The Red & Black has compiled a list of four tips to help you prepare for online finals. (Photo via Unsplash)

Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, businesses and universities have implemented work-from-home policies for students and employees to follow to abide by social distancing guidelines.

Switching gears from in-person classes or work may have some wondering how their new normal is going to look like while working from home. This transition has sparked concern about maintaining productivity while working among the distractions of at-home life.

The Red & Black has compiled a list of tips for maximizing productivity while working remotely.

Set up an isolated workspace

Although you may be used to getting all your work done at your favorite coffee shop or study spot on campus, your at-home office will now have to make due.

It is important to designate an area of your home, whether it’s a bedroom desk or back patio, as your dedicated workspace. This should be an area where you can go into work mode and isolate yourself from any distractions such as family members, pets or roommates.

Thirty% of employees now working-from-home said family members and housemates were the No. 1 distraction they encountered, according to a 2020 survey of 1,500 Americans from Mentimeter. For this reason, it’s vital to distinguish a space away from all diversions to work efficiently.

Get up and move

While working remotely, you may sit down at your desk in the morning and find yourself staying in that same spot till the sun goes down. Though an increased sedentary lifestyle comes with the territory of working from home, it is still important to get your body moving in some capacity every single day.

Kaitlyn Godfrey, an alumni career services graduate assistant at the University of Georgia Career Center, said that getting up from her desk every hour and stretching has helped with her productivity.

“I have spent a lot of time at my desk these past few weeks, so getting up and moving allows me to not feel so stiff and also gives me a mini-break,” Godfrey said.

By taking a break from your assignments to exercise, you are actually gearing yourself up for a better work performance after your workout. According to a 2014 article by the Harvard Business Review, incorporating exercise in your daily routine can result in improved concentration, faster learning, sharper memory and many more cognitive benefits.

Maintain a routine

Maintaining a daily ritual could help those who are in need of structure to feel at ease during a period of uncertainty.

“Think of rituals as actions with meaning or emotion attached to them,” productivity expert Tonya Dalton said in a 2020 article by Healthline. “Rituals keep our day moving along but are infused with joy, pleasure or positive emotion.”

Whether it's waking up at your usual work-day hour or designating work outfits to avoid staying in pajamas all day, there are several ways you can maintain a sense of normalcy and routine during this time of unforeseen changes.

Schedule work and relaxation time

While maintaining your routine, it is helpful to schedule and clearly define your work time and personal time. Making a to-do list is useful in prioritizing your tasks for the day, whether it’s getting a workout in, finishing a research paper or taking a trip to the grocery store.

In an April 2020 article by Healthline, business strategist and productivity expert Rachael Cook recommends following the Pomodoro technique while working from home. This involves taking a five-minute break after every 25 minutes of focused work time.

Keep a healthy diet

Resisting the urge to visit your pantry every five minutes might be difficult during this time, especially since you may not be used to working in such close proximity to your kitchen. However, it is important to eat as you would in your normal day-to-day life and fill your body with nutritional foods to improve your mood and energy levels.

Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as walnuts or kiwi fruit, and vitamin E, such as asparagus, avocado and spinach, have been proven to improve cognitive functioning, according to a 2010 study conducted at the University of California at Los Angeles School of Medicine.

If you find yourself snacking more than usual while staying at home, make sure to choose foods with nutritional value.

Put your phone away

Just as it would in a classroom or at the office, your cell phone can serve as a big distraction while working from home. As you create a workspace isolated from the other disturbances of at-home life, you should do the same with your phone.

Try avoiding continuously checking your phone while working at home, as it breaks concentration and focus. Whether it takes throwing it across the room or putting it away in a desk drawer, don’t let your phone break your productivity flow while working.

Keep in touch

Transitioning from a lecture hall packed with students or an office full of coworkers to working in isolation every day can be tough. It’s important to stay connected with your peers to avoid feelings of loneliness that may cause you to feel sluggish and unmotivated.

Block some of your time for a video chat with friends or family to get those feelings of socialization and normalcy during this time. Though this will require taking a break from your work, it will benefit your productivity in the long run.

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