As countries, organizations, small & large businesses, schools, and universities around the globe have begun implementing social distancing policies to combat the spread of COVID-19, many of us are experiencing working from home for the first time, often in closer quarters than ideal. As CAPA instituted a work-from-home policy starting on Monday, March 19 and as our students make the transition to completing their academic programs remotely, our US team rounded up these 10 helpful tips for working or learning from home.
Without further ado, here is how the CAPA community is making the most out of working from home:
1. Maintain regular hours.
Set a schedule and stick to it…most of the time. When working or taking class from home it may seem more inviting to sleep in and work late, but it’s probably best to stick to your employer’s or university’s regular hours. Your teammates or group members will need to collaborate with you and faculty will likely be working their normal schedules. As universities & businesses (CAPA included) all transition to working and learning remotely, maintaining a normal schedule will help us all be at our most productive.
CAPA Community Tip: “Make yourself a schedule including lunch, meetings, etc. Call your friends for a brain break and/or a brainstorm” – Sarah Hutchinson, Program Manager
2. Get dressed and ready for the day as you normally would.
Working in your pajamas or comfiest sweatpants may seem appealing at first, but remember that getting up and ready for work, whether or not you are going into the office or onto campus, will set you up psychologically to be engaged in work. Ever heard the phrase “dress well, test well”? The same concept applies here.
CAPA Community Tip: “Even during a normal lazy weekend, I start to feel sad/icky/lethargic if I am just wearing pajamas and not getting ready in the morning. Knowing we might be home for a while I’ve found making the effort to get ready as though I’m going to work wakes me up and improves my mood. Just because no one is going to see you doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take the opportunity to feel spiffed up!” – Jessie Gibson, Marketing Content Strategist
“I’m not necessarily dressing in business professional, but I’m definitely getting ready as though I were planning to leave the house”
3. Create a Morning or “Getting Started” Routine.
You have done this every day that you have gotten up and gone to work, an internship, or school. Keep it going when working remotely—minus the commute 😊. Take this opportunity to make yourself a nutritious breakfast you wouldn’t have had time for normally or take a quick walk to get your blood pumping and body moving in place of your traditional commute.
CAPA Community Tip: “Segment your day by taking a short walk before you start your work/school day, and take another walk at the end of the day. This will simulate a commute and transition into work mode and then back to relaxation mode.” – Cara Pizzorusso, Marketing and Institutional Relations Assistant
CAPA team member Hayle has taken to morning walks with her family dog in place of her commute.
4. Keep a dedicated workspace.
Make your space a stress-free zone of quiet where you can concentrate. If you don’t have a separate room, find an area with minimum traffic flow or a corner of a room off from the main area. To help with distracting sounds use noise cancelling headphones or music with nature sounds to block out noise you cannot control, e.g. traffic, your housemates, the neighbors, etc.
CAPA team member Cara claims a dedicated corner in her shared apartment to jump on Zoom calls.
CAPA Community Tip: “While working from home, it is crucial to keep a dedicated workspace so it feels like you're still ‘going to work’ each morning. As tempting as it may be, don't work from your bed! Keep your workspace and leisure space separate so that you can mentally and physically disconnect from work at the end of the workday.” – Emily Kearns, Marketing Coordinator
5. Set ground rules with the people with whom you share space.
CAPA team member Jessie Gibson sharing a makeshift home office with her partner.
Be patient... in many cases, you and your partner/housemates are also working from home for the first time. For parents, kids are home with no schoolwork to keep them busy, or some are trying to engage in online learning via their schools. This is new for everyone. Ground rules will be one of the keys to success. You share your office space with coworkers with whom you follow unspoken rules and etiquette of the office – find ways to translate that to your home working environment.
CAPA Community Tip: Institutional Relations Manager Laura Turner already works remotely, but now her partner and school-age children are all home as well. Here is her example of the ground rules her family set up:
“To combat potential interruptions and temptations of interference we have a family compact for working from home that we are (trying) to stick to:
1) We all attend a family morning meeting (at 8:30am) to discuss what we have planned for the day, and to share requests for help. We come to the meeting showered, dressed, and ready for the day. 2) Each of us has a dedicated space to accomplish our work.
3) Kids make parents lunch and afternoon snack. Seems only fair since we pack their lunches when they are at school. The kitchen is closed the rest of the time.
4) We hold each other accountable to 20 minutes of movement - 3 times a day. Shooting hoops, yoga, walking the dog - best done with someone in the family!
5) We all have different end times of our workdays. When we are finished, we respect each other’s space and their need to complete their work.”
6. Take breaks—get up from your workspace, go for a walk outside, do a few minutes of stretching, etc.
With gyms closing and limited indoor space for those who are now working in shared living situations, it’s important to incorporate bouts of movement throughout the day. Even if you aren’t getting an intense cardio session, 20-minute breaks to stretch, meditate, stand up, or walk outdoors are great ways to be kind to and caring of your mental and physical wellness.
CAPA Community Tip #1: “Make sure you allow yourself breaks to get up and walk around, go for a walk outside even if possible, and make time to eat. You usually do this during the day at work or at school, so try not to forget to take care of yourself at home too.” – Kirsten McKinney, Institutional Relations Manager
“Working from home means more time to go on walks with my family, and more importantly, my dog!” – Rachel Long, Program Manager & CAPA Community Administrator
CAPA Community Tip #2: “Set yourself a timer for every hour or so to remind you to get up and stretch or move your body. I do a different exercise every hour on the hour.” – Sarah Hutchinson, Program Manager
CAPA Community Tip #3: “Having lunch at the same time as someone you are living with (if possible) is a good way to reset and prepare for the next part of the day. Periodically stepping outside has also been a good way to ensure that you don't feel all cooped up during the day.” Stas Firek, Accountant
Stas enjoying lunch with his roommate.
7. Stay in touch with friends, coworkers, and family
CAPA Teammates on a Zoom call.
Humans are social beings and staying in self-isolation is bound to take its toll on our overall morale – BUT there are many ways we can work to combat this and cope with our new reality. While you will use Zoom or other video chatting services to collaborate with colleagues on work, also take the time to check in with each other as you normally would during these video calls. There is power in solidarity and none of us are truly alone in this.
CAPA Community Tip #1: “Make time for a virtual date with your friends, classmates, or coworkers! This could be anything from lunch to a workout video, an online game or just catching up. While you may still have class or meetings together online, it's important to stay connected socially where you can too!” – Hayle Wesolowski, Institutional Relations and Custom Programs Specialist
CAPA Community Tip #2: “These are extraordinary times. Many of us are working from home because of an external crisis, which may impact multiple areas of our lives. Take scheduled time each day to take stock about your mental and emotional health and talk with those you are with about how you are feeling and how you are doing. Strong communication is more important now than ever. Since we are with our roommates, family, loved ones, use this time to be vulnerable and honest communicators about yourself and your needs to those that care about you.” – Darin Smith-Gaddis, Regional Manager in Institutional Relations
8. End your day with a routine, just as you do when you work in the office or are on-campus.
Make a list for the next day, “tidy up” your desk/workspace, saying goodnight to colleagues via email or Zoom chat, close your computer, etc. and then move onto your normal evening activities – whether that be doing a home workout, cooking dinner, unwinding with some Netflix, or checking in again with your friends & loved ones.
Take a walk at the end of the day (keeping at least 6 feet away from others, of course).
CAPA Community Tip: “One of the biggest differences to me about working from home is that my apartment, which is usually my sanctuary where I get to unwind after the day, is now the place where I need to focus and accomplish my daily tasks. In order to clearly mark the difference in my mind between "work/office" and "relax/home", I try to tidy up my workspace at the end of each workday, then leave the house! If I leave and go for a walk, or to do a quick errand, I can physically return into my home and it feels like a relief to come home.” – Emily Resnevic, Program Manager
9. Make it Personal—Figure Out What Works for You.
We’re all in this together, but we also all have unique living & work situations. While many of these tips may work for you, many might not be relevant. So at the end of the day, take all of this advice with a grain of salt and ultimately make choices that are right for you.
CAPA Marketing Director Shawna Parker has been elevating her laptop with an old encyclopedia.
CAPA Community Tip #1: “One tip I have for working from home is to take notes and maintain eye contact with the speaker during meetings to stay engaged.” – Annie Newberry, Program Manager
CAPA Community Tip #2: “Give yourself daily goals so that you can manage your own time. I find It can be difficult feeling like you must get everything done at once. Setting up bite-sized goals for myself gives me space to take breaks and go back to the project with a clear head.” – Aaron Wong, Videographer and Media Coordinator
10. Be Kind to Yourself.
Transitioning from working in the office to working remotely takes practice. If you find yourself being distracted, rather than beating yourself up or feeling guilty, simply return to work and move on.
Bonus tip: This will be whatever we make it…while we didn’t choose this, our attitude is our greatest power.