By Timothy Golden, Professor of Management at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

As the world faces the COVID-19 pandemic, many individuals have found themselves transitioning to remote work. Research shows that transitioning to working from home on a full-time basis can be bumpy at first, if not done right. It is important to be thoughtful about how you work at home, in order to remain productive and happy. Below are five tips for employees who have suddenly found themselves working from home:

  1. Arrange a dedicated workspace, and try to make it as free from household distractions as possible. Ideally it would be in a separate room; however, if that is not possible, try to locate your workspace away from where other family members are likely to be during your working hours.
  2. Be proactive about reaching out to your co-workers and boss, rather than waiting for them to contact you. You’ll need to stay an integral part of the work unit, and to do so you must communicate actively so that you do not become “out of sight, out of mind” when assignments are being allocated.
  3. Schedule time for informal conversations, in order to replicate the “chit chat” that typically occurs in the office setting. This is important in order to feel connected with others, and to avoid feeling isolated. It sounds simple, but staying mentally connected to others is extremely important when you work at home, and has important implications for your productivity. Try having virtual lunches or coffee breaks together with co-workers and other friends, by sitting in front of the computer and videoconferencing to see each other as you eat or drink. This helps mitigate feelings of isolation, and helps you feel connected. In addition to making you feel less isolated, this will be important for your productivity since you will likely be more energized and engaged in your work by doing this.
  4. Set boundaries around your work. Since working from home eliminates the physical boundaries between your work and home life, you will need to set mental boundaries to avoid work spilling over into your home life. If you don’t set mental boundaries and set defined hours for your work, then there is the temptation for some people to work longer hours in order to get ahead, and this could result in mental exhaustion and burnout. At the end of your workday, try to stop checking messages so that you can have a mental break and “recharge your batteries.” You’ll also need to keep a regular routine, including getting exercise, if possible.
  5. Understand how you work best. We all differ in our personalities and preferences, and working from home can magnify these effects. Take time to consider what helps you to work, and seek out ways to take advantage of the home environment to work in ways that make you feel comfortable and boost your own productivity. As the old saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”