10 Tips To Work From Home Successfully During Covid19

March 29, 2020 Shauna

Work from home has consistently been gaining popularity in Canada and work over for the last decade or so. As much as 47% of employers in Canada's in service sectors have some sort of work from home arrangement.  The trend suddenly gained dramatic momentum recently due to public health concerns in light of Covid19 as for the safety of their employees and community stakeholders many more employers asked their staff to work from home where possible to effectively do their jobs remotely.

As a blogger I've been working from home or remotely for more than five years. So if it's your first time working from home you’ll face some unique challenges due to your lifestyle as well as the type of work you do. However, the core issues for most of us looking to work from home are common that can be overcome with a bit of planning.

Key benefits of work from home

The top three benefits of working from home for most employees are its;
1) Flexibility, 
2) Financial savings  
3) Health advantages
4) Tax advantages

Also, for many parents who work from home allows them to schedule their day around their family, that helps in better work-life balance and more quality time with their loved ones. On top of that the bonus of saving money on things such as transportation, outside lunches, dry cleaning, and the childcare costs.

In a recent poll conducted by Research Co suggests that more than 73 percent of employees polled say that they expect to be working from home even after the Covid19 crisis is over. Also 63 percent of the participants believe business travel can be phased out and replaced with video conferencing tools.

So if your employer has asked you to work from home during Covid19, you can use these 10 tips to successfully work from home effectively and keep yourself safe.

1.  Dress Like You Are At Work

One of the best ways to feel confident and ready for a full day of work is the dressing part and being prepared for whatever the day might throw at you. Meaning, wearing your pajamas might not be the most productive choice. It doesn’t mean you need to wear a full-on suit while at your home desk, but little things such as comfortable leggings, cute flat slides, and polished blouses to throw on when you need to take a video call are all simple ways to feel better while working. In a survey from Randstad, a global human resources firm, found that well dressed workers felt more confident compared to ones who weren’t.

2. Have A Designated Work Space At Home

When you work from home, you need to make a productive work space your number one priority. You can achieve better results and get more done in less time if you have a designated work space with everything you need close by. Deciding where your work space is located can be the most essential factor how productive you are while working. The work you do will influence the space you use; however, anyone who works from home can benefit from a space that;

  • Provide adequate sound proofing to control outside noises.
  • Has ample desk space or storage space to put keep all your office belongings such as file cabinets, telephones, printer as well as Wi-Fi or broadband equipment to connect to company network
  • Is away from high traffic areas to avoid distraction
  • Positions your desk in such a way your work is securely hidden from anyone entering the room
  • A window to see out to the backyard or source of natural light.

3. Invest In Home Office Essentials

Do you know that an average American spends about 6 hours of workday sitting on their work desk? Therefore it is imperative that you invest in suitable home office essential tools and gears to meet your personal and working style.

A. Work Desk or standing desk:

Figure out what your working style is before you start your search for your perfect work desk. This is to ensure that whatever work desk you end up settling for, will suit with your day to day work patterns. Sitting as they say is the new smoking and has been attributed to several health disorders due to longer sedentary positions. On the other hand, standing desk is an ergonomically designed table that lets users read, write, or work on their computers while standing or sitting on specially made stools. Standing desks come in different styles. Some standing desks are built with adjustable heights, so you can sit whenever they please. I am currently using mount it standing desk that is light weight, perfectly sized and fold-able that fits well for my compact space. For health conscious professionals this can be a great option.

B. A Laptop / Tablet

Perfect for home office use. If you are in market looking for something that does job of Laptop and also provides convenience of a tablet this is what you’d need. It is everything I expect in a PC with the bonus of portability ease. The Surface Pro X has been lauded for its ability to handle files like a laptop, while being light and portable like a tablet. It even uses a stylus. Surface is a competent laptop and my third purchase and I've never thought of buying anything else after using Surface Pro X. 

C. Wireless Printer 

When you are in office most of you may be used to the office printer, however when you work from home if your work requires paperwork, you may want to have a home office printer possibly a wireless printer so fewer cables you have to hide and avoid tripping over, the better. This Brother wireless color printer is not only highly rated but also is budget friendly. This means you can print from any device, including laptop, smartphones and tablets and even email the printer from a remote location, very convenient. 

D. High power Wireless Router

Now that most of us including the children are staying home, expect more stress on your wireless gear. If you have school going kids, most schools in Alberta and Canada are now actively focusing on online learning, the burden on your home Wi-Fi now needs to cater to more devices. So keep your wireless from slowing to a crawl by installing a high-powered router like the top rated D-Link Ultra Wi-Fi Router that takes care of all of my family and office needs to maintain internet speed blazing fast!     

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 4. Set Your Working Hours

Decide on what your working hours will be and stick to them! When working from home, you're your own boss or personal manager. Without things like an in-person meeting schedule to break up your day, you can be quick to lose focus or burn out. One of the biggest benefits of working from home is your ability to snooze the alarm clock and wake up naturally - you should take advantage of that where possible! However, make sure that you establish a regular sleep schedule that works for your work timings. To stay on schedule, segment what you'll do and when over the course of the day. If you have an online calendar, create personal events and reminders that tell you when to shift gears and start on new tasks. 

Do things in batches: Knock out similar tasks in one batch to maximize productivity where possible. Have a bunch of calls to make or emails to respond to? Do them all at the same time instead of doing a few and waiting on the rest. This could help clear out smaller tasks, which can be mentally distracting when trying to tackle bigger projects.

Use to do list or calendar: Several remote workers highly recommended using a to-do list or daily calendar to remember what they need to do and stay focused on those tasks. Some also used these lists as a brain dump area, so they could write out any distracting thoughts or personal to-do items, allowing them to focus on their work.

5. Minimize Distractions

For most people working from home means less distraction be it other staff members speaking loudly or people hanging out at their desks or passing through their cubicles. However, when you are working from home you may have different types of distractions of your own. If you have a barking dog or a noisy road outside your windows, consider investing in noise-cancelling headphones.

I found Apple's AirPod Pros do the work best providing not only immersive sound, best comfort but are also sweat and water resistant. And if the kids are home and you're without childcare see if you and your spouse can take turns with care that means you have to talk to your manager about flexible working hours. Another option can be the highly rated Jabra Evolve Stereo Wireless Headset. It’s hands free wireless connection provides a range of 100 foot range from your PC or laptop and 10 hours of talk time and the standby time is up to whopping 15 days. Please also check our 5 must have home office essentials below! 

Unnecessary indulgence: Working from home may also mean that unlike eating small breakfast way to the office, you may be tempted to have a bigger breakfast that may slow you down for morning meeting. Alternatively, you may normally get off at 5 pm, but your kids may come home at 4 pm, so you may need a shorter lunch so you can get all your work done earlier.

Dealing with personal calls: Some recommended simply turning off the phone during work hours, while others recommended putting the phone on vibrate and turning it face-down so you can't be distracted by notifications. These tips will help you minimize your distractions and maximize your productive times when you are working from home.

6. Sharpen Your Communication Skills 

Brush up on your communication skills. Because you’ll be doing your work remotely, you’ll need to have excellent communication skills. Often you won’t have the visual and verbal cues that normally help. You will need to make sure that you are able to covey what you mean clearly and concisely.

Even if you try to communicate frequently by video or phone calls, much of your interaction with your team as a remote worker is likely to be done in writing. You’ll be thankful to yourself and your colleagues to game up your writing skills. On top of that written content is searchable that colleagues can find easily in emails, documents or shared work spaces.

7. Avoid Multi Tasking And Stay Focused. 

Many people pride to be multi-tasking experts.  However new research is exposing how multitasking can have alarming consequences. A recent study found that found that people who were frequent media multi taskers had reductions in their brains’ grey matter specifically, in areas related to cognitive control and the regulation of motivation and emotion.

Also, when you are trying to multi-task, its easy to start one task and then bounce to another without completing the first and yet at the end of the day being exhausted without accomplishing as much as planned for the day.  So, stay focus on a task and accomplish a certain number of tasks every day. Some days you’ll be more productive than others, but overall, you’d be more productive than if you multi-task

8. Take Periodic Breaks

Usually most people don't work eight hours continuously when in the office. There are periodic breaks for coffee, short walks for lunch and chitchats with co-workers that give some respite from sedentary sitting. So just because you are working from home doesn't mean you aren't entitled to the same breathers.

Working long hours and having a tight schedule can leave you with little to no time to enjoy the benefits of these short breaks when working at home. But be thoughtful about where you choose to work and make sure to match the environment to the type of work you are doing. For example, choose an area to work for some deep thinking, similarly while sitting outside on your patio might work to respond to emails and other housekeeping-type tasks.

Stay hydrated
Stay hydrated jumping from one meeting to another when you work from home. The best way to do that is to keep reminder for your break time that I talked about above as well as use a water tumbler like this Yeti stainless steel tumbler. It’ll keep your dinnertime drink cool well past sundown or your coffee nice and hot throughout the morning. It comes in your in 7 colors so choose from your favorite colors!

In addition there are few other things that you can do to ensure you stay healthy. When you’re working on the computer it is really important that you blink and take your eyes off the screen regularly to avoid tiredness and strains to the eye. A good rule to follow is  20-20-20 rule that states every 20 minutes taking a 20-second break and looking 20 feet away.

Additionally, you don't have to sit continuously while working at your office. It's also important to move through out the day when you can. For example for some of my meetings, I take them standing on my desk or walking around on my phone.  This can help avoid lower back and the upper shoulder strain that you may otherwise feel. Also since I now have an adjustable standing desk, I spend at least 20% -30% of my daily office work standing which is not bad at all!

9. Collaborate Electronically 

Working from home can exclude you from the real office world. So, stay connected to the world around you. In this current climate, now is the time to develop camaraderie and collaborate with your team as much as you can electronically. There are other circumstances when quick collaboration is more important than visual detail. For these situations, use individual messaging functionality for simpler, less formal time sensitively conversations or communication.

As always be consistent, clear, and concise. No matter how you’re communicating, you won’t go wrong if you focus on these three Cs. Consistency means people know how and when you’re going to communicate and what kinds of messages you’ll provide.

10. Practice Self-care

You all know how important it is to exercise daily. So, get moving and get those endorphins going! Go for a walk, do some light yoga, go to the gym, or sign up for an online class. I’m sure I don’t need to spend time underlying the benefits of a good workout routine. But choosing when you exercise can have a dramatic impact on your success both in & out of the gym, too. Working out in the morning is more habit-forming and kicks your metabolism into high gear. It means when you sit down at your laptop to get started on your workday, you’re operating at peak productivity from the start.

Take time to work out
Take care of yourself! When you are working in your own home office, you might not be getting a chance to walk much at home as you spend most of your work time looking over your laptop. Therefore a good yoga mat is a must-have for you! Do some stretches in the morning and again in the evening after you're done working. Keep it up every day and you'll really notice a difference. Manduka PRO Yoga is impressive not only because it is 100% Zero-waste yoga mat but also offer cushion on hard or soft surface. 

Bonus tip: Tax advantages

If you are one of those working from home due to health emergency situation due to COVID-19, you might be able to claim a portion of your household work from home expenses on your income tax next year if you are using part of your house for work purposes, according to tax experts. The application conditions for this are;

  1. Your home (or a portion of the home) must be your permanent place of work (even if for few months due to Covid19) or
  2. Must be a designated place of work that you use continuous basis for your work or customer meeting.
  3. If you want to apply, your employer must issue a form called Form T-2200)

What expenses you can claim

Work from home allowable expenses from CRA perspective include utilities, property taxes and insurance. Additionally you can write off 100 of office expenses e.g. paper, pens, internet fees, printer and ink toner etc

How much you can claim

The amount you can claim for your work from home office expenses from CRA viewpoint are directly in proportion of your work from home area or home office of your total home area. For simplicity, lets say your home office area is 250 sq ft in your 1000 sq ft apartment, you can claim 25% of applicable expenses on your next years tax. For more details about  work from home expenses and CRA guidelines check here

To summarize, these are difficult times when many organizations, professionals and businesses are trying to operate remotely or using online technologies to be as efficient as possible. This presents unique challenges for both workers and businesses to get out of their set office routines that may be overwhelming for some who are used to working at office. At the same time working from home can also presents some advantages and opportunities for you if done rightly ranging from saving commuting time, transportation costs as well as better work life balance allowing to take better care of your family members.  

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Shauna is a blogs for RentWell.Ca on tips, tricks and strategies to make experience of apartment renting a bit less cumbersome. She is passionate about rental real estate and frequently writes in online industry magazines columns. The views expressed are her own. Blog Editor: Shawn Verma is Technology & Real Estate Expert and published author. He is an experienced technology and real estate professional with over 25 years in the technology and real estate expertise. He writes about latest trends in Technology and Real Estate in blogs in online industry magazines and groups and social media