The shift to remote working and online learning for millions of people has brought many new challenges, from how to work Zoom to what attire is appropriate for working from your living room.
You’ll get different answers depending on who you ask, but these questions only scratch the surface of the profound changes to people’s daily lives.
What does it mean to be productive when you spend all day on your couch? Where does your work life end and your home life begin? How can you possibly keep a work-life balance when there is no physical delineation between the spaces?
The experts agree that the most important of being productive while working from home is keeping a schedule – ideally the same schedule as your one at the office, if that’s possible. Do everything that would have helped you be productive before, but understand that adjustments will have to be made.
“Your routine will change,” writes Jen A. Miller in the New York Times, “and you will need time to figure out how to accommodate those changes, like making coffee at home if you’re used to picking it up on the way to work.”
Heather Havrilesky, writer of the Ask Polly column for The Cut, advises that the best way to strike a work-life balance is to set (and stick to) a clear stopping time for your work, after which you can do something pleasurably, like reading a book or playing a game.
“Don’t let emails or assignments invade your leisure hours, or you’ll find yourself distracted or rebelling against work during your work hours, writes Havrilesky. “Trying to squeeze in extra work after hours can destroy your productivity the next day. You’ll have a clearer head in the morning, so save your work until then instead.”
And if your manager or boss is asking you to check in at all hours of the day, it is important to remind them of the hours you work. Remember, it’s an adjustment for them too.
As Alison Green told BBC News, “managers are suddenly managing everyone remotely – and some don’t know how to – so they micromanage, or want multiple check-ins every day. I’ve heard from people whose managers wanted them to stay on video all day long.” In their efforts to ensure productivity, these managers are actually hindering it.
A large part of being productive is knowing when it is not going to happen. According to Havrilesky, “it’s all about figuring out when you’re the most focused and energised and exploiting that time as much as possible. Efficiency over chair-warming!”
So, the next time you feel like beating yourself up for not being as productive as you should be, give yourself a break. The best advice I can give you, both in this situation and in general, is to have compassion for yourself. It may never be easy, but it’ll get easier.