Working remotely is fast becoming the norm.  For those of us who have been doing this for several years we have mostly fallen into routine.  Though even some veterans of virtual work are still not where they should be when it comes to mastering this dynamic.

Due to the recent COVID-19 lockdowns more and more companies are turning to remote work. For many this involves a massive change in working routine especially because you now need to separate work from home, while in most cases working from your dining room table. There is also the factor of family and other responsibilities we may have.

Pre COVID-19 it was difficult enough but once the children had gone off to school and your spouse had gone to work, we were able to settle down for a good few hours of productive work whilst they were gone.

For many the dream of working virtually has turned into a nightmare. Working in your living space is not as idyllic as it may sound.  Many of us are confined to houses or apartments with family members, children, or roommates who have their own work or school demands.  You are trying to navigate your way around the different tools that are required to continue a smooth flow of productivity and not having the resources you are accustomed to at your fingertips.


Here are a few tips to help you in your transition:

Designate Your Workspace

You may be fortunate enough to have a space that can be created for the sole use of your work or you may not.

  • The most important thing is to separate your “home” from “work”. So by this it means, don’t work from your bed or in a space that is used for family time and relaxation.
  • Create a separate corner in your home, however small, and set up a workspace from there. Even if it is the dining room table.  In your mind this is the space that is used for working and not leisure.
  • If the space is needed after working hours then make sure that your tools required for work are moved into a separate corner at the end of each work day and set up again the next day. This might sound like a mission but is actually good practice for your routine.
  • As wonderful as it may sound to have your children and/or spouse all sitting at the same space and working together, this is not realistic. You each need to have your own space to work with no interruption.


Create Routine

  • Get up at a reasonable time, the same time every week day.
  • Get dressed, don’t sit and work in your pajamas.
  • Start and finish work at the same time every day. Do not go back to your work desk after hours and try to catch up.  This tends to be unproductive and you will end up burning out.  It is imperative to separate your work from leisure and ensure you switch off from your work and have time to relax.
  • Have a plan for your day. At the end of each work day set aside 30 minutes to create a task list for the following day. Make sure to follow this as best as is reasonably possible. At the same time, don’t be too rigid.
  • Try not to overschedule yourself – make sure to include breaks. So have your breakfast before you go into your workspace, take a lunch break in the garden away from your work space. Even go for a short walk to clear your mind.
  • If you have children who need attention or assistance with school work, this can be worked into your schedule. You can also create schedules for them.


Don’t Get Distracted

  • Save your social media and social calls with family and friends for after work time. It is very easy to get distracted and when you look again you have spent up to an hour, if not more, on this and it is then very difficult to get back into the mind space you require for work.
  • Try not to worry about how the house needs to be cleaned, washing done, dirty dishes etc. If you are working from an office this normally waits until you get home.  Try to keep the same mindset and put all of the housework as part of your after-hours schedule.


Use Your Virtual Tools

There are many tools available to ensure smooth workflow and help to keep you focused while working virtually.

  • Use a time keeping tool so that you can see exactly what you have been working on each day.
  • A scheduling tool is essential to ensure that you know exactly what needs to be done each day and mark off when it is complete.
  • Communication with your colleagues is still imperative. There are many apps out there which enable us to communicate and share our information virtually to ensure that we are still in communication and there is nothing falling through the cracks.


Make time for healthy habits

  • If you find that you are constantly back and forth to the kitchen for food and snacks, set up a routine for eating.
    • Have your breakfast before you start work.
    • Pack a lunch for the next day and only eat that.
    • Keep a water jug on your desk and make sure to stay hydrated. If you are going back and forth to the kitchen for water you will be tempted to grab a snack while you are there.
  • Include exercise as part of your daily schedule.
    • Take a walk after lunch.
    • Set your exercise hour for straight after work, so say 4pm, shut down your computer, get dressed and do your exercise. If you don’t do this you will get distracted with chores and other responsibilities and you will be too tired to exercise.  It also creates a great break between work time and leisure time.
  • Your mental health is also extremely important.
    • Try to meditate for 15 minutes in the morning and again in the evening before bed time.
    • Do not stay up late binge watching TV. Make sure you are getting enough sleep.
    • If you live alone ensure that you do spend time with others.

Yes the initial transition is difficult that is for certain.  But it is possible and can ultimately be incredibly rewarding and freeing if done in the correct way.

Don’t expect perfection in the initial stages but continue to work on your routine and eventually it will be perfected.  You need to give yourself time to adjust and figure out your schedule.  If you keep up your good habits, you will never look back.