Working from home? Here’s how you can ease into it without losing track of productivity

BOSTON — Working remotely might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but drastic times require drastic measures.

After the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus a global pandemic, businesses and schools across the country have decided to close down in efforts to curb the spread of the virus. Entire countries are on lockdown and containment efforts are well underway - even though it’s still unclear what new developments are ahead of us.

Many businesses have asked their employees to work from home, but for those who are used to an office environment, that transition could prove to be a challenge at first.

However, some people ordered to work from home have opted for doing their work in co-working spaces or in coffee shops - defeating the purpose of avoiding large crowds.

To help with the feeling of isolation, companies are using videoconferencing and other technology to give people face to face contact.

“It’s not a substitute for physical presence unfortunately but at the same time it is something in the interim that we can use more of," said Boston College Developmental & Educational Psychology Professor Usha Tummala-Narra.

For those used to working in an office space, transitioning to working from home can sound daunting. While at first it sounds like a dream come true, soon many realize it’s a lot harder than it looks. Working on your own requires not only a lot of discipline, but also understanding time management since you’re not “clocking in” or out.

“The source of stress is just how to make the right decisions following the public officials’ recommendations," said Olivia Mathews, of Newton.

Transitioning into working in more solitary workspaces will take a toll on people, but thankfully technology has advanced to the point where, since a lot of people work from home, it’s easy to stay connected and on track of your work.

“Because we really as human beings need to be around each other in order to feel a certain sense of connection and belonging," said Tummala-Narra.

Working from home presents the unique opportunity of using more digital tools and getting in touch with digital communities. Skype is a great tool to use for video conferences and even just to interact with other coworkers also working remotely. Other online meet-up rooms and hangout spaces can act like a giant online think-tank, as well as using communication servers like Discord.

“We are just taking it a day, a week at a time and then revisit," said Newton.

According to Julianna Costa, a content strategist and copywriter, you should treat online meetings like normal, face-to-face meetings. Engaging in a friendly chat and establishing real social contact with the people on your call is important to maintain a sense of normalcy when working remotely.

Before scheduling meetings, set an agenda and email everyone ahead of time, to make planning easier and to ensure you have all your materials and are prepared. Muting your microphone when you’re not speaking in a group teleconference is crucial, says Costa.

When it comes to actually doing the work, set your hours and time yourself - working in 35-minute increments while allowing yourself short breaks can boost productivity. Track your productivity so you can learn when you’re most productive and use that in your favor. Once you’ve established when its easier for your to get your work done, you’ll have a better time committing to getting the bulk of your work done then.

Start with big projects first and then ease into doing the smaller stuff afterward - it’ll be easier to get those things out of the way with major work already done.

Emails will increase as it’ll likely become one of the only forms of communication between you and your co-workers, so make sure you answer them in chunks - don’t try to answer them throughout the day or you’ll lose track of them.

Finally, Costa suggests you should still dress up like you would if you were still going to the office.

“It gives you the illusion of being serious about your work and increases productivity,” said Costa.

All in all, it’s about establishing a routine like you would during the week going to the office. Pick a spot in the house where you can do your work and treat it like your own workspace.

“I think if it is a routine you rely on it’s probably a good idea to stick with that," said John Kuhnle, of Bedford.