a VPN, speak with your employer about implementing one or invest in one for your own purposes. VPNs add a layer of security against cyberattacks.
2. Comfort and Productivity
You won’t accomplish as much if you are constantly adjusting your position to try to get comfortable. Worse, chairs that force your body into poor posture can result in chronic lower back pain and exacerbate disorders like degenerative disk disease and fibromyalgia.
If you have the budget, a variable height desk offers considerable advantages, especially if you have an existing pain issue. One study found that alternating between sitting and standing decreased lower back pain by 32%. In a pinch, you can use a stack of boxes to allow you to move around during the workday. If you find it problematic to work while standing, invest in a high-quality ergonomic office chair. If you have an island in your kitchen, try working there for a few hours during the day either on a high chair or standing.
Managing Your Daily Grind
Many workers find the lack of micromanagement in a remote work arrangement freeing. However, it’s now your responsibility to stay productive. How can you manage your daily routine most efficiently?
1. Scheduling and Prioritizing Tasks
If someone told you not to think of a pink elephant for the next 30 seconds, chances are, you’d visualize a rose-colored elephant. The same mental phenomenon occurs when you have an unpleasant task that you procrastinate on completing. The entire time you’re doing something else, it’s weighing on your mind — and you can’t entirely focus on anything else.
However, when you tackle your most challenging chore first, the rest of your day seems pleasant in comparison. Plus, you liberate your mind from the burden of remembering “I must accomplish X today” because you already did it. Make a to-do list at the end of each workday for the following morning. Prioritize your most crucial tasks first.
2. Minimizing Interruptions
Working from home can lead to bad habits if you’re not able to monitor your workflow. With no in-person accountability, it’s important to keep cell phones and other devices out of arm’s reach unless needed for a work responsibility. You can further take control of your day by using an app like FocusMe, which allows you to block time-sucking websites during work hours.
Being at home also offers the temptation to tackle laundry and other chores throughout the day. Unfortunately, multitasking has been proven ineffective again and again. Switching between tasks can create brief mental blocks that eat into as much as 40% of your productive time. This may mean you’ll feel less effective handling both work and personal responsibilities.
Instead of spreading yourself thin, try tackling apartment cleaning before or after work hours on pre-planned days. This can help you better delineate time and reduce the chaos of moving on multiple responsibilities at once.
3. Juggling Child Care and Career
If you’re in a tiny apartment with children, you could struggle with near-constant interruptions. Devise a system with your family that indicates when you need quiet work time. If your kids are old enough to read, a “do not disturb” sign on your chair can work. If they’re smaller, maybe you don a “thinking cap” — which can consist of a baseball hat — when you need to concentrate.
Are you pulling a double shift as a homeschool teacher as well as an employee? Get your children set up with free online learning resources so they can study quietly while you work. Provide them with ample tools for silent play, such as coloring books and puzzles. Build breaks into your schedule for exercise — and fun — for the entire family.
4. Taking Time for Self-Care
Keeping a healthy work-life balance is even more essential when your entire routine takes place in one small apartment. You can’t perform at your productive best if you feel drained. Recharge yourself each day by taking 30 minutes solely to yourself. Get up before the rest of the clan to sneak in a workout, or relax with a bubble bath at the end of the day.
Finally, make sure to draw the line between work and home. The boundaries can easily get fuzzy if your boss expects you to answer emails at 8 pm or clients expect project work outside your normal hours. Try to set clear expectations about your schedule and stick to set hours to reduce confusion. Not every work environment is receptive to this, but good managers should be aware of employee burnout now more than ever.
Supercharge Your Productivity While Working From Home
If you’re new to telecommuting, you will face an adjustment period. However, once you get everything organized and running like a well-oiled machine, you can relax and enjoy the benefits of kicking your commute to the curb.
Holly Welles is a real estate writer and the editor of The Estate Update. She covers real estate investment, apartment living and personal finance for publications across the web.
*Contributions are solely guest opinions and don’t reflect the opinions of or are endorsed by WYL, our staff, clients or other interested parties.