The Challenges of SUDDENLY Working from Home

Working remotely often is a much sought-after benefit. It usually comes after a business has had plenty of time to create and implement a plan for virtual success. However, you may have found yourself in the position of teleworking unexpectedly, and you are trying to forge a new path that creates a balance between your work and home lives.

There are many unique challenges of a home office under normal circumstances. But these are not normal circumstances. Even if you are a veteran virtual worker, you suddenly may be sharing your quiet space and time with children, a spouse or significant other, or maybe a parent. This new normal is absolutely the right thing to do in the face of the Coronavirus pandemic. But knowing you’re doing the right thing does not make your life any easier.

So how should you handle distractions, a lack of focus, or the blurring of boundaries between work and personal life? To answer that question, we turned to our favorite experts…YOU! We reached out to our Certified Travel Associate (CTA®) graduates, and, as always, you delivered! Here are some practical tips from your colleagues for addressing these challenges.

Set a schedule and stay organized:

Eoin Landers, CTA
My advice is to have a schedule. The distractions at home are much worse than in an office. But if you have planned breaks and tasks to do, then things get done.
Jennifer Roy, CTA
Developing a work schedule and adhering to it as much as possible is vitally important.

Stick to your old routine:

Mandy Armstrong, CTA
Set office hours. Get up in the morning, get ready and “go to the office.” Take regular breaks, including a lunch break. Then when the day is done, close the door to your office and have a life outside the office.

Andrea Sedlacek, CTA
My number one best practice for working from home is to follow the daily routines you have when going into the office. For me, that’s waking up, taking my dog out, taking a shower, getting ready and pouring some coffee. Instead of leaving for the office, I just log on to my computer at home! Keeping this routine helps me maintain a bit of normalcy during this very weird time.

Have a dedicated workspace:

Christine Almeling, CTA
You need to have dedicated office space that is functional. Good lighting, comfortable chair and desk with a locking drawer for client files and personal information, like banking.
Riya Chaisson, CTA
My best tip for working virtually is to have a dedicated space with everything you need to run your business.

Dress for work:

Christina Schlegel, CTA
My #1 work-from-home tip: dress for work! Do your hair, wear a casual but polished outfit: you’ll feel more professional, look better on all those Zoom calls, and, at the end of the day, you can transition to your comfy clothes to mentally switch to relaxation mode.
Brenda McCafferty, CTA
Dress for work. You don’t have to dress like you are going to a business meeting, but dress, fix your hair, eat a little breakfast, and show up for work on time.

Set boundaries:

Tony DeNicola, CTA
Make sure your family knows that, when you are in your “Workspace/Office,” you are working. You are not mom or dad at that time unless it is an absolute emergency.
Jennifer Roy, CTA
Creating a healthy work boundary within your home is essential for your own success and to prevent burnout. It helps to have a dedicated area that you work in and leave that area when your workday is complete.

Communicate with colleagues, managers, and clients:

Julia Mosley, CTA
Share new updates for Travel. Sharing the good travel news will help build trust with your client.
Norman Wray, CTA
I see a huge value in a good old-fashioned phone call. Whenever I call my clients, they tell me how much they appreciate it because it makes them feel personally connected.
Bhagyesh Chauhan, CTA
Instant messaging, community engagement threads, and videoconferencing can come in handy to interact with your peers and remind you how your work is contributing to a larger picture. Making these check-ins a regular part of your day at home can be a great way to add some zeal to work life.

Stay focused:

Kristen DeAngelo, CTA

As hard as it may be, try to stay focused. Create a task/goal list to stick to for that day. If you don’t finish what’s on the list for that day, roll it into the beginning of the next morning. This way, you can finish those tasks before tackling the next ones.
Laurie Ann LaFrance, CTA
Keeping the same routine & schedule has really helped me stay on track, focused and offers a sense of daily normalcy.

Use technology:

Susan Marteeny, CTA Use technology and apps to keep you on task, such as Microsoft To Do, Google Keep and Tasks, your CRM.
Harry McKenzie, CTA Use your Amazon Echo or Google Home smart speaker devices to set reminders and play white noise in the background while you work. My favorite is Sounds of the Forest on Google Home. The white noise is great for helping concentration, and the reminders keep you on track.
Pedro Vargas, CTA Use a VPN.

Work on your business/get educated:

Zac Wilson, CTA Dedicated time to work on your business is just as important as the tasks you have to serve your clientele. Schedule time for a webinar training, or to update your website, or to set up your social media marketing plan, or reconcile your Quickbooks, and more.
Christine Almeling, CTA Stay connected with other travel agents and suppliers. Keep up with training, take many webinars. Join FB groups that will be of interest. Sign up for emails from travel-related media sources. Join travel-related sources like The Travel Institute, Travel Leaders, and ASTA. They provide you with great information and training opportunities. I have received leads and bookings from various resources. Earn your Certified Travel Agent certificate. It shows you have completed training and are still a professional although working from home.

Work out:

Shari Vick, CTC Get a workout in because, when you work from home, you are not moving as much in your home as in an office.
Brenda McCafferty, CTA Never eat lunch at your desk. Take two breaks a day, even on your busiest day. I’ve started taking virtual yoga each morning. It’s only 15 minutes, but I feel more relaxed and productive the rest of the day.

Strike a healthy life/work balance:

Zac Wilson, CTA Communicating scheduled work hours to your clients will help you with Life-Work Balance. Notice the order of the words. It’s not a Work-Life Balance; it’s your Life-Work Balance. I would rather lose a sale or a client than lose my marriage.
Gene Folsom, CTA Commit to yourself that work time is work time and not time to catch up on household chores or other distractions and vice versa; home time is home time…don’t allow the easy access to your work to take away from your home/down time.
Pedro Vargas, CTA Keep a separate phone number.
Andrea Sedlacek, CTA It’s important to completely log off at the end of the day and not touch my computer after my workday is over (unless something urgent is going on). I need to give myself a mental break from work and not feel obligated to be constantly connected when it’s so easy to be.

Dream and plan:

Julie Meeks, CTA I sent an email with links for virtual tours to my clients. I advised that, although we don’t recommend travel currently, we can all start to dream and plan for our next big adventure. One of the best ways to spark interest is to see or hear about a destination.
Tamara Jacobs, CTA Surround yourself with travel photos, memories and other elements that remind you of what you do. Where you are physically doesn’t matter; it’s how you approach your work and your day that will put you right into your groove no matter where you are.

Keep a positive attitude and be creative:

Julie Meeks, CTA The most important thing we can all do is stay positive. People will WANT to travel, and it’s just a matter of time. Get them thinking ahead to 2021 or even 2022.  Your seasoned travelers are looking ahead, for sure. They have a list of places they’ve never been. Find out where those are and start booking those now while there are some really great deals to be had. Go back to those bookings you couldn’t get because they were sold out.
Julia Mosley, CTA Offer a care package for their upcoming travel (Tylenol, alcohol wipes, Kleenex, sanitizer, information about “cancel for any reason” travel insurance). Since the COVID-19 travel scare, we all must be concerned about passenger health.
Gene Folsom, CTA Most of all, HAVE FUN.

Today’s Hot Tip Tuesday was inspired by the Time Management module of The Travel Institute’s Certified Travel Associate (CTA) program.