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To have success working from home, a dedicated workspace can help. Family, pets and snacks can have their own space.
To have success working from home, a dedicated work space can help. Family, pets and snacks can have their own space.

How to work from home

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Five tips for staying productive…and sane

Ask any professional who works from home about the advantages of a remote setup, and they’ll likely tout several — flexibility, access to snacks, the freedom to snuggle your yellow lab or German shepherd whenever things get stressful. But there can be challenges, too, especially for newbies. 

And there are about to be a lot of newbies. 

With the spread of coronavirus, companies and organizations across the country are moving toward a remote-work model, including the University of the Delaware. At UD, classes will be taught online for the remainder of the semester. UD’s coronavirus website has information on how to make this transition as seamless as possible.

Below, we’ve expanded on these tips — snuggling the family dog not included.

  1. Get dressed. One perk of the work-from-home life is being able to wear whatever you want — or nothing at all, if you’re so inclined. But fair warning: It is possible to take the “casual” in “business casual” too far. Even if no one but the goldfish will glimpse your remote-work wardrobe, you’ll want to avoid those Garfield pajamas and the holey tee-shirt you’ve had since the early aughts. This is because of a phenomenon called enclothed cognition, a term first coined in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. According to researchers, the clothes you wear can impact your state of mind. In other words, dress like a professional, and you are more likely to perform like one. Dress like you’re gearing up for a Netflix binge? You might start eyeing the remote.
  2. Maintain a schedule. Sure, working from home means you can eat peanut butter out of the jar at 10 a.m. You can take a dance break at 2 p.m. You can answer emails while cleaning the litter box at noon. The point is, your routine is up to you. But — and this is key — you should have one. A set schedule will keep you from procrastinating and, conversely, from allowing work to consume your life. A tip from productivity experts? Tackle the hardest job of the day first, and use computer apps that block access to distracting websites (hello, Twitter) until a designated time.
  3. Have a dedicated work space. Maintaining job/life balance is tricky if you work in the same spot that you eat or sleep or practice yoga. You might find yourself stressing over emails when you should be focusing on down dog — or vice versa. So it’s important to establish a designated, comfortable place for completing professional tasks and professional tasks only. Set boundaries for fellow family members on entering this space, and do not underestimate the power of design — in a home office, a few well-placed succulents or University of Delaware pennants can go a long way. A 2010 study showed that employees with the freedom to decorate are more productive.
  4. Stay connected. Working from home can be lonely. There are no coworkers to high-five when things go right and no one to commiserate with when things do not. Email-only communication can start to feel impersonal and — not to mention — fraught. It is easy to misinterpret a colleague's tone in a written message. Touching base via audio or video conferencing can help connect you to fellow team members while sidestepping some of those interpersonal hiccups. For meeting and chatting online, faculty and staff at UD have access to Zoom software.
  5. Walk away. You don’t want to become a hermit who can’t remember the last time they left the house. It is important to get up, move around and stretch your legs — preferably outside, while maintaining appropriate social distance, of course. Research shows that taking breaks and breathing fresh air are a one-two punch for productivity. And, let’s face it, your sanity might just benefit, too. 

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