Lately, many entrepreneurs find themselves commiserating as they face prolonged periods of working from home. They miss the interaction with team members and clients. Many may be struggling with keeping their wits about them while spending an unprecedented amount of time with their significant others and children, who also have been mostly homebound thanks to the pandemic.
The COVID-19 crisis has turned our world and work upside down. Business owners who before found it difficult to balance their professional and personal lives face even greater challenges now that the blurring of lines has been exacerbated by coronavirus restrictions.
I wish I had a magic serum that could make it all better for everyone dealing with the frustrations. Alas, I do not. However, I can share how I’ve managed to survive and thrive during this new normal. Hopefully, the tips that have worked for me will also help you navigate your work-from-home challenges. I’ve broken them down into three distinct areas of interest to help you hone in on the tips most relevant to your situation.
General words of wisdom for working from home successfully
The following tips provide some general advice to help you put your best foot forward as an at-home entrepreneur.
1. Create a space that’s all yours
Designate a room of your home (or at the very least, a large section of a room) as your home office. By having a dedicated space that’s all yours for business purposes, you’ll have a better chance of working productively and minimizing interruptions.
2. Equip yourself with the right stuff
Make sure you have the right tools in place at home to manage your business effectively. Computer, printer, software subscriptions, office supplies, etc.—while it may be difficult to create a workspace identical to the one at your regular office, try to replicate it as closely as possible.
Also, if you’re not overly comfortable communicating via video conferencing platforms, immerse yourself in learning the ins and outs. Especially since in-person meetings are off the table for a while, talking face-to-face via teleconferencing has become an important part of doing business.
3. Dress for the part
It may be tempting to forgo a morning shower and succumb to wearing PJs or sweatpants day in and day out. After all, why not be comfortable? But I’ve found that getting dressed in my typical work attire, putting on some makeup, and doing my hair delivers a mood and productivity boost. Try to stick with your usual style routine to put yourself in a “ready to work” state of mind.
4. Find your ideal routine
You may need to experiment to discover just what schedule will be optimal for you. For me, I’ve found that the following routine keeps me focused, motivated, and de-stressed:
- Get up and get dressed.
- Check emails.
- Work from 8 a.m. – 11 a.m.
- Exercise from 11 a.m. – noon.
- Work from noon to 5 p.m.
Occasionally, I have to stray from that lineup due to work or personal responsibilities. But having a plan that I stick to most days gives me the structure I need to accomplish what’s on my plate.
5. Find time for self-care
Whether you enjoy walking, meditating, hiking, biking, soaking in a hot bath, watching movies, or other activities, allow yourself to partake in what feeds your mind, body, and soul. It’s critical to carve out time to relax, reduce stress, and refresh your mindset.
6. Embrace your newfound flexibility
Chances are you now have more flexibility than ever before during your workday. That freedom can be intimidating when you’re used to rushing around to arrive at the office, a client site, or other location by a particular time of day. As I mentioned earlier, finding your ideal routine can help create some structure. But I encourage you to embrace the opportunity to loosen the reins a bit and enjoy the leeway.
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Tips for keeping the peace while working at home with your spouse
In the Akalp household, my husband, Phil, and I are both working from home. Phil’s also my business partner, so there’s vast potential to get on each other’s nerves. Here are some tips based on what has enabled us to preserve peace and maintain harmony.
1. Have your own space
You can help avoid annoying each other by maintaining separate work spaces in your home. This can prevent you from getting distracted when your loved one is making phone calls or otherwise generating noise.
2. If you need help, ask
Tell each other exactly what you need if any household or family obligations need attention. It’s crucial during this time that you share responsibilities. If it all falls on one person, that individual may become overwhelmed and resentful. Sadly, that can impact your relationship and detract from your work quality.
3. Make time for one another
Specifically, make QUALITY time for one another. For example, consider creating a “date” atmosphere one night per week, perhaps sharing a special meal or bottle of wine. Or maybe agree to spend an hour every night curled up on the couch to watch your favorite Netflix show. Whatever you both enjoy doing, commit yourselves to find the time to do those things together.
4. Cut each other some slack
We’re all human. Therefore, we slip up, say things in a way we didn’t mean to, forget to do something, and so on. Rather than point the finger of blame at every error or infraction, grant each other some clemency. To quote the words of Axl Rose of Guns N’ Roses, “All we need is just a little patience.”
5. Broaden your social circle
I also recommend that you don’t rely solely on one another for social interaction. You’re living, working, eating, and sleeping with your partner, so give yourself some space to meet up in person (socially distanced, of course) with friends and family. Catch up via Zoom or FaceTime, or talk to them on the phone. Staying in touch with the people you care about outside of your walls will help break the monotony of being homebound.
Tips for staying sane while working from home with kids in the house
Of course, it’s not all about you when you work from home when your children are there. As a parent, keeping your kids healthy and happy comes first. Here, I’ve shared some of the ways I’ve been able to stay on top of my business responsibilities while giving my four children the love and attention they need.
1. Make a plan
Think about your kids’ daily schedules and when they will need your attention the most. Plan your workday according to when they’ll be occupied with other things so that you can focus and accomplish your to-dos. If you have young children, this can be challenging. You may need to tackle business tasks before your kids wake up, take a break during the most active hours of the day, and return to work after they have gone to bed. Where there’s a will there’s a way, so get creative to find what will work for you and your family.
Communicate your plan to your children (using a whiteboard or visuals can help) and explain that you will have to work together as a family so that everything runs smoothly. Share with them that you need time to work on business duties, and they need to stay on task with their schoolwork. Make them understand that just because you’re at home doesn’t mean you don’t have work responsibilities. Post your schedule and family members’ tasks where everyone can see it.
3. Offer rewards
After kids reach about nine years old, they likely understand the principle of delayed gratification. They can comprehend that working and planning now will provide them with benefits later. Consider offering them an incentive (given at the end of the day, week, or month) for sticking to the schedule and completing their responsibilities. Also, I have found that springing an occasional surprise on my kids for their good efforts delivers a boost of motivation and reinforces their work ethic.
4. Encourage physical activity
Children, no matter their age, need a break from their computer screens and other electronics, and an outlet for burning off excess energy. I’ve found it’s helpful to make outdoor play or exercise a part of their daily plan. For example, I make my kids train with me and my trainer daily from 11 to 12 every day. Not only does this allow us to be physically active outside, but it also gives us family bonding time. As a bonus, my kids push me to step up my workout game, which is helping me lose the extra pandemic pounds I want to eradicate from my physique.
5. Advocate catching some midday zzzs
Naps are not just for little ones; preteens, teens, and grown-ups can benefit from a quick snooze, too. Getting enough rest is a great way to improve your focus, increase productivity, and reduce stress. Older kids may reject the idea of a nap. However, I’ve found that my teens respond well to a suggestion like, “You look tired, how about lying down for a while?” When my kids take that suggestion, I’ll usually find them fast asleep when checking on them a little later.
Home is where the heart is
The time that you’re now spending at home doesn’t have to feel like a prison sentence for you or your family members. And, it is possible to manage your business successfully from home. What it takes is understanding that you’re all adjusting to the circumstances at hand—cooperate and show each other some courtesy and compassion.