Here’s How to Create a Viable Work From Home Schedule

By: Christine Persaud

May 17, 2020

Photo courtesy Zoom

These are trying times. While many of you might find yourselves out of work temporarily while we fight through the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, others continue to work on the front lines, including everyone from our brave health care professionals to the equally brave grocery store clerks. Many, however, will find themselves in an interesting situation of now having to work from home.

It requires a total mindset shift along with specific tech equipment. But what it also requires is some preparation to adjust to the change. You probably had more structure at the office than you realized. And as someone who has been working from home for the last six years, it is possible to maintain a similar structure when working from home.

Make an actual schedule (and follow it)

It might sound silly but get your day planner or create a spreadsheet that plans out your day, hour by hour or in blocks of time. Decide on a daily start time and set your alarm clock (since there isn’t commute time and you can work in your PJs if you really want to, you still get to sleep in!) Plot out what you will do each day, either as a regular weekly schedule or week to week depending on what new projects come up. Think about how you would typically have spent your days at the office and try to replicate that, with concessions and modifications as needed.

Set aside time for breaks

Lifestyle photo of Fitbit Versa 2.,,Photographer: Matt Hawthorne.

You probably took a lunch hour every day at the office along with some unofficial breaks to chat with colleagues, go for a quick walk to the coffee shop, or even just messing around checking your social media for 15 minutes while on hold with IT support. Set aside similar break times and add them to the aforementioned schedule, including a dedicated amount of time for lunch. You can still chat with a friend or colleague via video or instant messaging, make yourself a coffee at home, or just stretch. Do yoga or a 15-minute exercise routine using a DVD or smartwatch coaching (I use Fitbit Coach), go for a quick jog around the neighbourhood or to walk the dog (keeping a safe distance from others, of course), or unwind by playing a board game with the kids or relaxing on the couch to read a few chapters of a book. Do this a few times a day for 15 minutes or so each time.

Shut down for dinner

No matter how much work you have on the go, it will still be there in the morning. And if it’s really urgent, it will still be there at 8 or 9 p.m. after the kids are in bed. Shut down the computer, smartphone, and any other technology for dinner time and make that special family time. That includes the time taken to make dinner, sit down for a meal, and clean up after. Watch the local news, a favourite TV series, or a new movie before bedtime. Whatever you do, shut down “work mode” for those few hours every night. Your body and mind will thank you.

Create reminders on your computer

If you need an extra push and are the type who will work furiously away on your laptop only to look at the top, right of the screen after what seems like an hour and discover that three have passed (guilty as charged!) set up reminders on your computer. Set a recurring appointment in your calendar to “take a break” every day at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 4 p.m., for example, with notifications at those times. This will push you to get up and do something else for 15 minutes. If you have a smartwatch, many also include reminders to move that will emit a slight vibration if you’ve been sitting too long, just to remind you to get up and stretch your back and legs for a few minutes.

Set screen time limits

If you feel like you really need to push yourself to spend more family time, set screen time limits for yourself. Many mobile devices and computers have parental controls you can use to shut down the computer altogether, or at least specific apps, so you can’t use them during specific times. They’re designed for parents to monitor how much screen time their kids are getting, but why not use them for yourself, too? Have your significant other or a friend keep the password safe and manage the controls. If it’s something urgent, they can let you in to tend to the matter. Otherwise, you’ll be blocked out until morning to focus on what really matters instead.

Create an equally detailed schedule for your kids

Nowadays, parents face an additional challenge when trying to work from home: the kids are home, too. Create a detailed schedule for them as well so they don’t need to approach you every five minutes asking if they can do something, what they can do, or declare that they’re bored. Include dedicated time for schoolwork through distance learning, time for creative play, outdoor time, time for special activities, quiet reading time, chores, screen time, video chat time with friends, gaming, and so on. This will work as much to your advantage as it does to theirs. Make sure to include some time in their schedule to spend with you, whether it’s a quick game of chess, a three-song dance competition with Just Dance, or a half hour lunch together. If you have really young kids, you might have to alter your work schedule to wake up early or stay up late to get work done when they’re in bed. Find a manageable routine and work around it as best you can so you can get all your work done while tending to your family. Chances are you’ll be getting far less sleep than you’re used to. But with these tips, your days might go a bit smoother.

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