Working from home might sound easy, but for some it might not be so simple. Agatha Parks-Savage, EdD, RN, Associate Dean of Graduate Medical Education and Professor of Family and Community Medicine at EVMS, shares tips to eliminate roadblocks before they appear.
Tip 1: Learn what’s expected
By now, many planning meetings have been held to address working from home. “The expectations need to be clear and spelled out in writing between you and your supervisor,” Dr. Parks-Savage says. “It will be helpful to predetermine a virtual office meeting date and time. And with today’s free technology for phone and video meetings, the possibilities are just a click away.” She also recommends spelling out your specific work hours. Are you expected to be available to talk between certain hours or on weekends, or to check emails on Sunday?
Tip 2: Dress to do work
Continue your normal morning routine and dress for work, Dr. Parks-Savage says. “The physical act of going through the motions of going into the workplace will tell your brain it’s time to work now,” she explains. “OK, maybe not dressing in a coat and tie or putting on those dressy shoes for the board meeting, but change out of the sleepwear and into comfortable work attire for the day.”
Tip 3: Designate a work space
Sitting on the couch with the TV on in the background and your computer on your lap might seem like a good way to get work done. But Dr. Parks-Savage says it might be challenging for your brain to distinguish between working and binge-watching Netflix. Instead, she says, sit at a table, open the shades and have the supplies you need handy to get the job done.
Tip 4: To break or not to break?
Schedule your workflow for the day and include breaks. “You should be doing this anyway, so you aren’t sitting at your desk for long periods at a time,” she adds, “Working from home is no different.” She also suggests standing up periodically, stretching your legs, walking up and down the steps, hydrating and scheduling your lunch break.
Tip 5: Stay connected with those at work
“Because we’re social distancing, you can’t meet with colleagues at a local coffee shop to review work plans,” Dr. Parks-Savage says. “But you can still stay connected with online and phone meetings and live video calls.” She also recommends scheduling connection times in your workflow so it becomes part of your schedule.
Tip 6: Balance work and family
Your significant other, children, pets and anyone else in your home become part of the cast of characters who have now entered your work zone. Communicating with them is essential. Start with a one-on-one meeting with your spouse or significant other.
“Whether you’re both working from home or it’s only you, explain what you both need to get your work done,” Dr. Parks-Savage says. “Include a discussion of work hours, expectations from your supervisor, “do not disturb” times, dedicated work space, plans for caring for the kids (meals, play breaks, assignments and homework), who takes Fido out for walks, prepping meals and doing house chores.” She says the better you plan ahead with your significant other, the more efficient you’ll be.
Meeting with your children is the next step. Most children will need time to adjust to being a student at home and your working from home at the same time. “You know your children best,” Dr. Parks-Savage says, “so adjust the message to fit their level of understanding.” Here are several talking points to include:
- Children are accustomed to schedules at school, so use a schedule at home. Studying and attending classes from home does not need to be a free-for-all. This might need to be a daily schedule for the week that is posted where they can see it.
- Designate play times with technology, snack and lunch breaks.
- Communicate the boundaries of your workspace. When and how they’re allowed to enter your work zone will be important to convey. Talk through scenarios so your kids know the difference between “need to talk to you now” versus “it can wait for a moment.”
Tip 7: Call in reinforcements
Reach out to extended family and friends. You might need an extra set of hands at home, and it’s OK to ask for the help.
Tip 8: Be flexible and kind
“This event we’re experiencing is making history,” Dr. Parks-Savage says. “We’re new to all of this, so give people the time to vent and share their concerns. Kindness goes a long way.”
Tip 9: Make the best of this time
“Make lemonade out of lemons.” “The glass is half full.” “Keep calm and carry on.” These clichés can help reframe your thinking about the challenges we face. Focus on what’s working well instead of what’s not working. Remember, “misery loves company.”
Tip 10: Consider professional support
There’s no shame in seeking professional support. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, Dr. Parks-Savage recommends reaching out to a licensed mental health practitioner for your well-being.
Agatha Parks-Savage, EdD, LPC, RN, Licensed Professional Counselor, Professor of Family and Community Medicine and Associate Dean of Graduate Medical Education at EVMS.