Virtual work can be very challenging when you’ve never experienced it. There are the obvious benefits of the quick work commute and options of work attire. But the challenges can seem overwhelming when you realize that what you thought was temporary is now semi-permanent. The fact is that you need to find ways to achieve the same work results but in different ways. Luckily, we humans are creative beings that can assess situations and come up with new solutions. Find ways to love your virtual work implementing the following ideas.

Find a way to leave work at work.

If you don’t have a door and can’t walk away from your virtual office, then set some boundaries for yourself. For example, determine a time to turn off. Shut off the computer and move back into your life. Some of my clients have used the following:

  • I don’t work after 6 pm
  • 7-9 pm is family time or date-time with my spouse
  • I have to take my exercise break between 12 and 1

Set boundaries with family members as well. Tell mom you can only talk after 5 or whatever time it needs to be. People are assuming you are now available all day since you aren’t in your usual physical office location.

Take breaks.virtual work

Walk around, get coffee, free up your mind, and your eyes from the computer screen.

Typical suggested breaks include 5 minutes for every hour you spend on your computer. In addition, it is recommended that you exercise your eyes by looking off into the distance and away from your screen every 20 minutes. Make sure you are hydrating and blinking frequently to prevent your eyes from dryness and burning.

It’s also best to put some exercise into your day as well. If you’ve always had the excuse of not being able to work it into your workday, that excuse has now been eliminated. Exercise refreshes your mind and allows you to experience a different environment so you’ll be more productive when you return to the virtual work.

Set Routines and Priorities

Human beings like routine and the current situation has certainly interrupted ours. When I began my virtual work in 1996, the standard morning routine included showering, dressing for work, and eating breakfast, the same as if you were traveling to the office.  This has become one of the first standards to disappear and be thrown out the window. Today, we’re all doing the best we can to look normal on a Zoom call. I would still recommend a common routine, especially if you are working around children. We need things to be as predictable as possible so we aren’t working around chaos constantly.

Setting priorities for your day can also be challenging. It can sometimes be overwhelming to set priorities even when you’re going into the office. With all of the home, distractions abound, focusing on your work priorities can seem unobtainable. It’s best to establish what MUST be accomplished during your workday and your workweek. If you already have a system for that GREAT, keep using it. If you don’t, I have a tool to share.

Task                                         Urgency           Importance               

Finish x report                                     1                      1

Schedule Q Mtg                                  3                      1

Start y presentation                            5                      1

Follow up on process map                 5                      5

Meet with Dept. Head                        3                      3

This is a ranking tool to help with prioritization. First, make a list of all the tasks on your to-do list, both long and short term. Then rank them by urgency and importance. Once you’ve ranked all of your tasks, it’s very easy to identify your priorities. High urgency, high importance items are the tasks with a 1 in both columns.

This too can also help with long term project planning that may currently score a 5 in urgency but a 1 in importance. Schedule time during the week to spend on that project instead of waiting for it to become a highly urgent task.

Create a System for Your Family

Many people are performing their virtual work alongside their spouses, roommates, children, and even pets. Now your workplace has become a place of many needs and functions. A workday can get out of control very quickly with multiple work schedules and education/childcare needs. Therefore, work out a system that will work for your family. Perhaps a color-coded daily schedule that everyone can access will work. You can also have a weekly huddle to talk about the schedule for the next week. Here are a few suggestions from clients I’ve worked with:

  • Post a sign on the door to let others know you are in a meeting and cannot be interrupted. (This is especially useful for children)
  • Have a whiteboard where children or spouse can write a question and place in your line of sight while you’re in a meeting so you can give them an answer without a clear interruption.
  • Use childcare even if you are working from home. You need the focus and the children will enjoy a different environment.

virtual workReach Out

Finally, for your own mental health, connect with at least one person a day. I’m not talking about a typical work-related interaction, but really connecting. It could be with a friend, family member, your housemate, or a colleague.  Check-in with someone to see how they are doing. It will make their day and yours too.

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