Tips for Working from Home

Like so many other companies around the country, the San Francisco Fed only has essential onsite staff at our offices right now. Those of us who can do our jobs remotely started working from home on March 9—some for the first time. There’s one thing our WFH seasoned pros and newbies agree on: Remote work during the coronavirus is different. With that in mind, here are a few tips we’re using to stay as organized and productive as possible. We hope you find them helpful.

It isn’t business as usual, and that’s okay

You’re not going to the office, but that doesn’t mean you should stay in pajamas all day. Little things like showering and “getting ready for work” are helping us get into a work mindset. We also recognize that adjusting to new routines can feel stressful and different. Courtney Obi from the Fed’s Cash Product Office shared her top 5 tips for successful remote work back in December, and we’re finding that these two really help:

  • Prioritize tasks. Know what you have to do for the day and what would be nice to tackle but isn’t critical. Unsure of the agenda? Check in with your manager, and more often. Things are changing so fast, so clear communication and expectations are more important than ever. To stay on track, consider 10-minute check-ins at the start and end of the day.
  • Schedule breaks. Put time on your calendar for lunch and other shorter breaks to get away from your screen. Schedule time for tea or coffee or to stretch. While sheltering in place to help flatten the curve for COVID-19, you can still go outside for a bit of exercise. A short walk or jog can do wonders for improving your mood.

Simplify your juggling act

Frankly, we all have a lot on our plates. Keeping up with the news, work, and family responsibilities make it tough to minimize distractions.

“Although I primarily work from home, my husband is usually at his job and my son at school. Everyone’s home right now, so this is completely different,” says Laurel Gourd, a Community Development communications specialist.

Sticking with a routine and having a designated place to work can help you stay organized. Ideally, your work-from-home spot is someplace you can leave when you’re off the clock. If you live in a smaller apartment, choosing a “work corner” has a similar effect.

At the San Francisco Fed, we understand that some days will stretch longer and others will be shorter out of necessity. If you need help balancing your work and personal needs, speak up. Have an honest talk with your manager about what’s feasible for you.

Communicate—until you need to unplug

Working from home can feel isolating, whether you live alone or with a roommate or family.

“One thing that’s remained the same about remote work, and is perhaps even more important now, is being intentional about building and maintaining relationships,” says Laurel.

To keep up team morale, check in with your colleagues and ask how they’re doing—it can make all the difference. Make those phone calls so you can hear each other’s voices. Fire up your favorite messaging app. Have a video call so you can feel closer to your colleagues and reduce distractions. It’s the perfect time to get everyone on Slack, Microsoft Teams, Skype, Zoom, FaceTime, or your other communications tool of choice.

Finally, remember, it’s a challenging time for everyone, so schedule when you “get off work” and take time for yourself. As Courtney said, “It takes discipline to be able to turn off your email and laptop, and just enjoy your family or do something fun.” But that’s exactly what we all need to do to get through this together.

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The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the management of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco or of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.