The year 2020 changed the way many companies and therefore, employees, conduct business. Employees were previously accustomed to dedicated office spaces, personalized office equipment, and separation between their professional and personal lives. Today, however, about 4.3 million people in the United States work from home at least half the time, mainly due to the new social distancing rules that are in effect because of COVID-19. Remote work is a great alternative to working in-office, especially in today’s climate, although there has been an adjustment period for many companies and employees.
Employees are at greater risk of decreased productivity and burnout while working remotely because they are in a different environment and relying on their computers and other devices more heavily. This also means that employees may struggle to learn new time management skills during this time. In order to provide the best support for employees during the pandemic, suggest they use these 5 tips to better manage their time.
Keep a Detailed Schedule
It may sound pretty straightforward, but keeping a detailed schedule and project checklist with daily and weekly duties, goals, and meetings can go a long way when trying to manage time. Oftentimes, one of the first things that employees forget to do while working from home is to keep a strict routine and schedule similar to how they would in the office.
Without a daily routine and schedule, employees risk overworking themselves as they may not accomplish their tasks within business hours. Encourage employees to set personal boundaries for themselves and professional boundaries with co-workers, managers, and clients. Employees should set strict working hours and completion dates to keep themselves productive and on schedule.
Get Dressed to Start the Day
Working from home offers employees a level of comfort that they didn’t have in the office. They can wear more relaxed attire and enjoy the comfort of their home while working, but they are also at risk of becoming too comfortable or distracted.
In order to help employees maintain proper time management, suggest they dress more comfortably but still appropriately for work. Getting properly dressed in the morning allows the mind and body to enter “work mode” rather than staying in “relaxation mode”. It’s not only more professional, but it’s also a form of self-care. When employees get dressed in the morning they’re taking better care of themselves by changing their mindset and setting the tone for the rest of their day.
When it comes to dressing for work, employees will also benefit from accessories that keep them in a work mindset and decrease distractions, such as blue light glasses. Employees who wear glasses with blue light filtering lenses are blocking out the harmful light that is projected from their digital displays, which they work with day in and day out. These blue light glasses have special polycarbonate lenses that can help them avoid the negative effects that their digital displays can potentially have on their eyes and mind, including unnecessary headaches, migraines, fatigue, eye pain, and burnout. Wearing blue light glasses can help employees stay on track and focused during the work week, which will benefit both employees and employers in the long-run.
Create a Workspace
Employees should also have a designated workspace in their home that’s used for work—and work alone. This isn’t to say that they need an entire room dedicated to work because in many cases that’s just not feasible. However, they should have a customized location such as a table, countertop, or desk in their home that’s for work purposes only. Similar to getting dressed, this space will help employees feel like they are entering a “work zone”, which will promote focus and drive when carrying out their tasks.
If employees have family members or animals at home with them during the day, they can become easily distracted if they are on different schedules or don’t have a dedicated office. Employees can try using a pair of noise cancelling headphones to limit the distractions from those around them. Noise cancelling headphones will block out surrounding noises, link to other devices, and have a wireless feature, which offers full mobility throughout the day. With these headphones employees will be able to focus on meetings and important tasks during work hours instead of what’s going on around them.
It’s also very likely that most employees have experienced the other distractions that their remote workplace allows, which the office did not. These types of diversions could include access to their television, personal kitchen, and other domestic pleasantries.
Over the past few months, many employees have probably tried to accomplish personal chores throughout the day, like laundry and cleaning, since they are home to do so. However, this is incredibly distracting and can increase stress levels as it puts more on their plate within working hours. Employees should complete personal chores the night before so they can have a clear mind to focus on work during business hours. Trying to accomplish personal and professional tasks at the same time can be overwhelming and draining, which can also lead to employee burnout.
Other completely distracting items remote employees have access to are personal televisions and smartphones. While working from home there are fewer prying eyes to deter employees from using their smartphones to check personal apps or social media during the day. Conversely, employees have likely attempted watching TV while working on something with a low priority level. These devices can suck employees in and distract them for longer periods of time than they planned, decreasing productivity. Also, once it becomes a habit to do such things, it can be difficult to stop and therefore drag productivity down even further. Companies should encourage employees to use these pleasantries during breaks if they desire, rather than during productive work hours just as they would in the office.
Prioritize Breaks and Separation
That being said, employers should make employees feel like they can take breaks and check their personal devices during the day when necessary. It should be well articulated that employees may and should take breaks to rest their eyes and minds, check personal effects, stretch their legs, and check-in with kids, significant others, or animals throughout the workday.
This is an extremely important aspect to working from home because many employees do feel as though they cannot leave their computers during business hours and others may be taking advantage of the freedom. Laying down a specific line for employees will help guide them in planning their day ahead.
Breaks should be as important while working from home as they were in the office. Many employees would stop by to chat with a coworker, grab a quick coffee, or take a mid-afternoon walk when working from the office. Working from home should be no different, employers should encourage employees to take advantage of breaks and employees should do so. Frequent breaks give employees time to readjust, which can give them more energy, reduce their stress, or inspire creativity.
Working from home can be a difficult adjustment for some employees, which is why it’s important for employers to guide them in their transition and help them manage their time just like they would in the office.