Techniques for Teleworking: TAMU-CC Sociology Professor Gives Tips on Working from Home

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Making the transition to working from home can be a difficult process, and teleworkers may be struggling with distractions, productivity issues, prioritization, and other challenges. An expert on work and occupations, Dr. Michael Ramirez has some tips that may help teleworkers be more successful during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The transition to our new world of work has been jarring for most of us,” said Ramirez, Associate Professor of Sociology at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. “Now that we are in week three, I’ve started to situate my plan to successfully work from home. Here are some tips that have worked for me.”

“Put energy where you need to these days,” he said. “We are fortunate that most of us are able to work remotely but with this transition comes the complications of blurring the lines between work and home.”

Working from home is not a substitute for child care, Ramirez said, so juggling both those responsibilities is particularly challenging. Sociologists and journalists have started to see how working remotely is impacting some people more than others – in particular what is referred to as the “second shift” (working parents coming home for their second “job” of maintaining the home, caring for children, cooking meals, and other chores). This is compounded during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Figure out – with members of your household if possible – what each person’s priorities are each day,” Ramirez suggested. “And here’s the important part, attempt to be collective in managing a way for everyone’s success.” 

Rather than being tied to a strict eight-hour shift mentality, Ramirez advised teleworkers to work efficiently and to be flexible when necessary.

“It’s a challenge, I know, for people who love their jobs and are invested in their jobs to not overwork,” he said. “I’ve been trying to work shorter hours on some days so that I can be more present for and with my family.”

While many jobs depend on an employee being on task all eight hours, those with other jobs that require shorter, more intense periods of work followed by less busy times may consider a different approach.

“Research shows that during our traditional eight-hour workday, many workers are on task for only three hours,” he said. “I’ve been trying to focus for four to five hours per day and deem that a full and productive ‘shift.’”

Some workers may benefit from making a list of key tasks to accomplish each day.

“I’ve done this for some time now and find it particularly helpful these days,” Ramirez said. “I try to select six key things I need to get done each day – and make sure that not all of them are ‘big’ tasks – and focus my time on those items. I’ve found that lengthy to-do lists for everything I need to accomplish over the full work week can be stifling. So instead, I just choose six.”

One or two are often big items, he said, but others are smaller organizational or even household tasks that he commits to complete. Ramirez said this approach makes each day more manageable, and there’s some satisfaction of crossing off all six (or some days even just four) of the tasks at the end of each day.

A key goal is to be easy on yourself.

“All of us are overextended right now,” he said. “We are splitting our attention between work, family, the impossible task of becoming our children’s teachers, managing bills, not to mention the worries of our families, friends, and communities. Americans are notorious, contrary to belief, of overworking ourselves. I’m trying to be easier on myself and reminding myself that not every task in this new world in which we find ourselves needs to be perfect.”