These are difficult times, but we are all in it together. While concerns about our health and financial security loom, many of us are now asked to work from home, adding additional upheaval to already uncertain days. Now more than ever, we need the support of our colleagues, our clients, and our communities. CPR has team members globally, so we understand that physical distance doesn’t mean disconnecting. In terms of the convergence of need and technology, there’s never been a better time to work from home—in 2020, it can literally save your life.
The CPR team has assembled a series of helpful tips gleaned over our 25 years in business as a firm with virtual experience. From ergonomic hacks to lunch break tips, we’ve compiled our top tricks for staying focused and keeping connected from a home office. We hope this helps make your transition a little easier. By supporting each other, we can make it through COVID-19.
The Good, The Bad, and the Innovative
First, the good news: Your commute likely just got a lot shorter. Those days of a long train or car ride to the office are on hold for now. So enjoy that! But therein lies a potential risk/reward for both employer and employee.
Employers and clients know that when we work from home and don’t have to lose 1-3 hours a day commuting, there is a potential boon for everyone. A happy colleague is a productive colleague. But particularly now, with so many of us feeling under siege it’s important to understand that working virtually can create a dynamic where “we’re always at work.”
Dress for Success
We at CPR are business casual. But if your employer prefers a dress code then ours is: Just wear something. Anything!
Set a Schedule
Stick to an agreed upon schedule and resist the temptation to be responding to your employer’s concerns at 6 am and midnight! Is there really anything so very urgent that it can’t wait for you to have your breakfast? Your employer needs to remember that you have a life, outside the office—even a virtual one—and they must respect that.
Make space for yourself. Creating a defined work area can help you step into the right frame of mind to focus – even if that space is simply a corner of your bedroom or part of the kitchen table. Clear away other clutter (ahem…dirty dishes, stacks of bills, etc.) and experiment with defining boundaries by hanging a plant or two around your makeshift desk or setting up a few photos like you would at the office. And while working from the couch may seem fun on day one, trust us, this habit can eventually wreak havoc not only your mental focus, but on your body.
Some employers will have the budget to invest in best practices for your home office, and such equipment is tax-deductible for your organization. So, if your boss is onboard, by all means order an ergonomic chair, standing up work station or height-adjustable desk, external keyboard, and laptop stand. Your shoulders will thank you! You may also be able to ask your employer to reimburse you for Internet access and office supplies, which the company can also deduct. On the other hand, because the duration of just how long you may be working from home is unclear, your employer may be reluctant to invest much. While, your house may not have all the high-tech gear that your office offers, that doesn’t mean you have to physically suffer. It is possible to improvise an ergonomic space with items you already have, even without investing in office upgrades. One of our team members always stacks three or four large books under her laptop to elevate it to eye level: instant neck relief and creative inspiration! If you don’t have an office chair, try periodically switching out chairs during the day to shift how you hold your body. Alternatively, set up your computer at a high countertop or bar table for a modified standing desk.
Take regular breaks
Speaking of taking care of your body—get away from that workspace periodically throughout the day. Without the distraction of co-workers, meetings, and the norms of office life, you might find yourself a little too sucked into your computer. Suddenly five hours have gone by and you realized you haven’t diverted your eyes from the screen. Your eyes were not designed to stare at a light source 8 hours a days. Don’t forget the “20/20/20” rule: Every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This will protect your eyesight. Not only will this help prevent eye strain and headaches, when we give ourselves intentional rest, we can focus more fully when we jump back into work.
Take Meal Breaks
Several times a week, be sure to step away for 30 or 45 minutes to enjoy a home cooked meal. Eating at the desk can lead to a host of issues like overeating, higher stress levels, reduced productivity, and sorer joints. Stepping away for lunch will give you a chance to connect with home-bound family members and roomies; move your body through yoga or a short walk; and simply take care of your mental well-being for a moment. Now, the key is, remember it’s a lunch break—not an invitation to rearrange the pantry while you’re in the kitchen! When you start to feel distracted by household chores, it can help to make a list of what you want to accomplish and save it for later.
While the struggle of getting too sucked into the computer screen is real, so is the temptation to constantly step away. Distractions abound when working from home and this is particularly true if you have kids there with you. While every family will work through this tough time differently, one of CPR’s team members has set up a desk for her third-grade son next to her desk so they can “go to work” together. He does homework or reads, while she researches. This work-around has helped her son feel more connected, which in turn helps them both stay focused. Other tricks for deeper focus include using noise cancelling headphones, crafting an epic work playlist on Spotify, or burning a candle with a calming scent. Sometimes little tweaks can help us drop into work mode and tune away from the distractions of home.
Care for Yourself
In this time of emotional upheaval, we need to do more than just focus, we need to truly take care of our psychological well-being so we can be fully resourced for our colleagues, our clients, our families, and our friends. Identify your self-care practices and schedule them into your calendar every day.
We love this idea of “physical distancing” rather than “social distancing.” It’s during times of upheaval and anxiety that we need our people most. Luckily, we live in an age that supports staying connected when we are physically apart. Now is a good time set up the videoconferencing services, VPN services, and other techy tools your company prefers. The CPR crew keeps connected throughout the day in real time on Google Chat, where we share everything from research tips to inside jokes (our CEO was a stand-up comedian for many years after all!). We also hold weekly team meetings on Google Hangouts so we connect “face-to-face.” We offer work presentations and hold client meetings through Zoom, and of course we are always available via phone and email. We love using DropBox for sharing files.
If videoconferencing is new to you, take the time to test out your platform before launching into an important meeting and consider hanging up a sheet behind you, especially if that means colleagues won’t have to look at your kitchen sink. We also highly recommend hitting the mute button when you aren’t talking—no one needs to hear your neighbor’s dog barking—and while this may seem obvious, get dressed! In fact, whether you have a videoconference scheduled or not, you will feel far more productive out of your bathrobe (at least put on some yoga pants for goodness sake). If your computer doesn’t have a built-in webcam, you can always use your phone in a pinch. Most importantly, be patient with yourself. Not only is there a learning curve to all this technology, but creating a sense of normalcy when working from home for the first time is a big leap.
We’re all in this together. If you have any questions or tips you’d like to share, or if there is anything else we can do to support you during this trying time, please reach out. CPR is as close as a phone call, email, or videoconference away.