After nearly a year, many Americans are still adjusting to working and attending classes remotely. However, many of us struggle to stay focused when we work from home. My family has also faced many challenges as we transitioned to our home office and classroom. The are many suggestions to improve your productivity from home. Here is how our household has tailored these tips to work for us.
Setting Up a Home Office during the Pandemic
Prior to the outbreak of Covid-19, I taught English in Southeast Asia. However, circumstances changed and I returned to the United States to be closer to family. Not only did my place of residence change, but I also changed jobs when I came home. I was still teaching, but no longer in the classroom setting. Now, I was working with private student remotely. Unfortunately, this did not provide enough stable income to support myself.
In an effort to reduce my exposure to the virus, I researched other online employment opportunities, I returned to the world of freelance writing. Even though I was only working part time, I needed to create a professional environment. Studies have proven that having a dedicated office space increases productivity when working from home. Luckily, my roommate had already set up a home office. She had created a well organized and professional setting. My desk is strategically placed in a quiet area of the house, away from the heavily trafficked areas. More importantly, it is away from my bed and other lounge areas so I stay motivated and task-oriented. It was the perfect solution for my strange new life.
Struggles to Increase Productivity While Working from Home
The transition to working from home was much smoother than I had anticipated. However, it also highlighted some of my negative habits. My greatest struggles are dealing with distractions and sticking to a schedule. I like having the flexibility. But, having too much freedom allowed me to procrastinate more, and thus, get less done in a day.
It took me twice as long to finish assignments because I was constantly distracted. My phone behavior was the main culprit. I was constantly checking messages and notifications, scrolling through social media, or chatting with people. I took frequent breaks rather than completing tasks from start to finish. As an added means to distract myself, I would switch between professional and household tasks during working hours. Previously, my solution was to work late at night when everyone went to bed. However, this led to poor sleeping habits that further affected my productivity.
To put myself back on track, I created a weekly schedule. There were specific days only for work and others for household responsibilities. I made daily efforts to adhere to it and discipline myself to stay focused. Not only did it improve my work habits, but it also made it easier to find time for personal goals. Knowing my availability helped me maximize my time.
Remote Learning for Students
As the pandemic continued, the next major decision was whether remote learning was the best option for my nieces. Over the summer, local school districts spent more time arguing about mask mandates and sports participation than developing an online curriculum. We were concerned their education would suffer because of it. So, we decided they should attend in person.
Each one went to a different school and had their own measures in place to ensure the safety of students. We added more decontamination measures including immediate disposal of old masks, changing when they got home, and daily laundering. Furthermore, they each carried PPEs on their person and washed their hands constantly.
The private high school had stringent social distancing measures that seemed to be working. Unfortunately, the elementary school had grown lax in enforcing them. It was disconcerting to hear about their daily “mask break” and sparked another family meeting as the number of cases continued to rise. Both girls were feeling more anxious attending classes in person. They were worried that other students were not being as cautious which detracted from their lessons. Therefore, we all agreed it was better to set up a home office and classroom for them to attend lessons online.
Setting Up a Home Classroom
Since I had already set up a home office, creating a remote classroom was much simpler. The first step was to clean their room to make a dedicated work space, just as I had. Each one had a desk in their room which was quieter and more organized than the common areas. We also learned their class schedules to ensure they stayed on task and accounted for their time.
The first semester was a learning experience for everyone. They each had different study habits and learning styles. While my elder niece can self-motivated and manage her time very well, the younger one needed more guidance. When she wasn’t physically in the classroom, she was less likely to ask for help. Her grades started to slip and she became more reclusive. She said she felt less motivated and overwhelmed as the material got more difficult. Oftentimes, we forget that mental health is a crucial component when working from a home office and classroom.
Making Adjustments Along the Way
As we begin our second semester of remote learning, we have implemented new strategies. The biggest change was adhering to a strict schedule. We now mimic the routine they had when attending classes in person. Every morning, they get up and come to my house. There is a desk for each of us in the home office as well. Furthermore, we mirror the teacher’s schedules and use planners to track homework. Being more organized allows them to have more control over their time and feel less overwhelmed.
There is also a more interactive atmosphere since we are all working simultaneously. Some would argue that social stimulation is just as important as the content of the lessons. Since we all share the same work space, I can better monitor her habits and make suggestions to help her improve. As an added bonus, we use time during lunches and classes she can’t participate in to review homework. Although the semester has just begun, there are already significant improvements. I truly believe that with self-discipline that we can all be just as effective working remotely.