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In recent years, more Americans have started working from home, but with the novel coronavirus outbreak shutting down many businesses in the United States and elsewhere, hundreds of thousands Americans who are not used to working remotely are now having to learn on the fly. 

Chattanooga-based Unum Group, the world's biggest disability insurer, recently announced it is encouraging most of its 2,800 employees who normally work at Unum's headquarters to do their work remotely due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19. 

The company has provided several tips on how to stay connected and focused while working from home including the following:  

1. Pretend like you are going into the office:  The mental association you make between work and an office can make you more productive, and there's no reason that feeling should be lost when telecommuting.  When working from home, do all the things you'd do to prepare to come into the office role: Set your alarm, make (or go get) coffee, and put on your work clothes.  Pajamas are tempting, but not a great idea if you want to be at your best.

 

2. Define your work hours: You will find that you are most productive if you have a 'normal' work schedule determined by you and your manager.

 

3. Get comfortable: Pay attention to workplace ergonomics even when you are working from home. Working from your couch might be tempting but try to set up your work space to allow you to be at your best, most productive self.

 

4. Include breaks for your brain! It's not just your body that needs a break.

 

5. Stay available: Make sure your calendar is up to date, pay attention to instant messages and emails, and make sure you respond when your manager or colleagues are trying to connect with you. Just like when you're in the office. Remember: You don't need a meeting invite to reach out to someone. Pick up the phone. Frequent check-ins - at times expected and unexpected - can significantly lessen the feeling of distance.

 

6. Prioritize your wellbeing: Commit to making time for some activities that allow you to get up and move, eat healthy meals and drink plenty of liquids. It's getting warmer outside so go for a short walk and enjoy the spring weather. 

 

7. Stay motivated: Working virtually can feel isolating, so be sure to reach out to colleagues or your manager when you are feeling disconnected.

 

8. Try to not get distracted by social media or your smartphone. Consider keeping your cell phone or other distractions in another room.

 

9. Know when to log off: Working virtually means that you could be working at all hours, but it's important to set a time when you officially "log off" for the day.

 

10. Welcome kids, pets, and significant others. Working remotely is a juggling act for many individuals and families. For some, it's impossible to carve out long periods of uninterrupted time, especially when other family members are also working and learning remotely. If confidentiality is not at risk, be understanding of different voices, noises, and faces nearby during calls or video conferences. When appropriate, introduce your loved ones to your team if they happen to be near you during a virtual meeting. The more, the merrier!

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