In the wake of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, many of us are finding ourselves working from home. It is an uncertain time, and a completely novel experience for all of us. Working remotely is “the dream” by introverts across the globe, and many have desired the ability to do so. Unfortunately, telecommuting may lack the expected glamor. It’s hard to be stuck at home all day long. It is equally as difficult to remain focused, productive, and disciplined.
To see how Research Collective is handling it, let’s take a tour around the virtual office to see what the Collectivists are doing to stay on top of things.
Working from home with a 3-year-old has its ups and downs. On the negative side of things, I play horsies, dinosaurs, and unicorns more times in an average day than is healthy. But, on the plus side, I’ve gotten to experience many situations where my daughter demonstrates how resourceful she can be, if I simply give her the opportunity and tools to do things herself. She wants to be more independent, and takes a great amount of pride in not having to ask for help (between bouts of playing horsies, of course).
Working from home with her has encouraged me to focus on making our home work better for her. In turn, I spend less of my time throughout the day helping out with an odd task she can’t do on her own. For example, by changing where things like towels and snacks are kept, she is able to help herself at her leisure.
If you know me at all, you know that I like to build things. One thing that I’ve recently “invented” to help my daughter be more independent is a towel retraction, ummm, contraption. It’s a simple device made up of a retractable janitor’s keyring and a large binder clip (see picture) — a few things that I found in a junk drawer while Spring cleaning over the weekend. Now when my daughter washes her hands, she no longer has to ask for help to dry them. She simply pulls down the towel contraption, dries her hands, and the towel retracts to an adult height when she’s finished.
Like all good research and design, I didn’t get this right on the first go-around. This is actually V2. The first iteration used a smaller, keycard retraction keychain device. However, it proved to be too weak to retract automatically without assistance.
The lesson I’ve learned from working from home during COVID-19 is that if you can help others be more productive and independent, you enjoy more of those things as well.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, the horsies and dinosaurs are in need of their next adventure.
I am taking this opportunity to find new and innovative ways to destroy my back. Included in my daily workspace rotation are the following: kitchen table (with desk chair), couch, patio chair, and bedroom floor. I’m particularly proud of the hours logged at the bedroom floor location. It is my formal workspace.
Along with headphones and dog walks, the value of the sweatpant has inflated drastically. It is indeed tempting to keep it at-home casual during work hours, but I find that I am a touch more productive when I dress as I normally would at the office. When it comes to productivity, I relish the opportunity to practice focus and discipline! We have maintained our morning exercise routines and are trying to eat healthier. We’ve also gone for several walks (and stretched!) when we can’t muster the productive mentality.
Like many others, I believe it is important to focus on the positive. We get to spend more time with our families. We are finding creative ways to conduct research remotely. And while we aren’t seeing our friends in person, the quarantine has catalyzed several virtual hearts and euchre games with friends and family :-). While it is a challenge in many ways, I am incredibly thankful for these opportunities.
As someone who values a routine, my life has definitely been affected by COVID-19. Even with a designated work-from-home space I still struggle with life as a full-time stay-at-home employee. Here are a few things that have helped me stay productive during this time at home:
Ambience. I think having a space and creating ambience is really important for my productivity. My office is uniquely “my space” in our house. Instead of having a space that functions as an office, I needed a place that was a retreat–a work-cation that inspired me to work. In true Marie Kondo fashion, everything in this space brings me joy. I love early mornings with the windows open, listening to the birds and soft jazz playing in the background, while I drink my tea and read emails or my favorite UX/UI blogs (am I a cliché designer, or what?).
Schedule. Before the end of the work day, I write a to-do list for the next day and prioritize a couple things on the list that need to be done. I knock out those priority items first thing in the morning when I am my most productive.
Flexibility. I have to be flexible. These last couple of weeks have made me more self-aware of my productivity and I’ve found I just can’t focus when my neighbors have the landscapers over and the leaf-blowers are on full blast. While I don’t have kids, I’m sure there are parents that can relate! In those situations, I try to refocus (thank you, noise-canceling headphones), but sometimes it’s impossible. If that happens, I resume work a little later. Sometimes this means I work later into the evening, but the nice thing about working from home is that the commute to dinner is just a quick walk down a flight of stairs.
Welcome to my world!
For the majority of the time, (aka when there is not a pandemic) I actually work from home. Yes, it’s true… I’ve spent the past year and a half perfecting the whole “work-from-home” thing in Ohio and traveling to Arizona once a month for 1-3 weeks at a time.
When you don’t work in the office, separating your home life and your work life is the key to success. For me, that meant transforming our guest bedroom into a customized office space, focused on my professional productivity. I traded my plush velveteen mid-century modern chair for something a little more practical, installed a sound-proof door strip, got a monitor, and a laptop stand — and I was good to go! For me, having a separate designated office space keeps me focused. When the door is closed and my computer is on, I am nose to the grind.
I have also found that I am more productive when I chat with my coworkers throughout the day on a video call or via instant message. Using technology to stay connected with your team can make a huge difference! That being said, video calls can also make you more accountable for your appearance. Because just like the memes say, it is really tempting to just change into your daytime pajamas each morning. Even when I’m working at home, I always try to dress comfortably while still feeling pulled together. Girls, you know what I mean i.e., office makeup, comfy sweater, etc. When I feel more put together, it really helps me stay productive.
When working remotely, you miss out on distractions, breaks, and social time that naturally occurs in the office. It might even be the case that you actually work more efficiently when working at home. Without casual impromptu “meetings” or goofy office banter, you may begin to feel burnt out. To avoid this, be sure to check in with your team and take well-earned breaks throughout the day. Having a cute dog who sleeps under your desk and follows you around all day also really helps.
During this crazy and unpredictable time, I try to focus on all of the things I am grateful for. Including, my wonderful coworkers, my position at RC, and the ability to work near my family in Ohio… just to name a few. Above all, I am grateful for others who are working tirelessly to care for others.
I remind myself each day that things will return to normal soon. But in the meantime, I am just here at home, doing the best I can.
As we are now midway through week 4 of the shelter in place and work remotely recommendations, I can honestly say that my productivity levels have been all over the place. I have realized that in order for me to be productive, there are a few things that I have to factor into every day.
- Limit scrolling through the news and social media to once a day (that stuff can make my brain spin!)
- Get in some sort of exercise, ideally outdoors ( I love Arizona’s spring!)
- Use To-Do Lists (oh, the satisfaction of a line through most of the items by the end of the day!)
- But, most importantly, in order to stay productive, I have to choose to focus on the positive.
While I miss the daily interactions with our team, I am grateful for technology! The face to face virtual chats via Meet, FaceTime, and the occasional afternoon watercolor Hangout help me feel connected.
When I really feel the impact of the shelter in place restrictions, I remember to be thankful that we are able to work remotely… And that there’s work to be done!
When I feel alone, I remember that I can leave my back home office and chat in person with my partner in crime (and boss!), who’s often quite productive over in the front home office. And remind myself, I am not alone. We are all in this alone…together.
When I get anxious, wondering when life will resume with some semblance of normalcy, I remember I am doing my part…I am staying home, staying safe and controlling only the things that I can.
In short, by choosing to focus on the positive, I find that my day to day productivity doesn’t look as much like a roller coaster ride!
One thing to know about me is that I am a self-diagnosed introvert. Normally, I pride myself on my ability to stay home for multiple weekends with no need to socialize and being quite content with the strong relationship between myself, my bed and my Netflix account. In all seriousness, however, I never considered how my life would change when the option to leave my house would no longer be an option due to this devastating virus.
When it comes to work, I have found that living in a 600 sq foot apartment begins to show its challenges rather quickly with two young professionals working in such a small space. In the past weeks I have gone through many trial and error periods to find what motivates me to stay focused and productive while working from home. While many of these trials, such as rearranging furniture and becoming a yoga enthusiast, ended in disastrous outcomes; I did find that creating a detailed schedule and implementing positive reinforcement strategies benefited my work performance and focus while working from home.
Schedule. By time blocking my days I am able to better utilize my time and hold myself accountable for the tasks I wish to accomplish throughout the day. The action of checking off an item on a list has always been a rewarding experience and therefore I have made a habit of writing down a checklist at the start of each day to know exactly what my schedule will entail. While planning out my day I make sure to block out time for meals along with some extra activities that allow for breaks throughout my workday. I refer to these activities as my positive reinforcements.
Positive reinforcement. The act of making a fancy cup of coffee in the morning, going for a quick walk or experimenting with a new recipe for lunch all serve as motivating factors throughout my workday. By scheduling out short breaks where I can look forward to an activity, I find that I am better focused and productive during my work hours. These small positive reinforcements also serve as breaks to help avoid mental fatigue and limit me from engaging in other random distractions throughout the day.
I’ll make mine as short and sweet as possible, because in my quarantine experience, free time has been somewhat scarce. Pre-quarantine, I always enjoyed working from home. It was quiet during the day. The opportunities to multi-task (throwing in a load of laundry between conference calls) fueled my productivity. However, now I share my “home office” with my spouse and our two coworkers, our 3-year-old daughter and 6-month-old son, who need a lot of micro-managing. 🙂
I’ve since learned that to stay productive while working and full-time parenting from home, the ability to “task-switch” (a common term to us cognitive scientists) efficiently is critical. One has to be prepared to go from negotiating naptime with a 3-year-old to a full deliverable report out to an international, cross-functional team. Giving myself some grace and recognizing that things won’t always go as expected has been helpful. Otherwise, the most useful strategies for our household have been good communication (e.g., not scheduling overlapping conference calls) and time-blocking to ensure we both get some time to work uninterrupted while also caring for our children.
The biggest lesson that I’ve learned during quarantine, and continue to learn in life, is that it’s always about perspective. It can be challenging to work from home during this time, but I am grateful for the opportunity to still be working and to have a job that affords flexibility in work hours. I’m saddened that this is such an uncertain time for so many, but I’m grateful that I get to spend additional time with my family and we are doing our part by staying home. I miss working with my Research Collective family in person, but I appreciate the creativity that has resulted. We have found new ways to do the same work and have created opportunities to connect through video chats and our “water cooler” hangouts.
Spoiler alert: I’m still trying to figure this out! For real productivity tips, make sure you read my co-worker’s suggestions 🙂
As a first-time mom to a 3-month-old, I offer a slightly different perspective. Throughout this maternity-leave-turned-quarantine-time for me, I’m still learning about our daughter’s needs as well as how to transition back into work, how to do this at home, and be productive. So every day looks a little (or a lot) different for me. I haven’t nailed it yet, but I’m learning that’s okay.
Maintaining a routine is important for me. But these days I like to say that a flexible routine is most important. I’ve learned that flexibility is the common denominator between motherhood and working from home during this unprecedented time.
Instead of checking off tasks on my to-do list quickly and efficiently during “business hours” each day, I complete tasks as I’m able and during all hours of the day.
Rather than a dedicated workspace covered with my beloved sticky notes, my laptop travels with me wherever I need to be and we often tour the kitchen, family room, loft and outdoor patio all in a day.
Instead of enjoying longer stretches of uninterrupted work time, many days I must work in 30-minute increments here and there throughout the day.
And instead of taking conference calls by myself, I now have an assistant 🙂
Undoubtedly my workdays look a bit different now. And while I don’t hold all the keys for productivity, I’m grateful to be working and doing so in a position that allows flexible hours. But I sure look forward to returning to the office and being reunited with our RC family soon!
- The Conference, Reimagined: HFES Virtual Healthcare Symposium
- Remote Research: Conducting Research During COVID-19
- In-Person Research Methods: Conducting Research During COVID-19
- Virtual Tour of RC: What are you doing to stay productive working from home?
- Coronavirus: Tips for Converting to Remote Research