If you’ve never worked from home before: hello, and welcome to the procrastination station. Your laundry will never be more folded.
You might think that working from home sounds like your dream — think of how much more you’ll get done without that commute — but in reality, combining your workspace with your living spaces is easier said than done. Without the office environment to get you in that “time to work” mindset, or without the threat of your boss “just stopping by” your cubicle to keep you on task, finding the discipline to get stuff done can seem impossible. Luckily, there is away. Here are some tips to make this new experiment in working remotely a successful one.
Cut Yourself Some Slack
The home is a veritable minefield of distractions, where suddenly even the most loathsome of chores become more appealing than the task at hand. So if you suddenly find yourself decalcifying your showerhead at 2 PM on a Wednesday, don’t be alarmed. This is completely normal, even if it’s definitely not what you should be doing. The truth is that somedays you’re probably going to get less work done while working from home, especially if you have kids, so cut yourself some slack. You’re only human.
Find Your Optimal Workspace
Where you work within your living space is a crucial early choice you’re going to have to make. If you have a home office, that makes things pretty clear-cut. But if you don’t have a closeable door to keep the kids, the family dog, or your partner from being a distraction, that will make things tougher. You might find yourself doing your best work from the kitchen table, or even the couch — it’s all up to you. Or if you’re anything like this particular writer, who’s writing this sentence while lying on her stomach under the covers, you might be more inclined to work in bed — to which she would strongly advise, “Do as I say, not as I do.” If you have any desire to get a good night’s sleep ever again: don’t bring your laptop to bed with you. But lying down to work is an A+ decision.
Make a Routine (and Stick to It!)
In practice, working from home should be a lot like any other office job, comprising all the typical things you’d expect an office job would: a full coffee pot, regular hours, consistent breaks, and a uniform that in no way involves footie pajamas. The key to achieving all this? Having a routine.
It all starts with what you wear. If you dress as if you were going to leave the house, you will find yourself being more productive. This doesn’t mean wearing a suit and tie in your living room, but do dress with intention. Beyond that, you should have an idea of what work you’re going to do and when. This is not the time to let your calendar collect cobwebs, or let new (bad) habits take hold. Scheduling out your day and sticking to the plan you set for yourself will make all the difference. The more you can model your time after a typical in-office workday, complete with a specific clock-in and clock-out, the better off you’ll be.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate!
Working from home is great if you’re an introvert, but there are huge challenges to not sharing the same space with your boss and coworkers. This is where communication becomes imperative — not just to keep you sane, but to make sure you’re all on the same page. Check in with your boss throughout the day. Let them know when you’ve started an assignment, when you’re finished with it, when you’re stuck. Just keep in touch. It’s necessary from a social aspect, but also to ensure your team doesn’t let anything fall through the cracks.
Embrace the Emoji
This is an offshoot of communication. While you might find yourself using Zoom or Skype to have video conferences a lot, you’ll also be messaging your coworkers much more often. Since tone is often hard to convey by text alone, don’t be afraid to throw in an emoji or two. Keep messages cheery and positive, even if you’re feeling stressed beyond belief.
Take Breaks, and Go Outside
At the office, even if you were mostly sedentary, you still had the opportunity to walk around and get some steps in. But your living space is probably quite a bit smaller than the average office, which can easily make people feel caged in. The solution: go outside. Sure, under lockdown it’s unwise to go out and about, but walks around your neighborhood are still allowed. Fresh air and sun does the body and mind good.
Don’t Use the Bathroom While You Video Conference Your Entire Department
The schadenfreude is strong with this one. If you’ve spent any time on Twitter this past week, you’ve no doubt seen (or heard of) the video of a woman who being the dedicated employee she is — got so invested in her Zoom meeting that she absentmindedly brought her laptop into the bathroom with her… and forgot to turn off the camera. Was it embarrassing? Yes. Was it funny? Also yes. But it’s also a lesson that all of us can learn from.
We are all new at taking work video conference calls at home, and there are going to be some growing pains. Accidents will happen, and your husband might walk into the room wearing nothing but his underwear and a football jersey. Just, try to be mindful of your surroundings, and warn your loved ones before you hop on a call so they can put on pants.
Remember, You Are Not Alone
Working from home is going to be very new and strange for many people, especially those of us who crave the social interaction of an in-office setting. But as stressful as it is to have our daily routines thrown into upheaval, the fact that many of us are still able to work is both a blessing, and a reminder: the world is still turning, and we are all “alone” in this together.
And on that note of togetherness: please do what you can to help others during the coronavirus outbreak. Support your local small businesses. If you have the means, consider donating or contributing funds to those hurting from the effects of the shutdown. It doesn’t necessarily have to be money. It can be a service, or comfort, or anything. Even as we socially distance, being there for one another has never been more important. These are tough times for everyone, but we will get through them.
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Check Out These References for Further Reading:
“How to Work From Home Without Losing Your Mind.” Wired. Retrieved 26 March 2020.
“The Coronavirus Is Creating a Huge, Stressful Experiment in Working From Home.” The Atlantic. Retrieved 26 March 2020.
“20 Tips for Working From Home.” PCMag. Retrieved 26 March 2020.
“Working from home with kids feels unsustainable. Here’s how to ease the burden.” Vox. Retrieved 26 March 2020.