If you are still adjusting to unprecedented impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, know that you are not alone. The shelter-in-place mandate has upended daily lives and caused many to realize that new routines and new forms of self-discipline are required as we adjust to our “new normal.” Beyond basic communications practices (see previous post by Joey Telucci on how to master these principles), setting up a workspace to maintain productivity and focus can be tricky, but is a critical way to set yourself up for success. A well-planned workspace and daily routine can make your communications more effective, help keep you on task and improve your personal wellness. Here are a few tried-and-true “hacks” set you up for success.
One of the best ways to maintain energy and alertness throughout the day is to ensure good lighting in your workspace. As many designers and architects can attest, lighting is an important feature when designing corporate office spaces. If possible, natural sunlight is the best option. However, if your home setup doesn’t allow you proximity to a window, or if you are juggling home schooling in addition to work tasks during the day and find yourself spending a lot of time working in the evenings, a desk lamp is a great option. It allows you to avoid the direct glare of overhead lighting. Not only can good lighting help keep your attention where it needs to be, it can reduce eye strain and headaches.
If you will be spending time on video conferences, good lighting can be especially important to having a quality experience. Avoid having a light such as a ceiling light placed right behind or above you, creating a glare or halo effect for the camera. Natural lighting is preferred to florescent, and the addition of a desk lamp or other fill lighting in front of your face will help you not appear as a darkened silhouette, When people can clearly see your facial expressions, it will be easier for them to connect with you emotionally.
Without regular office routines, it can be easy to end up sitting for hours on end without feeling like anything has been accomplished. Time-organizing tools can be accessed on your phone or computer, but sometimes it can be helpful to have physical versions to help keep track of your schedule and to-do list. A calendar can help organize your daily personal activities, such as switching laundry or emptying the dishwasher, so that work breaks are regular and meaningful home tasks can be crossed off as you go about your day. A wall calendar can help you visualize big-picture milestones for weeks or months out. A visible clock (beyond your phone) will help remind you to take breaks though out the day. You can use the alarm features or calendar appointments with reminders to ensure you get up and stretch, eat regular meals and otherwise stick to routines that keep you healthy, both mentally and physically. Set reminders a few minutes before scheduled calls and meetings to give yourself time to switch gears, pull up relevant documents and prepare for the business at hand.
Give yourself a regular schedule for your business development activities, too. Use your calendar or to-do lists to track client outreach, schedule media monitoring for industry trends or set aside time to develop new content. Whether the content is shared now or saved for a future date, you’ll be glad you have kept in practice and stockpiled some material to keep you visible during future busier days.
A decorative desk embellishment, such as a photo or plant, allows for a pleasant place for your eyes to momentarily rest and helps remove the feeling of needing to get up in search of distractions. Adding some character and personality to your work environment can affect your mood: create a space that makes you feel good!
Think about what surrounds you in your workspace. If you’ve taken over a corner of a room used by others, do you have the features you need to organize your work? Are reference books within easy reach? Invest in a small portable file box. Keep a caddy of frequently used desk items. Do your best to arrange an ergonomically appropriate space. A keyboard or monitor at the wrong height can cause neck and back pain.
What is behind your chair? If you will be doing any video conferencing, especially public interviews, consider what the viewer will see behind you. During this unusual time, no one will fault you if you don’t have a professional home studio. That said, do make sure there is nothing embarrassing or inappropriate in the frame. What is seen behind you becomes a part of your brand and could influence how people perceive you.
Working from home can lead to not drinking as much water as usual, possibly because there is less of an urge to take a break when not in an office—no more water cooler chats with colleagues! A water bottle or insulated cup at your work area can remind you to drink water throughout the day and stay hydrated. Consider keeping a personal pitcher on your desk and add slices of fruit to give it a little flavor.
For some, working in silence can be as much of a distraction as loud background noise. The trick is to find the right balance. Music is proven to reduce negative feelings like stress and anxiety and elevate moods. Spotify, Google and Apple Music have created work-from-home themed playlists, in addition to offering white noise and nature sounds to help soothe away anxieties from the outside world. We produce better work when we are relaxed and comfortable.
Work-from-home is different for many of us and every set-up is unique. Look for easy ways to find a balance of tranquility and productivity. As for the noisy toddler, you are on your own.