Seed World

5 Tips for Working from Home During COVID-19

Experts share tips they’ve learned from working at home full-time.

COVID-19 is throwing a wrench in everyone’s plans. Potentially the biggest problem we’ve faced as a global industry is the stay-at-home orders — whenever possible, people across the globe have been asked to stay home to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Unfortunately, that extends to business. Whoever can work at home has been asked to work at home. For the United States, that is still in place in almost all states. 

And as most people have figured out by now … Working from home is difficult! There are plenty of distractions, ranging from pets to children to housework. So how is it that people are able to work from home full-time? 

Seed World chatted with two experts who are old hands at working from home now to discuss what their top tips are for making their work as productive as possible.

  1. Set a schedule and stick with it

Even though I’ve had a home office for 13 years, COVID-19 has still changed the game,” says Todd Martin, CEO of the Independent Professional Seed Association. “Previously, I was out visiting customers every day, or I could head out and grab a coffee when I needed to get out of the office. Now, I’ve had to set up a regimented schedule of working in the office.”

Martin says he makes sure this schedule looks the same every morning — from getting up at the same time, to putting on work clothes, to taking lunch at noon and closing up shop by 5 p.m. 

“If I don’t make a schedule, I drive myself bonkers,” he says. “I’ll get really deep into work, skip lunch and forget to drink water. By the time my wife comes home from teaching, I haven’t seen anyone, I haven’t eaten and I haven’t taken any breaks.” 

Michelle Klieger, president of Stratagerm Consulting, agrees: “Figure out a schedule that works for you. I’m a morning person, so I try to do all the hard things in the morning. Then, I schedule more calls in the afternoon, because this works best with my energy level.”

Michelle Klieger

2. Create a designated workspace

“Many people will say get a desk,” Klieger says. “I didn’t for over a year, because I wasn’t sure if I was going to work remotely long-term, and I didn’t want to invest in a desk until I was sure. However, even without a desk, I still had a place of my own to work.”

This environment needs to be a place where work gets done and distractions can be minimized. 

“If you have the ability to make a dedicated office space, you should do it,” Martin says. “If you bring anything that isn’t work into that space, such as online shopping or even video games, it tends to be easier to get distracted.” 

Martin says for this workspace, it’s imperative to draw the line of what’s work, and what’s home life. That way, it’s a bit easier to minimize distractions.

“It’s easy at home to work all the time, and it’s hard to get away from it. But, at some point you have to say there’s a time where things need to wait until the next day.” Todd Martin

3. Keep you schedule … and don’t do housework!

While this tip might seem silly, everyone from home faces this challenge: there’s a big pile of dishes in the sink, and it seems imperative to clean them right now! Here’s a secret, though … that’s a distraction. 

“Don’t do house chores as an excuse to not do work,” Klieger says. “It’s easy to say I’m going to finish the laundry or clean up around the house.”

Klieger says it’s easy to procrastinate with housework, especially if you like a neat space. 

“When you are at work, you can’t worry about the state of your house,” she says. 

“It’s easy to stop and say, ‘Oh, I need to do some laundry! Oh, I need to walk the dogs!'” Martin says. “Act like you’re in an office to try and minimize the distraction of being in the house. Everyone working from home, even pros, say they suffer from the same thing. But you’ve got to maintain focus and keep your schedule.”

4. Make sure to know when to turn work off

Todd Martin

At the office, it’s easy to know when your designated work hours are. Most employers dictate the specific hours employees should be working at the office. Think about your standard nine to five jobs — you know exactly when you’re working and when you’re getting done. But working from home can cause that line to blur.

“When you get done, close the door to work,” Martin says. “It’s easy at home to work all the time, and it’s hard to get away from it. But, at some point you have to say there’s a time where things need to wait until the next day.”

Martin says one of the big difficulties with this is the issue that most people — be it customers or co-workers — want an immediate answer from you, because our technology has advanced to the point where we can get immediate responses. 

“Everything is not ‘I need to get this done right now,'” he says. “This is important for work-life balance. Sometimes, you need to put your phone away and pay attention to the people around you.”

Klieger agrees. 

“I work in my office and don’t bring my laptop to the family room at night,” she says. “If I make an exception, I use the dying battery as a limiter a proxy for a one hour timer. Once the battery dies, I’m done working for the night.”

5. Coordinate schedules to minimize distractions

One thing to note — working from home during COVID-19 is still different than working from home in normal conditions. There are more distractions in the house, due to more people being present, which can cause difficulties in productivity.

“I worked from home for two years before COVID,” Klieger says. “I found it challenging to suddenly have my daughter and husband home with me. There were more schedules to coordinate and competing conference calls, plus the new schedule was difficult for our dog. Suddenly, she was always awake and bothering me.”

While Klieger says there’s no way to fully eliminate distractions, she’s found that coordinating schedules has helped these new challenges. 

“My husband and I sit down each night and talk about what meetings we must attend or what has to get done,” she says. “We work together to make sure each of us has the time we need. Other than that, I recommend a lot of patience!”

Martin notes that on his most productive days, he’s had to fully plan out his days. 

“I make blocks for busy days — each activity has its own time block,” he says. “It’s easier to stay on task when you’re busy, but it’s hard to stay on task when the day is slow.”

That’s where blocking off time and coordinating his schedule has really helped. 

“I really have to work on my time management skills on slow days,” Martin says. “If I haven’t blocked off my day to accomplish things, I’m going to get distracted. It all goes back to setting a schedule for the day.”