Written By: Joanie Ogg CTC, MCC, Co-founder and Editor – Travel Professional NEWS®
These are unprecedented times to say the very least. I often wake in the middle of the night (sleep right now is not happening) and my mind just wanders through the varying levels of the situation we are all in during this pandemic. It almost feels as if we are living in a dream or nightmare and when I wake at 2 AM, I realize sadly, we are living our new reality.
In early March we released a re-write on our book “How to Start a Home Based Travel Agency”. We had no idea how timely this new book would be when we published it. This was pre-quarantine and life was not chaotic and up-rooted as it is today, just a month later.
Tom and I have been working from home for more than 40 years. With that being said we have some pretty good insight into the reality of working from home. In this piece I will share 7 Essential Tips for Working from Home During and After Covid-19, because yes, there will be an after and who knows, you may just decide that working from home is right for you too!
1. Shower and Get Dressed
I am sure all of you have also enjoyed many of the memes and other posts on social media shared by many about changing from nighttime to daytime jammies during this crazy time we are all in. Seriously, all joking aside it really is important to create some normalcy to your day and some routine to energize yourself for the day ahead.
There is no need to put on your suit or heels though. Just plan to be comfortable but presentable. It will help you feel better about yourself and will add some important sense of routine to the start of your day. Taking care of your personal appearance will go a along way toward making you feel refreshed and focused. Taking care of yourself is probably one of the most important things you can do now and moving forward through these difficult times.
2. Create a Separate Workspace
The lines between home space and work space can become very blurry if you do not make the effort to create a separate workspace for your home office. For some of us that may have been working from home for some time now, we know only too well how very important this can be. My workspace at home is actually bigger then our guest room. Over the years we have found that having dedicated workspace is simply mandatory for us to be productive and to navigate the work at home routine.
If you are one that has always gone into an office outside of the home you are used to the physical separation. You may not have the option of a designated office in your home at this point, but try to find a corner to call your official workspace. Make it comfortable with good lighting and if possible try for natural lighting. With so much time being spent in our homes right now the ability to look out the window and see the daylight can have a strong and positive impact on your sense of well-being.
You will be spending many hours at this designated work area so be sure that you can leave your workspace when the work day is done. Disengaging is key to managing a work at home scenario. This is one reason why having a specific and designated area is so important so that you can walk away and take a much needed break to enjoy your home life.
3. Schedule Working Hours
This is probably one of the most challenging aspects of working from home. When you work from an office outside the home it is a simple lock of the door and walking away that allows you to begin the transition to personal life. Maybe you have a commute and that down time lets you begin this transition. On the flip side when you work from home the commute might be only ten steps to the next living space. Shutting down the work brain and tuning up the family and home life brain has to happen pretty quickly. It is essential to hold yourself accountable when you work from home, but you also have to know when to switch it off and recharge. As hard as it might be you may want to try to turn off the computer or close the windows, shut off the email and really make a conscious effort to end the workday. This is not easy!
Another important consideration setting work hours at home is to communicate these hours and your schedule to those you live with. Establish the necessary boundaries to enable you to complete your work without distractions. As I writing this article, Tom just walked into my office to ask what was for lunch and well, that totally took me out of my focus writing this piece. Of course it is my fault as I should have shut my office door or better yet texted him that I was busy and needed to be uninterrupted. The point here is to communicate with those you live with and create boundaries that will allow everyone to be in sync.
4. Create Buffers Into and Out of the Workday
As stated previously, commutes to and from and out of the home office are a helpful way to ease into and out of a workday. When you work from home, that buffer is not really apparent and you have to try to create your own way to transition from home to work. I have been able to do this with some success after many attempts that did not work so well. Getting up and working out either on my stationary bike, taking a yoga class online or doing a pilates class with my friends on Zoom has been a great aid in transitioning to my work day. Each of us has their own ways to ease into the workday, so do what works for you.
Alternatively there is the end of the workday and the need to buffer into home life and walk away from the work. I find that taking my dog, Cali for a nice long 2 mile walk is the perfect way to move into the evening. I listen to my audiobooks as I walk and this is one of my favorite times of the day. Fresh air, a good book and an amazing loyal companion by my side puts me in the perfect mindset to move into the next stage of the day. She also has an amazing internal alarm clock that lets me know when it is time to take that walk. Not sure how she knows this!
5. Avoid Distractions
During this crazy time in all of our lives, distractions are seemingly the norm. Press conferences about the pandemic and the constant interruption of social media all make it hard to focus on the task at hand. The news right now is probably one of the biggest distractions that we all face. We need to be informed but not overly informed. It is very easy to get into a spiral of news that can completely take us out of our work focus.
Add to those distractions there are the home distractions that are calling your name. Some of those might be, laundry, yard work, homework with the kids, cleaning the house and the list goes on and on. We know these things need to be done and now that we are home all the time, why not?
Perhaps setting actual timers for breaks you want to take throughout the day is a good idea. I started this today and told Alexa to give me an alarm at certain points throughout the day. I am at noon now and have been able to make this work since sitting down for work at 9:00am. So far it seems to work or at least it is a good plan. I know that I can sit down and watch the news after my walk with Cali and I will likely be in a much better mood to listen to the COVID-19 updates.
6. Stay Connected
If you are new to working from home, you will soon find that staying connected and communicating with your peers is absolutely essential to your sanity and well-being. We operate a social network for Travel Professionals and have been doing so since its inception in 2008. With over 15,450 members The Travel Professional Community has proven to be a perfect environment for travel sellers to share and learn from one another. The community is for the sharing of information and experiences among travel professionals who benefit from the participation of its members. It is free to join and participate and is open to all travel agent professionals. If you are reading this and not a member, please come join us and stay connected with your peers at www.TravelProfessionalCommunity.com.
There are so many other groups and online opportunities for you to stay connected and I encourage you to find the right place for you. Many host agencies have similar groups for their agents and they can be a great place to learn from others and stay in touch. Zoom and other communication platforms also offer a terrific way to connect and stay informed.
7. Socialize for Sanity
With all of us hunkered down at home our social lives have had some major setbacks. During the workday it does not seem so bad as we are focused on our tasks at hand. Then comes the evening and the weekends which used to consist of being out and about and spending time physically with family and friends. I am sure I am not alone in saying this part really stinks! I miss my grand girls so much it hurts my heart. I need a hug in the worst way and to hold their hands. I know that cannot happen right now and I struggle with this piece of my life during this crazy time.
For those who are now just dealing with the working from home scenario, you likely are missing your co-workers and the socialization you shared with them. There are some things that might helps such as scheduling a morning video call with your colleagues or sharing lunch together virtually through a Zoom meet-up.
Last Friday several of our neighbors and friends all joined in for a happy hour together using Zoom and it was so fun to catch up and share some good laughs and conversation. I have started to read books to my grand girls using Facetime which has been super fun. You might even stream TV shows simultaneously with friends and text one another in real time during the show. Get creative and have some fun planning socialization in whatever way works for you.