The coronavirus outbreak has drastically shifted global business priorities and operations, marking the greatest change to the status quo since World War II. Employees and contractors have started working remotely: Instead of commuting to the office, millions of people now commute only to their kitchen table.
For most, it’s a mixed bag: Some may prefer the privacy and convenience of home, while others might be pulling out their hair, trying to work amid a thousand distractions. Either way, it’s crucially important to stay home, as social distancing policies like remote work have been associated with double-digit percentage decreases in the transmission of diseases like COVID-19.
It’s tempting to dump your laptop, notepad, and coffee mug on the nearest open space, since there’s nobody around to tell you to clean up your workstation. But our brains can only digest so much sensory info, and a messy or cluttered space can push them to their limits.
There are many benefits to a clean, organized workspace, including fewer distractions and less stress. It may be necessary to be brutal about your space, boxing up extraneous stuff for storage, or even renting a dumpster to ditch the clutter once and for all.
The work will be worth it: Minimalism doesn’t just boost your attention span, it also keeps you organized. (You’ll never have to wonder where you put that important report.)
American writer Will Durant, referencing the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle, put it this way: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” We can’t all be excellent workers, but we can all govern our habits.
Plan a regular schedule that requires a level of commitment you can readily match. You don’t need the discipline of some CEOs who wake up well before dawn, exercise like Olympic athletes, and never watch a second of television. Instead, shoot for a more attainable routine — one you have a hope of maintaining long enough for the habit to take hold.
Get a whiteboard or notepad and write down your tasks and daily schedule. Give yourself flexible time to complete objectives, and redistribute the schedule the next day if you find yourself needing more hours to get it done. Once you find a routine that fits, commit to it, and watch your days become much more productive.
Psychologists agree that the human mind can’t stay focused on any one thing forever. Breaks are crucial for anyone’s workday, allowing time to recharge, refocus, and get your mind off your inbox, even if it’s just for 15 minutes. A short drive can be great for your mental health. Roll down the windows, play some music you like, and drive barefoot (which is perfectly legal in all 50 states), even if it’s just for a lap around the block.
Breaks are just as important for work at home as they are in an office setting. You can plan periods of downtime if you like, or take them spontaneously when you notice your attention or endurance faltering. Just make certain that you aren’t cheating yourself out of the focus you need — even when you’re under a strict deadline.
Despite what La-Z-Boy ads might tell you, the human body wasn’t meant to sit in one place for hours on end. Thanks to 10,000 years of progress, we no longer have to spend hours hunting wildebeest for our next meal — but our bodies haven’t quite learned that yet. They’re still built to function best with a variety of movements. The problem is, modern life has restricted our movement to the point where most of us spend almost all day on our rear ends.
Frequent movement is one of the greatest gifts people can give themselves, in any situation, and it offers a bevy of benefits for stay-at-home workers as well: less anxiety, less discomfort, less stress, less grogginess. An investment in movement will pay off with greater happiness and productivity, whether you burn calories at a treadmill desk or set an egg timer that reminds you to get up and walk around every hour.
Most businesses already used a cloud system by which employees could airdrop everything from sales reports to performance reviews. Those that didn’t, however, recently found themselves behind the 8 ball once half the planet started working remotely.
A quality cloud storage account can help business teams perform better by leaps and bounds. Not only does it connect people from far away, but it also ensures security, makes operational policy clear, and makes certain that all deliverables are met on time.
What’s more, the cloud can set up a business for that golden time in the future when the coronavirus pandemic has passed: Employees may return to the office, but will still need to be able to complete tasks from the field, on business trips, or when meeting new clients and customers.
Not all work needs to be done on spreadsheets — nor in person. The human connection we enjoy in an office is an unsung part of what keeps the business wheels turning. Networking among peers, former colleagues, customers, mentors, and industry figures doesn’t need to stop even when restaurants have shut down. In fact, the more social distancing takes place, the easier it is to leave a major mark on a person with a simple contact.
A note to a work partner can give you a break from the ordinary while working from home, whether you want to brainstorm a new company operation or gossip about the company CEO.
There are lots of ways to not just network, but also promote a company brand: A customized tote bag with a matching phone pop socket inside is a helpful present that can ensure your business gets attention every time the recipient looks at their phone. (Which, by the way, is something we do dozens or even hundreds of times a day.)
The spread of the coronavirus means happy hour has gone from “let’s have a good time this evening” to “wish you were here.” Departments that once met for pitchers and pizzas can no longer gather at the nearest watering hole, but that’s no excuse to remain distant once your team hits a key objective.
Instead, get everyone together for a virtual happy hour every week or two to stay connected socially. Co-workers can often be great friends; there’s no excuse to deprive yourself of their company just because you no longer sit down together at office potlucks.
The coronavirus outbreak has forced us to think differently in so many areas, but that’s what successful businesses already do. In some ways, this is just another challenge that requires innovation. It doesn’t have to be all gloom and doom. Instead, it can be considered an opportunity to adapt and pave the way for greater success, during the current pandemic and beyond.