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Tips on working from home

Tips to help you successfully work or learn from home

The country’s unprecedented response to the coronavirus has most of the Jacksonville University community working or taking classes from home. If you’re new to remote life, these tips collected from home-office pros can help you stay productive and maintain balance.

You might need to change some habits and routines to successfully work or learn from home. You’ll have to figure out when and where to work or learn, and how to create boundaries to maintain your personal life.

For the latest information from Jacksonville University about COVID-19, please visit https://www.ju.edu/emergency/coronavirus/

Here are some tips for leading a better and more productive remote life:

1. Maintain Regular Hours

To maintain work-life balance, set a schedule and stick to it as well as you can. Of course, one of the benefits of remote life is flexibility, so sometimes you’ll extend your day or start early to accommodate someone else. When you do, sleep in the next morning or quit earlier to make the time up.

Automatic time-tracking apps, such as RescueTime, let you check if you’re keeping to your schedule. They can also help you figure out what times of day you’re most productive. You can use that information to your advantage by reserving your hours of high focus for your most important tasks.

2. Create a Routine

Deciding you’ll sit down at your desk and start work at a certain time is one thing. Creating a routine that guides you into the chair is another. What in your routine indicates you’re about to start work? It might a cup of coffee or maybe returning home after a jog. It might be getting dressed. A routine can be more powerful than a clock at helping you get started each day.

3. Set Rules With Other People in Your Space

Set ground rules with other people in your home or who share your space for when you work. If you have children at home while you’re working, they need clear rules about what they can and cannot do during your work time. And just because you’re home and can let service people into the house or take care of pets doesn’t mean other family members should assume you will always do it. If that’s how you choose to divide up the domestic labor, that’s fine, but if you simply take it all on by default because you’re home, you may feel taken advantage of, and your productivity may suffer.

4. Schedule Breaks

Give yourself adequate time during the day to walk away from the computer and phone. A lunch hour and two 15-minute breaks should be the minimum amount of break time.

Don’t short-change yourself during breaks, especially your lunch hour. You can use an app, such as TimeOut or Break Timer, to lock yourself out of your computer for 60 minutes. You can also just launch a clock or timer on the screen when you take a break. If you return to your desk after only 40 minutes, walk away for another 20.

5. Get Outdoors

Try to leave your workspace regularly and get outside at least once a day. Move and enjoy the fresh air and natural light. Take the dog for a walk. Weed the garden. Play with the kids. Anything that gets you outside.

6. Maintain Dedicated Resources, If Possible

In an ideal world, you would have a dedicated office and one computer for work and another for personal use. That’s more secure for your employer and you personally. But not everyone has an office at home and keeping two machines isn’t always realistic. Instead, dedicate a desk and some peripherals for work use. For example, when your laptop is hooked up to the monitor and external keyboard, it’s work time. When it’s on your lap, that’s personal time. You may want to go as far as creating a separate user account for work if you’re only using one machine.

7. Socialize Virtually

Loneliness, disconnect, and isolation are common problems in remote life, especially for extroverts. Figure out how much interaction you need to feel connected and included. Even if you’re highly introverted and don’t like socializing, give a few interactive experiences a try so that you’re familiar with them. If you belong to a student organization, try to get together virtually to talk about your common interests or just stay in touch. Take part in virtual forums. You might identify a connection you never expected.

8. Show Up and Be Heard

You’ll take part in video conferences, conference calls and virtual classroom activities. Be sure to speak up so everyone knows you’re there. A simple, “Thanks, everyone. Bye!” at the close of a meeting will go a long way toward making your presence known. Ask your professor a question during class rather than emailing after.

9. Overcommunicate

Tell everyone who needs to know about your schedule and availability often. When you finish a project or important task, say so. Overcommunicating doesn’t necessarily mean you have to write a five-paragraph essay to explain your every move, but it does mean repeating yourself. Joke about how you must have mentioned your upcoming day off six times already, then mention it again. Set up a video call with your colleagues, manager, or classmates once a week to check in. Make sure your professor received your assignment with a polite, follow-up email.

10. Take Sick Days

When you’re not well, take the sick time you need. Keep in mind that sometimes it’s best to rest and get better so that you can be your most productive self in the long term.

11. Be Positive

The less face time you have with people, the less they know how to interpret your tone in writing. When you are remote full-time, you must be so positive you’ll think you’re being overly positive. Do that or you may risk sounding overly negative. Embrace the exclamation point! Find your favorite emoji:  😉. You’re going to need them.

12. Take Advantage of Being Home

Working remotely comes with unique perks. Take advantage of them. Cook, bake, clean. Multi-task. Do something you love while you have the time and opportunity.

13. Don’t Be Too Hard on Yourself

Studies indicate the most successful remote workers and students are typically extremely disciplined. It takes serious focus to do anything from an unconventional space. But everyone’s attention drifts sometimes. If you find yourself working one minute and planning a gardening schedule the next, don’t reprimand yourself too harshly. Instead, ask yourself whether you do the same thing when you’re at the office or in class. If the answer is yes, cut yourself some slack, then get back to work.

14. End Your Day With a Routine

Just as you should start your day with a routine, create a habit that signals the close of the workday. It might be a sign off on a messaging app, an evening dog walk, or a 6 p.m. yoga session. Something as simple as shutting down your computer and turning on a favorite podcast will do. Whatever you choose, do it consistently to mark the end of working hours.

15. Make It Personal

Above all else, figure out what works best for you. Sometimes the answer is apparent, but other times you might need some inspiration from other people who are in the same boat. A supportive community of remote Dolphins does exist. Connect, discuss and incorporate things you think will work for you.

But most of all, keep those Phins up!