Making It Work When You Work From Home

With campuses shifting to online-only classes to curb the spread of the coronavirus, and companies asking employees to work from home, lots of people are adjusting to a new work situation. For some people, the work-remote setup is ideal; for others, far from it.

As an MBA student, I can relate. With all my trusted routines out the window, I spent the first few days of the new online-learning era simply adjusting.

Here’s how I learned to maintain a high level of productivity, in an era of online learning.

Designate a workspace(s)

Keep your resting and relaxing spaces separate from where you work every day, if you can. A table or desk, with a proper chair that can support your back, in a separate section of your house or apartment will actually do wonders for your focus. It can help you achieve the right mindset for classes, and can limit the temptation to watch TV or to take a nap. A backup workspace can also be helpful – giving you a change of scenery when you need it. A tray or lapdesk can turn the couch into a comfy space to clear a few items from your to-do list. But try not to make that your dominant workspace.

Get ready every day

It may seem trivial, but getting ready as though you’re actually going to a physical class or to your office can help a lot. That means changing out of your pajamas, getting showered, and looking and feeling presentable and ready for work. As comfy as those pajamas might be, they’ll only make you crave that nap even more. Following this tip also implies waking up more than five minutes before your first meeting or class – and that also will help you stay focused.

Build yourself a schedule (with breaks)

Even if you have only one or two classes a day, maintain a routine and schedule. Plan time to work on specific projects or to study for classes. Make sure you include regular breaks, for snacks, for lunch or to walk around your apartment. Working for hours on end just is not realistic.

Stay focused on the task at hand

It can be tempting while working from home to do other things, like laundry or cleaning. Do your best to fight that urge. If you start folding clothes while you’re doing a class reading, you’ll have a harder time digesting the information. Instead, designate time for household chores, cooking, and so on, so you can focus on work when you’re working.

Make sure you stay active

Being stuck indoors can be frustrating, so make sure you’re letting off some steam by staying active. Find apps or online videos with workouts you can do at home, or take a walk or jog around your neighborhood (at a safe distance from other people. Partner with a friend or a group of friends, and hold each other accountable by sending each other reminders, working out simultaneously in your separate locations, or even meeting up for a jog at a healthy distance. You’ll get social interaction, added motivation to stay active, and can work off any extra snacking.

Schedule time for fun social interactions

Whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, it can be tough to be at home for weeks at a time with limited social interactions. Try to schedule fun interactions with friends, colleagues and others, to break up the monotony. Virtual happy hours are a great way to catch up with people. One-on-one virtual lunches can lead to in-depth convos with friends. Whatever the interaction is, make sure it’s not work- or school-related. You could probably use a break.

–By Samprithi “Sammy” Santosh. Santosh is a 2021 MBA candidate with a concentration in marketing. She worked in advertising as an account manager in Richmond, Va., before moving to Maryland to pursue her MBA.