It’s no secret that working from home is… well, awesome! Many people want to do it, few are lucky to have the opportunity. That is, until now. Because of the rapid spread of the coronavirus, many companies can either go on hiatus for an indefinite amount of time or figure out how to function remotely. Small businesses in particular could be in danger if they don’t shift to find an alternative way to keep operations up and running. The truth is, in times like this, we can thrive!

The silver lining now is that this may finally be the evidence companies need to see that working remotely has many great benefits, like that it’s cost effective and employees are just as productive as when they work in-office. It’s also a great time to watch how companies are adding new lines in their business offerings.The Covid-19 self-quarantine has become an unintended social experiment that just might change the future of business.

As a remote support solutions company, VaVa Virtual Assistants has been connecting employees and clients in a virtual space for the last 8.5 years, allowing businesses to not only operate as usual, but thrive. This is what we do — we were born ready! We have six helpful tips for people new to working from home to keep things running smoothly, even in a state of emergency.

Set Boundaries with Your Family:

Before you can begin a successful work day at home, you’ll need to set boundaries with your kids if you have them. Under these circumstances, you may need to let some things slide, like being more flexible about screen-time to keep them occupied so you can get things done.

If you don’t have a home office with a door you can close, you can mark off your workspace. For example, cut circles out of red and green paper. Put the red circle on your desk to show your kids you need quiet to work or take a phone call. Put a green circle on the desk to give them the go-ahead to talk or ask you a question. If you have to take over the kitchen or living room, clear boundaries will help your kids respect your space and working hours.

Things get a little trickier if you have younger ones. As we all know, they can be not  great about personal space, boundaries, listening, or using an indoor voice. We’ve heard from parents  that closely mimicking their school day is working – awesome! This means everything down to morning lessons, lunch hour, gym and even recess. Intervals of 15 to 30 minutes at a time can be a game changer. It doesn’t sound like much, but do whatever you’re reasonably able to manage to get things done and you might find you get more done in small bursts than in a long sitting. Again, kids of all ages love screens so movies or games on the iPad can buy you a little time, as well as working during naps. If they love books, even better!

Set Daily Goals and Keep an Agenda:

When you work a 9 to 5 in an office job, you’re bound to the routine of your office procedures and community. Those boundaries dissolve when you work from home, but without structure, your days won’t be as productive. It starts as soon as you get up in the morning. Try to wake up at the same time every day and get ready for work the same way you would if you were going to your office. Dress in your normal work clothes if it helps you feel more mentally connected to your job.

Outline everything you want to accomplish in the day and make daily goals and work on the highest priority or impact item first. Even if it’s short, a daily checklist will help you make your day more productive. If you’re working on a large project with a team of other people, setting daily goals provides direction, motivation, and accountability for each person. People that set goals are more productive and focused, allowing for a better quality of output. You’ll maximize your time and energy without feeling burned out or panicked. Plus, seeing your items checked off one by one is super satisfying.

You should also have an end time to your workday. Without one, you’ll end up procrastinating with, “I’ll just do it later” excuses or stretching your workday way too late in the evening.

Avoid Distractions and Limit Your Screen Time: 

While there are some distractions in the office, you know you have a responsibility to stay at your desk, you’re limited in what you’re allowed to do, and your boss is there to hold you accountable. You’ll probably lose your train of thought a lot during the first week of working from home where this isn’t the case. You’ll want to clean the kitchen or suddenly remember you needed to order a birthday gift off of Amazon. If the pile of laundry in the bedroom isn’t staring you in the face, it will probably be Instagram or a constant buzz of Facebook IMs calling to you, and the list goes on.

The most productive leaders and entrepreneurs know that the more screen time you engage in, the less productive and creative you are. It’s especially easy to get distracted and lose track of time at home where internet access isn’t limited. It’s ok to take a break to check personal messages or watch a YouTube video, but set a timer. Give yourself five minutes to decompress, but don’t get sucked into a black hole. If you struggle with this, use a time lock like Motion. It tracks the time you spend on distracting sites and will lock you out based on your time preferences.

Organized File Sharing and Consolidated Project Management:

Hopefully this time working from home will show companies that there are plenty of tools that make it extremely easy and labor-saving to go paperless and conduct business online. File sharing with your team on Dropbox , Google Drive  are fast and efficient as long as you understand how to maximize their file sharing and storage features. Your files must be organized to eliminate confusion and time spent looking for important documents, but you’ll be able to keep your business running without the unnecessary clutter and stress!

Sites like Basecamp keep assignments in one place and everyone on the same page. You can also share links, documents, and leave tagged messages on projects so you have an up-to-date timeline of progress. That way, even if you’re not meeting anyone in person, you can still assign tasks and know who’s doing what. You can access your project management platform to get all the information you need whether you’re quarantined at home or working from the office. It’s also great for connecting with clients in other time zones.

Stay Social with Effortless Communication:

The only way to be successful working from home is with excellent communication and being able to connect with your team and clients. A messaging app like Slack can bring your team together with group or one-on-one messaging, chat rooms, and file sharing. If more explanation is needed, you can use a platform like Zoom for video conferencing. Hosting a weekly video conference for everyone to touch base is a great way to build camaraderie as well.

Working from home can be lonely sometimes so better communication through FaceTiming, phone calls, and IMs can help you feel less isolated. Ask your coworkers a fun, unusual question over Slack to get the conversation flowing or FaceTime a friend on your lunch break so it’s like you’re out to eat together. If you need to talk to a coworker about a project, ask them if they can Skype or at least talk on the phone so you’re interacting more personally than you would through an email. 

Since the self-quarantine situation has put a kibosh on community work spaces and being within 10 feet of others, it’s important to make an effort to virtually stay in touch with coworkers and friends to avoid the blues. 

Focus on Results:

Successful people care more about great end results rather than how someone got them. They’re more open minded about changing things if it’s more efficient and cost effective. You’ll probably find that there are a lot of great perks to working from home, but you’ll also have to adjust to some special accommodations if it’s not part of your normal routine. As long as everyone can still meet their deadlines and accomplish their tasks, keep an open mind about how you can get things done under these abnormal circumstances. Any progress, even if it’s slow or unconventional, is progress.

The coronavirus pandemic has brought a lot of businesses and schools to an abrupt halt, but there are a tremendous number of online tools available specifically created to meet a variety of productivity needs. Although your workforce may not interact in person at this time, they’ll feel connected and in the loop with online tools that connect your office team to maximize time, energy, and success when conducting business from home. This is a very alarming and unexpected event that has upset everyone’s normal routines, so try not to stress too much if things feel out of whack for the first few days. You’ll get into a groove that works for you, your coworkers, and your family soon enough, and with any luck, more companies will feel confident in letting their employees work from home.