When the coronavirus pandemic appeared in the United States in the late winter of 2020, emergency orders enacted by governors across the country resulted in millions of people suddenly working from home. They had little time to prepare for the shift, either physically, mentally, or logistics-wise.
As the end of 2020 approaches and the coronavirus is still a huge concern, employers have extended their work-at-home plans. While some state they will have employees in the office again in 2021, others have decided to make working at home a permanent arrangement.
For people whose lives revolved around commuting to work and working in an environment with many other people each day, transitioning to a home office isn’t always easy. Below are several tips for how to make this process more seamless and perhaps even enjoyable.
Create a Dedicated Space to Separate Work Life from Home Life
One of the more challenging aspects of working from home is not being able to make a physical separation between a personal life and business life. At-home workers who share space with a partner and/or children need to have clear communication and boundaries about work hours and the physical space allotted to work.
Using a spare bedroom for office space is ideal because it allows at-home employees to close the door to distractions from family. However, not everyone has that option. When no separate room is available, employees must stake claim to part of the living room, dining room, or even a corner in their own bedroom.
When choosing a work area, it is important to find the area of the home with the least distractions to help improve concentration and productivity.
Take Advantage of Technology to Stay Connected with Co-Workers
Team managers should have established a schedule by now for the group to meet electronically instead of having in-person meetings at the office. This should occur consistently to keep everyone updated with their team’s progress and to obtain new information.
It is also important for team members to connect socially to avoid feelings of loneliness and isolation. People can rotate the responsibility of setting up a virtual happy hour or check-in just to see how each person is doing. Although office talk is likely to come up, the goal of these virtual meetings should focus on increasing human connections.
For teams that felt especially close, suddenly working from home without knowing when they will see each other again can feel traumatic. Regular check-ins help to secure these important relationships.
Consider Soundproofing the Home Office
The background noise and distractions that occur when working from home are often quite different than working in an office. From neighbors sawing tree branches at 7:00 a.m. to delivery service employees knocking on the door, paying attention while working from home isn’t always easy. Even small, repetitive sounds like a dripping faucet or the hourly gong of a grandfather clock can make concentration difficult.
People who have never worked from home before may not be aware of the potential noises that can distract them. The easiest way to find out is to sit in the designated workspace for a short time and listen for sounds. Work-at-home employees won’t catch every possible sound this way, of course, but it should clue them in on repetitive sounds that may end up being a nuisance.
When shutting the office door or speaking to family about not interrupting fails to block most noises, the next step is to install acoustic foam around the walls of the workspace. Employees should check with their employer, but the cost of any soundproofing efforts for a home office may be reimbursable. If not, the employee should be able to deduct the cost on next year’s tax return.
Invest in Earbuds with Active Noise Cancellation
People can’t very well wear earplugs all day while working from home, especially when they need to make phone calls or participate in meetings. A growing number of earbud manufacturers now offer wireless in-ear devices with active noise cancellation (ANC) that traditionally was only found in bulky headphones.
These ideal earbuds for work offer effective noise-cancelling technology while still allowing people to hear the sounds they need such as the speech of others. The sound fidelity with these earbuds product is sharp and crystal clear. Should an employee need to step out for lunch or errands, they can adjust the earbuds to the new environment and continue to hear pure filtered sounds.
Even though the mass number of people working at home happened due to necessity and not choice, the trend should only grow larger. Following these tips allows everyone to make the most of it, whether they felt excited about setting up a home office or not.