Pandemic Profs: Being Productive When Working from Home

view from Don's desk at home

Welcome to our new series to give you a glimpse into Rowan University, our campus culture, and the lives of our students, while practicing social distancing to protect society from the spread of coronavirus. Today’s story is from Don DeWitt, a senior isolating from his house in Gloucester County, NJ. Don, a Music Industry major, lives off campus. 

With the official stay-at-home order from Governor Murphy, all Rowan students are adjusting to online class instruction and the unique challenges that come with it. Additionally, some students who have never worked from home before are continuing jobs and internships at home.

Suddenly working from home is the new standard for many Rowan students and staff alike, and some members of the Rowan community may be quickly realizing the challenges of working entirely from home. I am one of those students who finds myself not only taking all my courses online, but also working two jobs remotely. It is also likely for many Rowan students and staff that their family members are either working or taking classes online from home as well.

Because of this unprecedented time, I made the following guide of simple tips and advice for staying productive, focused and sane when transitioning to working from home. Please be aware that these tips come from my own experience working from home with my family in the past few weeks and may not work for everyone; however, if you are having difficulty taking care of business at home, then this advice is worth a shot!

  • Get dressed. Yes, I mean what we have all been fearing the most after this is all over with: Put on pants! If you have trouble focusing and working as efficiently as you would in the classroom or office, try putting on some jeans and a T-shirt in the morning (or whatever your normal, everyday, going out in public outfit is). This could put you in a more awake, alert, ready-to-get-things-done mood.
  • Keep a schedule. Try to make a schedule that keeps you on track to take care of your responsibilities and meet the goals you had before the lockdown as closely as possible. I get up at 8 a.m. on weekdays to start working for my remote IT job at 8. I don’t prefer eating breakfast as soon as I wake up, so a benefit of working from home is having access to my kitchen around 10 when my stomach realizes I am actually hungry! The flexibility of working from home allows us to set times to take care of specific responsibilities while also doing things on our own time. After I stop working at noon I work through my list of responsibilities and make sure I have time to do everything that needs to be done during the day. It is also important to go sleep around the same time every night so your body gets used to waking up at the same time in the morning.
  • Make lists. Lists can be used to organize and prioritize your goals, assignments and projects, while making it easy to keep track of what you have already completed and what still needs to be done. Lists are flexible and can be as specific or general as you want. Every few days I make a list of what assignments, projects and chores I have for the days ahead. I combine my responsibilities for work, school and home all on the same list because it helps me see what is more important to work on and where I can fit each responsibility into my schedule. Before the lockdown, my lists were more separate and only pertained to specific topics like work or school, but my schedule has become more fluid except for planned Zoom and WebEx meetings. I use old-fashioned pen-and-paper, but you could use an app to keep track of your lists. It is all about what best helps keep track of the ever-growing pile of responsibilities during this chaotic time in our lives.
A cement walkway on Rowan's campus with lamp posts, green grass, and trees during sunset.
Going for a walk while practicing social distancing is a safe way to take a break from the computer screen.
  • Take breaks. With almost all work being done on a computer, it is important to step away from the screen once in a while. If you find yourself clicking through tabs in circles (the modern-day equivalent to reading the same paragraph in a book three times), it may be time for a quick 5 to 15 minute break. During this short break you can go on a walk (social distance!), eat a snack or have a conversation or phone call with friends or family (again, social distance!). You will come back to the computer screen with a refreshed mind, ready to get things done.
  • Have fun! Working at home can be just as stressful as working in a classroom or office but now we have the freedom to do the things we like to do while we work without bothering others, like listening to music. Put on the radio or make a playlist of your favorite uplifting tunes. If you are looking for a motivating work song I recommend Taking Care of Business by Bachmann Turner Overdrive. Additionally you can make your video conferences just a bit more fun using a cool program called ChromaCam. ChromaCam takes your video during web calls and replaces the background with any image you want. You can also use this to hide a messy room with a faux office to appear more professional!

Hopefully you will find some of the ideas in this article useful and can adapt them to your routine. If you have any useful ideas for being productive while working at home please share them in a comment. We will get through the lockdown by coming together while in isolation.

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Story by:
Don DeWitt, music industry senior

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