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Telecommuting Tips for the Suddenly Homebound Worker

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COVID-19 is forcing us to change our daily routines, including the shutting down of many workplaces. Like vast numbers of professionals across the globe, you may have been asked to work from home instead of coming into the office.

Going from a bustling workplace to the solitude of your home can be a difficult transition. Fortunately, about half of workers around the world, including in Africa, have been telecommuting for years, and they can offer helpful advice for how to make the most of the situation.

Here are some tips from telecommuting experts around the globe:

Get ready for work as if you’re going into the office. While it may be tempting to work from home in your pajamas, you will be much more focused and productive if you get ready in the morning as you usually do. Eat breakfast; take a shower; change into work clothes; and then get ready to start your workday.

Set a work schedule and boundaries. Telecommuters can be tempted to work longer hours—using their commute time to work, for example—or shorter hours, perhaps by getting frequently distracted. It’s important to set work hours for yourself, just like in the office. During those hours, try to limit personal activities and interactions as much as possible.

Designate a workspace. Even if it’s your kitchen table, it’s helpful to set aside a space specifically for work. Make sure it’s clean and free of any items that might distract you. If there’s a door, close the door. Let your family know that when you’re in that space you need to focus on work.

Set daily goals for yourself. Without the accountability that comes from being in close proximity to your boss and co-workers, it can be easy to lose track of your priorities. Make a list of to-dos or goals for each day. This will help keep you focused, motivated, and on track.

Stay connected to your colleagues. You may not be able to see your colleagues, but you still need to communicate with them. Consider setting up a regular phone or video call times to check in with your supervisor, direct reports, and key partners. Proactively keep others up-to-date on your progress, and be responsive to their requests via email or chat.

Make sure your work isn’t lost. As much as possible, upload your work to Google Drive or another cloud-based system. This will make it easier for co-workers to access, and you don’t have to worry about over-relying on the technology you have at home.

Try out some home workouts to stay active. It's important to stay active, and physical activity and relaxation techniques can be valuable tools to help you remain calm and continue to protect your health during this time. There are several free resources online and many gyms and wellness centres are now offering online classes. Incorporate at least 30 minutes into your daily routine.

If working from home is new for you, don’t worry. Hundreds of millions of professionals do this regularly and have found a way to make it work. In fact, studies have found that telecommuters can be even happier and more productive.

And in these uncertain times, working well from home is a great way to support your team and keep our communities safe. We're in this together.