With the escalating threat of the COVID-19 pandemic and a State of Emergency declared in Ontario, non-essential businesses are shutting their doors to the public. And many Ontarians are suddenly finding themselves being asked to work from home for the first time in their lives.
While this might sound like a nice perk in the middle of all this uncertainty, it isn’t without its downsides either. Here are some tips on how to best prepare yourself and your home during this period of self-isolation and social distancing.
NOTE: Staebler Insurance is open, and our brokers and staff are working from home. We remain fully capable to assist you while our office is temporarily closed to all visitors. Please visit our contact page to reach us.
Get Up, Get Dressed, Keep Your Normal Routine
Working from home has a lot of advantages: No commute, no need to shave, nobody to judge you about your hair style. It could sound like fun to sleep in before you have to log on, wear your house coat all day, and let that quarantine beard grow in. And it might be, at least for the first day or two. But that kind of living is also a way to feel sluggish, depressed, and listless in short order.
There are a few reasons for this. One, we’re creatures of routine. You might not realize it, but your brain is used to your typical morning cycle of getting up, having some coffee and breakfast, getting clean and dressed for the day. This structure is what helps us stay focused and prepared for work. Just rolling into a day in your slippers can be pretty disorienting. Two, part of the transition from work back to home and relaxation is getting to take all that stuff off! Coming home and hanging up the suit, letting your hair down, and changing into something more comfortable is one of the things that signals to your body that you’re done for the day and ready for the evening. If you just wear the same thing day in, day out, it all kind of blurs together. Stick to your usual routine while you’re working from home, keep it business casual, and you’ll be happier and more even-keeled than if you succumb to temptation and spend all day in your sweats.
Prepare Your Home For Working
If you’re not used to working from home, it might be jarring when you sit down to log on. It won’t feel like work, and you might have trouble getting started and staying on task. Working from home requires a bit more self-direction than some of us might be used to, and it’s easy to burn an hour checking status updates and watching YouTube clips if you’re not in the right head space.
If you have a home office space or desk you typically work from this will be easier for you. But, for many of us, we’ll be pulling our laptops and just sitting down wherever we can find a spot. It might be tempting to recline on the couch or in bed and start answering some emails, but trying to work in the same place and holding the same device you use to check Facebook or watch Netflix probably isn’t going to have the best results.
Instead, create a small dedicated space for working. Even just a little table and chair can help you feel more like you’re in the office and less like you’re playing hooky. Ideally, try to find a spot in the home with a door you can close for privacy. This is important when you need to Skype in for a meeting or take a call, but it’s also important for cutting out distractions. It’s hard to get any work done when you can hear the kids wildly under or overestimating the cost of a showcase on The Price is Right in the other room.
What do I do with the kids?
Speaking of kids, this can be a real challenge. Even those of us who already occasionally work from home probably aren’t used to doing it with the kids around. Your options here are going to depend on your children’s age, what kind of supervision they require, and your partner’s schedule. Obviously with school closed and play dates a no-go, your kids are going to be restless, bored, and looking for ways to entertain themselves (no matter how destructive or distracting said entertainment might be).
A good strategy is to set up activities on a schedule. Let them know that in the morning, they’ll be working on a craft, drawing, or a puzzle. Then there will be some TV time before lunch. In the afternoon another activity with perhaps a scheduled break time for yourself where they can feel free to bug you as much as they like. If your partner is also working for home, see if you can schedule your day to take separate breaks and lunches so there is as much time as possible where a designated parent is available to fend off the kids.
Stay In Touch
Isolation and loneliness can set in quickly when you’re working from home at the best of times. In the middle of quarantine when you can’t even go out and get some work done in a café or go see your friends after work, it’s bound to feel even worse. That’s why it is genuinely important to stay in touch with your co-workers and friends. Check in with them through emails and messenger, ask how they’re doing, and do what you can to simulate a little normalcy in this uncertain time.
Thankfully, there are plenty of apps designed to help you do just this. If you can’t go to the movies right now, schedule a Netflix evening with some friends. There are a variety of apps designed to synchronize your viewing experience while connecting you in chat so you can all make fun of a cheesy Jean-Claude Van Damme movie together. Walk your dad through setting up Facetime on his phone so you and the kids can say hello. Find a silly Twitch or YouTube steam to watch with your friends. Did you know Freddie Prinze Jr has a YouTube channel where he streams board games? What if I told you that during quarantine, he’s still playing games, but filling in for all the different players at once? If that won’t take your mind off things, I don’t know what will!
Perhaps one of the best things you can do for yourself in this time of crisis is something for someone else. This is a good time to check in on your elderly and isolated neighbours and make sure they are okay. Even if you don’t know them too well, it can mean a lot to just leave a small message in their mailbox asking if they’re okay, if they need something, and giving them a number to call. Regardless if they need anything, it will be good for them to know that the support is there for them and you’ll feel good about doing it.
This is a stressful time and we’re all feeling it. The best thing you can do for yourself is to stay positive, focus on productive, helpful things you can do, and stay home as much as possible to prevent the spread of COVID-19.