On a normal day, working from home poses challenges, especially when it is unexpected. Many people aren’t readily equipped with a work computer, speedy wi-fi, or even an at-home workspace. Now many of us are dealing with the transition with a full house of family members around, maybe kids e-learning nearby, and perhaps a significant other operating closely, making the switch even harder. The low hum of office chatter that keeps you on pace, the solitude of a private office, and your normal routines are not there to keep you on track. Things at home likely won’t match up to the norm, and that’s okay. With a little focus and a few mindset adjustments, navigating the new forced “work from home” normal is manageable, and you can stay right on track (or as close as possible).
1. Set aside time for work, and then “leave work at the office.”
One of the hardest parts about working from home can be making clear cut lines of when its time for work, and time to enjoy your house for its original purpose, like your home. If you can, set clear guidelines with your co-workers about when you will be available and won’t be available for work communication. Then make sure you stick to those hours yourself. If you decide you’re going to work until 5, then work until 5. Log out, avoid the emails, and give yourself the full hours of non-work time you would have if you were working a regular schedule. This will help ease anxieties over needing to be available 24/7 now that the “office” might only be a few feet away from your living room couch.
In the same mindset, if you have time to throw in the laundry on what would be your “lunch break” feel free. That’s your time, but don’t let personal chores overflow into work time. Establish clear boundaries for personal task time versus your work task time. This will help boost your productivity while you’re in those work hours.
2. Give credit to your hard work
Maintaining normal office hours while working at home can be hard. Allow for some flexibility in order to create a functional workflow. Something that may take you a full morning at the office, could take you less time at home and vice versa. Maybe you’ve been finding time working from home to have a second breakfast or take a mid-day walk to get some some energy flowing because you put in two uninterrupted hours of work. But it’s still the workday, and you’re still clocking hours, are these breaks okay?
Compare your daily accomplishments to your normal office accomplishments, to make sure you are staying on task. Be realistic about your to-do list for the day as far as what you can and can’t get done at home as easily. When you check something off the list, realize the work you put in, even though nobody is there to see it. Give yourself time to adjust.
3. Optimize your workspace.
Not everybody has a home office to work with, and that’s okay. Just because you don’t have the perfect home set-up doesn’t mean you can’t get yourself on track to hustle in your home space. Pick an area you want to work in and try to make a habit of working there every day. Avoid feeling clocked in at all hours by confining your work zone to that area. Doing this will ensure you can relax and enjoy your normal routines.
How can you pick this spot?
Maybe it is a corner out of the way or a place in your home that gets perfect light in the morning. Pick a spot that makes you feel motivated and has the capacities you need in terms of lighting, outlets, WIFI connectivity, and the likes. Peace and quiet may not always be accessible especially if other family members are home. Having a “focus in” space dedicated to your work will help pivot your mindset from home time to work time. Noise-canceling headphones or earbuds can help to drown out distractions as well.
4. Maintain Your Routines
If you normally eat breakfast at work an hour after you get in, schedule that for your at home routine. Have a smoothie before work? Make sure you’re fueling then at home too. Eat lunch every day exactly at 1:30 at the office? Try to maintain that normal schedule at home. Maintaining a semblance of the routines you kept at work will help keep you on track while working from home. Plus, when things do go back to normal, it’ll be easier to slide back into your usual schedule.
5. Stay Connected
Maintaining your routines also means keeping on task with your daily socializing. If you normally touch base with a co-worker in the office, try doing the same thing while working from home. The office environment isn’t there to help cultivate those natural interactions, so its up to you. Continuing the habits will help ease the mind and keep things feeling normal in the transition to remote work.
Utilize digital tools to facilitate team meetings.
Use video chat applications to replace standing meetings or schedule new meetings. Use these tools to collaborate and replace the communication that would naturally occur at the office. Apps like Skype, Zoom, or Google Duo are perfect tools for video conferences. With the technology we have today, staying connected while working remotely is key in facilitating collaboration from afar. (But the phone works just as well sometimes!)
6. Hang in there!
We’re all in this together. Adjusting to working from home may put problems in front of us we didn’t even know we had. Some of us may even be reminiscing on mornings we were dreading going in to the office now that we can’t. Many of us are feeling lucky to simply still be employed or still be in business. Things are likely going to get a little more difficult before they get easier. Knowing this reality can be a bit anxiety-inducing, but taking it one day at a time is key.
Enjoy the things we can and appreciate the good people are doing. This might be as simple as following social distancing restrictions. Working from home during this critical time is one small step that is helping flatten the curve, and remembering that is something to keep at the forefront of our daily internal struggles, and longing stares out the window.