Chances are, you or someone you know is facing the reality of working from home as a way to help stop the spread of COVID-19—and if you’re not now, you may be soon. Challenging as it may be, self-quarantine is one of the best ways to help keep yourself and others healthy during an outbreak.
But if you’ve never worked from home before, you may be wondering how to set up your space to stay productive during this period of time—especially since you may be in it for the long haul. Below, we’ve rounded up expert advice on the subject to help you make the best of it.
The Washington Post has a great simulation that shows how social distancing helps to “flatten the curve” of the disease, meaning that it keeps the outbreak to a manageable level that won’t overwhelm the healthcare system all at once.
Set up your home office
First, you need to establish a base of operations. If you’re lucky enough to have a spare room or even a dedicated home office to work from, great, you’re already off to a good start. If not, you’ll need to get creative. Look for low-traffic areas with easy access to power outlets, good lighting, and a flat surface for your laptop or notebook. Is there an underused corner of the kitchen you can decamp to? A quiet nook in the living room? Try to avoid working from your bedroom or in a room with a TV, as that can make it hard to stay focused.
Is anyone else in your household working from home? If your work styles are compatible, working from the same room can make you feel less isolated. If you need to work separately, try playing music or a familiar movie in the background for some ambient noise.
And of course, you’ll need supplies. Depending on the type of work you do, you may need:
Your computer (don’t forget the power cable!)
Peripherals like a mouse,a keyboard and a monitor, if you use them (and connecting cables too)
Reliable internet access
A webcam for video conferencing
Specialized software for your job
Helpful tips from NPR include everything from getting your technology in order to staying in contact with people to finding and focusing on the positives of this new situation.
Get into a routine
Working from home can make it very tempting to finally tackle one of those little home projects you’ve been putting off (or do a quick spring clean, or check the mail or do a little gardening). Resist the urge by sticking to your work schedule as much as possible. Do you usually dress up for the office? Put on a blazer, even if no one’s going to see it, recommends The New York Times. Take a lunch break instead of snacking from the couch. The more you act like you’re still at work, the more you’ll be able to focus and get things done.
Another important part of your workday? The end. At home, “work time” and “free time” tend to bleed together, so it’s important to set boundaries where possible and put your work away when you’d normally go home for the evening. Working around the clock is a recipe for burnout, so adhere to your schedule when possible.
Stay in touch
If your job involves a lot of meetings, you may already use video conferencing software like BlueJeans, Zoom, Hangouts Meet or Skype. If not, it may be a good time to start. Video conferencing can be a good way to connect face-to-face when you can’t meet in person, and it helps alleviate some of the feelings of social isolation, according to The Guardian.
Fortunately, many companies are responding to the crisis by making their collaboration tools available for free. Zoom has removed its time limits on some video calls, Microsoft Teams is offering a six-month free trial and Slack will continue to offer a free tier to anyone who needs it. For companies that already use Google’s G Suite, Google announced that it will make its premium features available for free.
Can’t function without your morning latte? Now is a good time to finally learn how to use that espresso machine you got for the holidays. As tempting as it is to step outside for a quick bite or some much-needed social interaction, it’s important to stay inside as much as possible. Also, check your calendar for any events further down the line that may be affected, such as conferences or speaking engagements. If they’re not already canceled or moved to video conferences, they may be soon. Try to postpone any flights or vacations you have scheduled. Again, the goal is to come in contact with the smallest number of people possible over the next few weeks.
Already have travel booked? Airlines are waiving change fees and adjusting their policies to accommodate booking and cancelling flights, according to Business Insider. (Keep in mind it can take hours to get an agent on the phone to adjust travel plans.)
Only take what you need
While it’s a good idea to stock up on the essentials, please don’t take more than you need. Stockpiling essentials like toilet paper and water leaves your local stores depleted and your neighbors without vital supplies. Buy just enough for your household and consider sharing with neighbors in need.
While you may not be able to treat yourself to a manicure or dinner out for a few weeks, you can still support the small businesses in your neighborhood by buying gift cards, which you can redeem when it’s safe to mingle outside again.
This time will undoubtedly be challenging, but it is possible to set up an effective workstation from home. All it takes is a little creativity (and possibly a good coffee maker).
Hippo Insurance Services cares about you and your home. We do not claim to be experts on the Coronavirus but want to provide you with a resource to guide you, your family and your home through this difficult time. If you have questions, please use credible resources such as the Centers for Disease and Control (CDC) to find answers. If you think you or a loved one is sick, please quarantine yourselves and call your doctor, or call 911 in an emergency.