Meeting the Challenges of Working at Home

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By News Team on May 1, 2020

Working remotely means a shorter commute, comfortable clothes and less time spent on hair and makeup.
 
It also presents challenges that don’t exist in the traditional workplace.
 
Family members, housemates and pets can interrupt and distract you. You may feel isolated and overwhelmed by work. Either way, you’ll want to develop some reasonable boundaries with the others in your home as well as with yourself.

Neely Conner, L.C.S.W., manages Carilion Clinic's Employee Assistance Program. She offers several tips for finding balance in a new work environment.

"Adjust your thinking about how you work," she said. "Make sure your measure of success matches the reality of your situation." 

She added that being intentional at the beginning of the day can be helpful, along with being flexible should your general plan for the day change.

Here are a few tips to help you find some balance:
 
1. Have a dedicated workspace.
Having a specific place to work is useful. Find a space that you can turn into an office—even if it's just a corner of a living room or bedroom. Separating your workspace from your normal daily home life helps tremendously. If possible, aim for a space with minimal noise and clutter.
 
2. Minimize distractions and disruption.
This will be challenging if other people in your household are home as well during this time, so you may want to set a schedule for the day and share it with others.

  • Set your working hours. Try to set the hours that you will be working, and then manage your time. This helps your family or housemates know when you’ll be available. And don’t forget to take time off! It’s productive to take breaks.
  • Set expectations. Let others know what you need during your work hours. Each day looks a little different, so you may want to let people know of the times you will be on calls each day or when you will need a quieter setting. If you have younger children, consider having a color-coded system: green sticky note means “you can come in," yellow means “you can come in, but you need to be quiet” and red means “I’m on a call—only come in if it’s an emergency.”

3. Prepare to deal with distractions when they do occur.
We all know it can be difficult to focus on your work for eight hours straight, but that’s even more of a challenge when you’re in your comfort zone. Make time for short breaks just like you would at work, but don’t let those breaks turn into binges.
 
4. Set expectations for yourself.
When you start work for the day, make a list of tasks you’d like to accomplish, and check them off as you go. This will help keep you productive and focused. If there’s something on the list at the end of the day that you didn’t get to, add it to tomorrow’s list. Don’t forget to be kind to yourself during this time if you don't finish everything each day.
 
5. Set boundaries for yourself.
It can be a challenge to switch “off” from work when you don’t leave the office—or to switch “on” your workday when you don’t leave the house. Set clear intentions about work time and home time to avoid feeling overwhelmed or being “always on.”

And remember to be patient with yourself. We are all learning as we go.

"COVID-19 has immersed us in work/life integration with levels of saturation we weren’t prepared for," said Neely. "We will certainly have better practices in managing this integration on the back end of the pandemic."

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