Office Closed by Coronavirus? 5 Tips on Working From Home Productively

by Christy Bieber | Updated July 17, 2021 - First published on March 18, 2020

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Woman Working on a Laptop With Her Dog

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Find out the secrets to getting stuff done from a seasoned work-at-home professional.

Across America, millions of companies have ordered employees to work at home in an effort to reduce the spread of a novel coronavirus known scientifically as COVID-19. 

While you'll be in a different environment during the weeks or months that social distancing lasts in our efforts to combat the virus, you'll still want to be a productive employee during this time of economic uncertainty.  

Fortunately, as someone who has worked from home literally my entire career, I know that you can get just as much, if not more, done as you can in the office. You just need to follow a few simple tips to make sure you're as productive as you can be.

1. Stick to a routine

Working from home may seem like a chance to lounge around in your pajamas and work around your family's schedule. But the reality is that it's really difficult to get everything done if you don't have a set workday and make it a point to restrict work to specific hours of the day.

To make sure you transition to work mode, develop a new morning routine to replace your commute. My routine is getting up, walking the dogs, having breakfast, and settling down to work. But your routine should be something that works for you -- just as long as you have something you do every day to transition from home to "work" and have the same dedicated hours set aside each day to do your job. 

2. Create a dedicated space to work

You'll need a quiet place where you can focus on the tasks at hand if you want to get work done. If you don't have a home office or an extra private room, you may have to get creative. One of my work-at-home friends put a desk in her closet to create an office space without disturbance. 

I use a table on my screened-in porch so I can get out of my house and into a peaceful space where I'll be less likely to have distractions. You can do what works for you, but don't try to get your job done in the middle of a bustling kitchen where your family will be coming in and out all day. 

3. Tackle the tough stuff first 

If you aren't at work in an office, you won't have someone holding you accountable for your hours, so it's easier to procrastinate -- especially if you have a project you're dreading. 

I find if I have work I'm not looking forward to, I can end up spending all day messing around on the internet just to put it off. But if you force yourself to do the task you want to do least first thing in the morning, getting everything else checked off your to-do list is a lot easier since it's all downhill from there. 

4. Make sure you have childcare 

With schools across the country closing their doors, there's a good chance you'll have your kids at home with you while trying to work at home. Unfortunately, you cannot be productive if your children are distracting you. 

If you have a spouse or partner, try to arrange your schedules so one of you is with the children while the other is working. If you're a single parent, see if you can partner with another close family member or friend to trade off childcare. However, you don't want to risk spreading the virus by doing this, so commit with your childcare buddy that you will both practice social distancing and, as much as possible, avoid seeing other people except for each other and your kids. 

5. Find a way to touch base with your colleagues

It can be lonely working from home, and this can impede your productivity. It's also harder to get stuff done if you don't feel you have people to collaborate with -- especially if you're used to working in a team environment. 

Fortunately, there are tons of tools you can use to touch base. I check in regularly with my colleagues on Slack. If your company uses this communication tool, make sure you have it installed and check for updates throughout the day. 

Video conferencing software such as Zoom and Skype also makes it easy to have face-to-face time. Ideally, you can schedule meetings often with coworkers you need to work closely with. 

Don't let coronavirus impede your ability to work

COVID-19 is already leading to financial uncertainty and high unemployment. You don't want to put your job at risk, so be sure to follow these tips so you can remain a valuable employee even when working from home. While your boss will likely understand if you aren't working at 100% during this stressful time, there's no reason you can't make telecommuting a success. 

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