By Molly Barnes, Digital Nomad Life

So many rules about work have been thrown out the window during the coronavirus pandemic: Dress codes, punctuality, and even lunch breaks are no longer set in stone. As millions of people transition to working at home and working remotely, they have to write their own rules. This can feel liberating on the one hand, but guidelines can help us succeed, even if we don’t always like them. So now that the home office is the norm for many, how can we set and enforce our own guidelines for success? Here are a few ideas.

1. Set Your Times

Night owls can rejoice that they no longer need to clock in at 9 a.m. sharp, but just because you can start work at the crack of noon doesn’t mean there’s less to be done. You know better than anyone else when you’re most productive, and when you’re more likely to be staring at the clock or wedging in outside tasks. 

Make sure to create a schedule that works for you, and stick to your time-management strategy. Take enough breaks to keep you relatively sane and limber (more on that topic below), and make sure you set — and abide by — a hard stop time. This can keep you from inadvertently spending 60 hours a week trying to get 40 hours of work done.

2. Reduce Distractions 

The coronavirus crisis has created sub-emergencies that few people had ever considered. Some parents suddenly find themselves playing the role of both employee and caretaker, and roommates are squabbling over the best workspace in the house. 

Situations like these can create a variety of distractions. Eliminating them can help you increase your productivity — and maintain your sanity. A good place to start is by dividing your professional obligations from your home-life obligations. Coordinate your schedule as much as possible with others at home to minimize the number of interruptions. Then make sure they know when you’re on the clock and shouldn’t be disturbed, barring a true emergency.

You may find there’s simply too much stuff on your plate. If so, consider cutting down on everything from nonessential chores to the junk you’ve accumulated. Dumpster rental rates have dropped, and bookings have climbed as people use their extra time to clean out and tidy up. Less visual clutter usually translates to less stress, not to mention less time dedicated to cleanup.

3. Get Your Tech Right

It probably goes without saying that you need a reliable internet connection to work remotely. You likely have that in place already to accommodate streaming and communications at home. But have you nailed down your virtual communication platforms, VPN, cybersecurity, and workflow management software for work? 

There are plenty of options that provide all-in-one work management systems. Take time to select the best collaboration software for your projects, and don’t assume you’ll need to shell out a lot of cash for a fancy system: There are plenty of free or low-cost software choices that work well for small businesses.

4. Cultivate Your Contacts

Working from home has helped us discover both the truth and the limits of that famous coffee mug saying, “This meeting could’ve been an email.” When you and your team can get the job done at your own pace, you no longer need to corral people into meetings — but some connections are still necessary to keep projects on course and everyone on the same page. It’s important to maintain your ties with co-workers, bosses, and employees, even while working from home. 

Maintaining client connections is equally important: You’ll want to preserve strong ties to your customers and keep your brand identity fresh and present out there. You can keep your clients engaged by sending them a personal note and a useful item branded with your company logo, like a reusable tote bag or water bottle. Your clients will think of you each time they use it, remembering that you took the time to reach out.

5. Ensure You’ve Got Insurance

At a time when the auto insurance industry is returning billions of dollars to policyholders because they haven’t put their cars on the road in weeks, it’s tempting to think that insurance, like the business suit and tie, may be headed toward extinction. But in fact, business insurance is more important today than it was last year, especially for small businesses. 

Business insurance can pay out to your employees when they can’t work, need to put in claims, get hurt (even at their own homes), or run into cybersecurity problems. Check your policies to make certain you’re covered, and update accordingly to keep your financials safe in a time of greater risk.

6. Make Sure You Unwind

At an office, you’ve got a dozen different opportunities to take a break from the job and relax: trips to the water fountain, visits to other desks for questions or chats, birthday cake in the breakroom, Friday potlucks, or business lunches that sometimes go on much longer than they should. 

What’s true in the office should be true at home, since no human is capable of concentrating indefinitely. That means you need breaks. However you structure your day, give yourself the wiggle room. Make sure you can run to the corner convenience store for a candy bar, take a moment to read the newspaper, or even to go for a brief drive while barefoot to help take your mind off of the job, if only for a blissful few minutes.

The Big Picture 

The coronavirus has become a rule-breaker for office norms and etiquette unlike anything we’ve seen before. Amid this upheaval, you can keep your business productive and your customers satisfied. 

Take care of yourself and your working environment; give yourself flexibility and maintain your social connections; and check that you aren’t overextending yourself in a time when everyone’s limits are being tested. You can adapt — and if you do, you may even find you’re more productive and more successful than ever.

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