If you are just transitioning to working from home, it can be an adjustment. I’ve had the luxury to work from home at least 50% for the last 8 years and have some tips to share on doing it right… and wrong!
It will happen to you. It may not happen at first, but it will sneak up on you. All of a sudden you’ll be sitting in your office (aka the kitchen table or the couch) and you’ll look up to realize you haven’t showered and you’ve been wearing the exact same clothes since mid-day Monday. It’s Wednesday at 5.
Yes. The hidden dangers of working from home.
But figuring out your flow can help you make working from home both rewarding and more productive than the office ever was!
Working from home can be the ticket to higher productivity and better work-life balance
Working from home sounds glorious at first, and many parts of it are. There are fewer distractions and you waste less time actually getting to work.
But it also has some traps that you have to avoid.
You need to be careful to create boundaries and not let your life turn into a sinkhole of nothing but work, sleep, and crumbs down your shirt.
Some people go extreme and treat the home as an office, packing a lunch and getting dressed in business casual before walking to the room that serves as the home office.
From my perspective, that's unnecessary and kind of kills all of the benefits of working from home.
Working from home in sweatpants and messy hair is awesome!
You just have to do it right. And right might be different for everyone.
What's GREAT about working from home?
- Saving time on the commute
- Reducing distractions
- Saving time on getting ready each morning
- Being more productive with your overall time
- Easier to schedule in productive and satisfying breaks at home
- Getting to be with your (fur)babies all-day
How to work from home the right way
Create a dedicated workspace
This is probably the most important step in transforming working from home to a nuisance to an environment in which you thrive. You need to have a space to store your work items and also to allow your mind to enter work-mode.
I use an extra bedroom as an office. I have file cabinets, a standing desk, office supplies, monitors, a desk, and decorations. It feels like an office. But it also serves as our guest room when people visit.
Get creative about the space you have and where you can dedicate an ergonomic workstation.
On top of that, you need to access the tools that make you productive.
The most common thing I hear from people who struggle to work from home is that they miss the double monitors.
Well, get a monitor! I love this BenQ version that reduces blu-light emissions and you can even get a portable one delivered.
Double monitors are key to efficiency!
Keep the space ergonomic, too. The kitchen table and couch will start to get very uncomfortable if you perch there for 7-10 hours a day on the laptop.
Get a chair and a desk and elevate your monitors appropriately. If you're really dedicated, invest in a standing desk! I love this one.
During this COVID-19 quarantine, ask your office if you can check out your monitor and bring it home to increase productivity.
But don’t feel tied to that space
Again, perks of working at home really are that: PERKS.
So don’t overuse them.
But when it’s a little cold or you're feeling a little unmotivated, sit with your laptop in front of the fire while having some freshly-brewed tea. Because that sure as hell beats walking to the community kitchen for some crappy Lipton tea to drink at your cube.
Learn How to Manage your Video and Audio Conference Calls
No one wants to be that person whose not on mute when they think they are or accidentally shows up on video unbeknownst to them!
I recommend getting familiar with the various ways you can but in conference calls, both in the webinar application and via your phone
Additionally, consider putting a post-it-note or piece of tape on top of the camera so that you aren't accidentally on video without expecting it! As you will see below, I fully support embracing the benefits of working from home which includes not getting ready or putting on real clothes. So I don't really want to be on a video call, especially if I'm not expecting it.
A simple post-it-note over the computer camera lens can save you from horribly embarrassing mistakes! Or get a fancy webcam cover like this one.
Figure out a way to makes yourself leave the house
As I mentioned earlier, it's easy to exit a 3-day-work binge and realize you haven't changed your sweats or exited the threshold that is the front door.
Don't let that happen!
Even with #socialdistancing, we can leave the house individually. Go for a walk or just work or read from the patio.
Create a Morning Routine
It can be too tempting to jump straight out of bed and into work or into the craziness of the day.
Don't let it happen!
How you enter the day affects how the rest of the day feels. And this is even more important as most of us are now navigating working from home. It's too easy to jump from bed right into the craziness of the day, but the day will often be better if you create a little distance between sleep and work.
If you wake up scattered and running around, there’s a chance that feeling will follow you throughout the day. Yet if you wake up and enjoy some of your favorite things in a calm way, that centered and fulfilled feeling will occupy your day. Put yourself in the right mental space to tackle the day.
Use the morning to set the tone for the rest of the day and achieve some of your most critical goals.
Stay Active and Get Outdoors
As a pet-less lady, I used to feel like those with pets have it easy here. You kind of have to take the dog on a walk. And that's great because the outside is great and creates a routine that gets your body moving and gives you necessary sun exposure to regulate your circadian rhythms and increase vitamin D.
I now have a pup and can safely say that our morning walks are sacred for just those reasons and because they give both him and me so much joy!
However, you don't need a pet to stay active. Some other ideas to get moving in the morning and get outside:
- Diligently indulge in a morning run
- Do calisthenics like the 7-minute workout outside
- Meditate outside on the patio or in the yard each morning
- Go on a walk and listen to your favorite podcast before you get ready for work
Create structure, even if it's loose
Find some kind of structure that works for you. For some people that is getting up every day and showering before getting fully dressed. For me, that would be hell. But hey, something for everyone.
Structure is about setting boundaries and enforcing priorities. So go to the extents that you need to ensure you are honoring your true goals.
Similarly to work at the office, you need to know that work time is work time and create space for the other important pieces of your life, whether that be hobbies, social commitments, or family responsibilities.
No matter what your additional priorities are, you also need to make sure to commit to yourself and your wellness goals because you can't pour from an empty cup.
Ideas to introduce structure yet maintain flexibility while working from home
- Stagger the day in 30 to 60-minute increments of tasks.
- Include both work and personal tasks in your schedule so you don't lose track of ALL of your priorities
- Create a morning routine
- Allow breaks
- Don’t let yourself relax or exclusively do household stuff in the work times. This can lead to Netflix binges and having your work from home privileges removed!
- Set relatively consistent start and end times to your workday
More importantly, stop work when work is done. With no boundaries and no commute, you can find yourself literally working from wake to sleep. And then you go a little crazy. SO stop, take the dog for a walk, or just walk outside and listen to a podcast
Embrace the positives of working from home
Highlight the things that really make working from home a good experience for you and then do those things!
If you're like me, that’s not showering and not wearing "real" clothes. It's no secret that real pants are not my thing, and this flowchart proves it. So when working from home I embrace that!
Just be careful to not let this freedom from real pants accidentally cause a yoga gear delivery problem. 🙂
Figure out what you value about working from home
Perhaps it is:
- Picking the kids up from school
- Taking a lunchtime bath
- Having breakfast after your first two meetings so you can intermittently fast
- Cooking real food on the stove for lunch
- Doing laundry between or during meetings
- Keeping bone broth on the stove for 48 hours
Cook Real Food for yourself
It's no secret that I believe food can enable true health and wellness. And it should be no surprise that this is one of my favorite perks of working from home.
Working from home means that you have a real full kitchen to make your meals and you have the flexibility to eat and cook when you're hungry regardless of what time your first meeting is.
That means if you typically start your day at 8:30 but you have a 7 am meeting one day, you don't have to either skip breakfast or force-eat it 2 hours earlier than normal. You can have your meeting and then cook breakfast in your Kitchen! The glory of this will never become unexciting.
That also means you can make a fresh salad or heat up leftovers in the oven instead of the microwave for lunch.
Don’t sit at home and order take out like you're in the office. Make real food and take the time to enjoy it.
Join a club or group to socialize on the weeknights
The biggest struggle people have with working from home is the lack of socialization, especially if this is new to you or you are an extreme extrovert.
Much of the typical office work-day is spent chit-chatting with colleagues. This can be seen in two ways: critical team-building or unnecessary and unproductive lollygagging.
If you see it as the former, you are going to need to build in socialization to be successful working from home. If you see it as the ladder, you are probably going to rock at working from home but you'll still miss human interaction at some point.
Sure, you may be on calls all day, but it's not the same as chatting with your colleagues and catching up on their lives in a social manner.
Join something fun that gives you some social interaction during the weekdays.
This can also help with number 1 - because if you don’t have something planned, you're likely to stick with Mr. laptop all evening.
Use chores to help you focus
This is probably the exact opposite thing that large companies want to hear about reasons to work from home... but give me a second to explain myself.
Many of us have been raised or come to age in the digital age, which has led to incredibly short attention spans. I like to have 3 things going on at once or my brain gets bored.
I find it very difficult to pay attention to some meetings without drifting towards email or something else more stimulating. That stands true both at home AND at the office!
Surprisingly, you can manage that better at home
The difference is that it is more socially acceptable to manage this need to multi-task at home. Mostly because people can't see what you are doing.
Emptying the dishwasher, folding laundry, or just walking back and forth putting small things away helps occupy your hands and allows your mind to focus on the conversation without looking for something more interesting or action-packed.
In short, we are products of our environment and need multiple stimuli simultaneously. So doing chores during rambling update meetings actually makes it easier to pay attention and stay more engaged, despite what one might think.
"doing chores during update meetings makes it easier for me to actually pay attention and stay more engaged"
Schedule in exercise
Movement, just like sleep, is critical to overall health and wellness.
Working from home can make it very difficult to consistently exercise because you no longer have the workout "on your way home." You're already home and can easily slip right into dinner, wine and tv.
The physical space between the workday at the office and eating at home used to be naturally large enough to trigger a trip to the gym. Now, it's hard to overcome the urge to just have dinner already.
Walking to the kitchen to make dinner is easier than walking to the bedroom to put on workout gear and then out the door to actually workout.
Plan ahead and schedule it in!
Figure out what time of the day works best for you to exercise and do it!
For me, I love to do it at the end of the day. It combats that fatigue and gets my blood and brain flowing again. It also marks the end of the workday and allows me to transition back to home life.
Since you work from home, you can exercise whenever your schedule allows without the added pressure to get back into business casual afterward. Take advantage!
Use the additional time to find flow and utilize your most creative and productive times
Most careers and office jobs require that you spend the first 1-2 hours of your day getting ready and commuting. When you work from home, you have no obligation to get presentable or travel so that time is a gift to you!
If your creative juices flow first thing in the morning, own that! Create a workflow where you get up, have a warm bevvie and get to work on the hardest or most important task of the day.
Then get presentable and ready for the rest of the day. Or don't - cause you don’t have to.
What I'm trying to say is that you have a unique opportunity to be able to use the times of day when you are most efficient without the restrictions of a typical workday forced upon you. Let yourself free to see how creative and productive you can be when you work within your zone on your own time.
"The time you used to use getting presentable and traveling to the office is now a gift to you. Use it."
The Checklist to absolutely rock your workday from home
- Learn your most productive and creative times and take advantage of them. Schedule your heavy lifting tasks during those timeframes.
- Figure out what makes you feel alive and incorporate that into your day. That could be getting dressed each morning, walking to the local coffee shop before starting work, or getting out at night
- Talk to people. We are social critters and being without another person all week can be depressing. This can look like joining a club or calling your friends on the phone to catch up at night.
- Figure out your favorite parts of working from home, do them, and be grateful for them
- Exercise, because exercise creates a better sleep which creates better moods and higher quality work.
- Set boundaries. Work is work and you need to create space for your personal life. Your mind works better when it can take a break from tasks and return to them.
What if you only work from home part-time?
Most of the same principles apply when you are working part-time. I still think it is valuable to create a dedicated space so you can be productive. And if you like working from home, being your most productive is the best way to prove to your company that this can happen more often.
The main difference is that you might want to plan meetings differently. There are some meetings that are just more effective in person. I try to schedule certain types of interaction on days when I'm at work
What types of meetings and work items should you prioritize for your in-office days?
- Anything about performance including annual performance reviews
- Contentious topics where you expect disagreement
- Brainstorming sessions where it will be helpful to have a whiteboard (there are tools to make this work remotely, but they tend to be more expensive or require you to be on video, which is a slippery slope in my mind! no video of me at home please!)
- Team building activities