Coronavirus has been officially declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization and many offices are, wisely, having employees work from home. But if you don't typically work from home, this can seem scarier than Michael Myers in Halloween.
For the past 5 years I've almost exclusively worked from home. It all started when the company I worked for was acquired by another out of state and while we still had an office...all 7 or so of the employees did not work with each other as a team anymore. Long story short, the office lease came to an end and wasn't renewed. Instead of relocating employees, we all worked from home. After that, I would make trips to the company office out of state about once a quarter, so I've experienced the spectrum of working exclusively in an office, semi-working in an office, visiting an office occasionally, and now, my home being my only office.
With the surge of at-home workers, I've put together the tips I've learned by trial and error over the past 5 years so that you don't need to learn the hard way.
1. Set Working Hours
When are you going to be available for people to contact you? When are you going to open that laptop and work? And when are you not going to be available for work?
Your employer most likely already has "office hours" so you'll essentially be keeping them. but if you have family at home with you, this can be difficult (I'll address this more later). Look at your schedule, your family, and work with your supervisor to figure out what hours you'll be available for meetings or "on call." Additionally, figure out when you'll actually get your work done.
When you're in a traditional office, you work 9-5, but with family at home, it may make more sense for you to work 9-10, 12-2, 3-4:30, and then 7:30-11:00. Set the hours you will be working at your laptop and stick to it.
Not only will this schedule make it easier to work, but it will help you create a divide between work and home. Just because your laptop is at home, doesn't mean your work never ends.
2. Create A Schedule
Gone is the time when you have that check-in meeting with your team in your supervisors office or that weekly schedule where you know what's coming. Now it's up to you.
While I recommend using Skype, Zoom, or Slack for easy check-ins with your colleagues (open communication is key to successful remote work), you also need to figure out what work you're going to accomplish daily and weekly.
This is something I had a big lesson in when I became a freelance worker, if I regularly checked my email for ten minutes first thing in the day, it freed up my time for later to focus on income producing activities or projects that mattered more than replying to that huge email thread that's going nowhere.
Most likely, you already have a simple pattern of how you tackle your work in the office, keep that pattern and schedule at home!
3. Get Active!
I work from the couch, it's where I'm most productive. But it also makes me a literal couch potato. Moving my body is an integral part of my day.
You no longer have a walk into and out of work. You don't have a commute. You have the steps from your bed, bathroom, kitchen, and office.
Make getting active a part of your day! Whether it's going for a walk (if you're able to get outside) or doing a HIIT workout, schedule it in!
Places to turn for at-home workouts are:
4. Keep Clean
If it hasn't been ingrained yet, wash your hands! But also, working from home can make you a little lazy. "Why wash the dishes, I can do it later, I'm home all day!"
Look, I've heard the excuses, I've lived them. Don't even start.
While you may need to not shower as often as you normally would (hello once a week shower 🙋🏼♀️) keep your space clean to avoid spreading anymore germs than absolutely necessary. Do your laundry more often, take your trash out frequently, wash your dishes as soon as you use them, wipe down doorknobs, light switches, remote controls - you know the drill, keep it clean!
5. Get Dressed
Just because you can work in pajamas everyday, doesn’t mean you should. I work in leggings and sweatshirts about 80% of the time, but I still make a point to get out of my pjs and into “day clothes”. Having this routine, like keeping work hours, allows you to mentally prepare for the day and help flip the switch that you’re at work (or simply, out of bed).
Some people like to keep the same routine as if they were in an office. Get ready and dressed for the office (in professional clothes) then sit down at their desk at home. This has never been helpful for me, but I have gone through phases of working first thing right out of bed but making sure I get real clothes on by 9am.
Make sure you aren't spending the next few weeks living in the same pair of pajamas (remember, hygiene 👆).
6. Create Your Space
The hardest part about working from home, for me, is having people around who aren’t working or who aren't used to working from home alongside you.
Much like having work hours, you need to create some boundaries with whomever you need to be working from home with. Maybe it’s a spouse, maybe it’s your child, but put in place times where you need to keep your nose to the grind and when you can talk or spend time with those joining you at home.
You know your work hours and your schedule, let those at home with you know them as well.
7. Eat Regular Meals
It can be so easy to snack all day at home - resist the urge! Especially if you opt to work in sweatpants or leggings, constant grazing may leave you being a little too big for your typical work pants when you head back to the office. Make a point to have meals and maybe a snack in your work day (and then clean up right afterwards!).
This also means, you need to make it part of your schedule. Working form home confuses when you're "on the clock" and when you can take a break. Schedule when you'll stop to make lunch or you might just miss it.
Bonus: Have a full glass or water or water bottle sitting next to you as soon as you start working. It's not that you have to actively think about drinking it, but having it near you will make it easy to stay hydrated throughout the day.
8. Take A Break
Breaks are okay.
Let me repeat, breaks are okay.
In an office, you have people checking in on you, chatting in the lunchroom and catching up in the hallway. At home, that doesn’t exist (unless others are home with you). Make sure you’re giving yourself a break between projects where you can stretch, walk around, and just enjoy looking out the window. It may seem silly, but a literal highlight of my day is checking the mail. Fresh air, room I never go into during the day, and potentially a package - yippee!
Similar to eating regular meals, working from home blurs the line of where work starts and personal needs begin. I am giving you permission to take 5 minutes to step away from the computer once an hour!
9. Make Some Noise
Create a productive environment for you. Unlike being in an office, no one is dictating what “working” looks like.
Obviously, you have things to get done, but that doesn’t have to mean sitting at a desk to do them. Like I've already mentioned, I love working from my couch, but I rarely just sit in one position all day. Sometimes I’ll work in the dining room, sometimes my office, sometimes on the couch, sometimes sitting on the floor with my laptop on the coffee table.
It’s finding what’s comfortable for you!
Along those lines, working from home can be QUIET! Don’t be afraid to have The Office (or any show you’ve seen a few times) running in the background or music playing. While the quiet can help focus, it can also distract you. Having Netflix running in the background may not be okay in the office, but at home, it’s like office background chatter.
I regularly "binge watch" shows that I've already seen because they help me take little breaks in the day, but don't hold my attention enough to distract from my work. I can easily tune them out to focus or turn them off when I need to write, edit a video, or anything else that requires actual quiet.
Some shows I recommend for background noise:
- Greys Anatomy
- The Office
- Parks and Rec
- Schitt's Creek
- My 600lb Life
- Basically anything on HGTV
I don't recommend putting on sports, the latest episode of The Bachelor, or anything with a current weekly release as it can be too distracting, stay away from them!
10. Enjoy Being Home
I'm not going to tell you not to work. Work is important, it pays the bills. This is also your opportunity to prove you can be productive, communicative, and beneficial for the company even if you're not in the office.
And it gives you some freedom away from the micromanagement environment an office can be. While you're "on-call" you can also tackle home tasks when necessary. Maybe you need to run to the store real quick, do it. Silly things like doing a face mask, sitting in a foot peel, or taking some time away to get your laundry done - these are things you typically can't accomplish during the day while working. But at home, who's there to say not to?
Make sure you're getting your work done, but manage the rest of your life, too.
Working from home can be a headache for some people and invigorating for others, with these 10 tips, I hope you find it to be a stress free environment while the world helps to get coronavirus under control.
If you have any additional tips, questions or concerns, leave me a comment below or message me on Instagram @camibirdseyeview
- I'd love to hear from you and be tagged in your #WFH posts!