Many of us worked from home regularly pre-pandemic, but that was typically limited to once or twice a week. Working from home provides a nice balance, a welcome respite from the humdrum of commuting, but it is not without its own challenges. When in the office, the day is naturally broken up by impromptu meetings, kitchen chats, a walk outside to get a coffee or lunch. The workday is clearly defined by when you get to the office, and when you leave, and your family life is naturally separated from work.
Not so with the current situation, in which we are not only required to work from home full-time, we also have been told by the USG to stay home, forgoing lunches out and coffeeshop breaks. Understanding how difficult this can be for even the most adaptable of us, we have put together a list of OUR top work-from-home tips.
Designate a workspace
…that’s NOT your bed! It’s important that you have one designated space that can be considered your temporary desk. Wherever it is, try to use that same space every day. We are creatures of habit, and moving your work around the house can be discounting.
Optimize your workspace
There’s only so much most of us can do without making a serious investment in new furniture, etc., but you can make it as comfortable and conducive to work as possible. A comfortable chair, good lighting, enough notepads, pens, etc. Think about your office at work and try to replicate as much as you can.
Set a schedule and create a routine
This one’s hard, as many of us are working from home alongside a spouse or partner, and/or have kids at home full-time. So set a loose schedule for your weekdays, and make sure everyone in the house is on the same page. You’ll quickly fall into a routine, which helps decrease stress and anxiety. That said, the reality is that there will be interruptions, there will be changes to your schedule, so have a schedule in mind with some wiggle room.
This one is easier said than done, especially if there are kids (or needy pets) around, but try to make it clear to everyone in the house when you absolutely need quiet time. Tag team with your spouse or partner to enable you both to attend important meetings.
Embrace the whiteboard
Or chalkboard! Or corkboard! Anything you can tack up in your “home office” to help keep you on track. Write your to-do lists, big projects, reminders, inspirational quotes, etc. It’s a piece of the office you can easily get at home, and having those visual reminders of what you need to get done can help get you focused.
Create a mental dump zone
But…what is a mental dump zone? Glad you asked! Have a notebook, or sticky notes, or a section of your whiteboard that is solely dedicated to those nagging reminders we all experience over the course of the day – the “to do’s” that aren’t urgent but do need to get done at some point. Write them down, and you clear up valuable brain space!
Wear shoes. And pants. Brush your teeth. And your hair. You don’t need to dress to the 9’s before sitting down to work, but getting out of your pajamas and doing a little self-grooming can be remarkably therapeutic and confidence-boosting. It’s part of your normal office routine, so start your day off right by spending a few minutes “getting ready”.
An actual lunch break. A tea break. A coffee break. Just remember: when you’re at the office, breaks naturally build themselves into your day. So set reminders on your schedule for several 10-15-minute breaks each day. Mentally, physically, emotionally – you need time away from your computer.
Be ok with mess
One of the hardest parts of working from home is figuring out how to turn a blind eye to that pile of laundry, those dishes in the sink. A few minutes of tidying up here and there throughout the day is fine, but don’t overburden yourself by trying to be everything and do everything. Remember, your home isn’t used to having everyone home 24/7, so things are going to get a little messier before they get better. But everyone is in the same, messy boat.
Be prepared for the worst
This sounds doom and gloom, but it’s really about having a realistic mindset and being ok with just laughing off the absurd situation in which we all find ourselves. Your 4-year old streaking, full birthday suit, behind you while you’re on an important client video call? Life happens. Your dog barks his way through the entirety of a conference call? Get a cat 😉. The point is, the pandemic has forced all of us into a weird work life that is inevitably mixed with our home life. So, let’s be understanding and sympathetic toward each other when the ridiculous happens. After all, there are much bigger fish to fry right now than a disastrous video call.