These are tough times for a lot of us. There is a lot of anxiety and angst about what is happening. For many of us, we will be working remotely and expected to have similar productivity. For some of us, this will be the very first time in our careers doing so. Luckily, I have had the opportunity to call my home my office for many years prior. It is different and challenging, but it can also be gratifying and rewarding. I wanted to put together a few tips to help you as you introduce your workspace to your home.
- Location, location, location: Find a location that is suitable, but out of the way of everyday household activities. The kitchen table sounds like a great place to spread out; however, if you have a large family like mine, it could be full of distractions, foot traffic, and conversations. Conversely, the unfinished basement may be a quiet place; however, it’s colorless decor may not be an ideal working environment. Find a location that is quiet, away from distractions, but also in an area that you will be comfortable with good lighting and enough room for the work you need to complete.
- Maintain your routines: What is better than a Saturday morning, rolling out of bed in your comfy’s to get your first cup of Joe? Answer: Sunday morning! No, seriously, you must maintain your weekly routine to keep your days straight. Exercise, shower and get dressed as if it were any other morning before heading to the office. If you fail to do this, it will be 2 pm, and you could still be sitting in your PJ’s wondering how you are going to get ready for that 2:30 pm video conference call. If you usually have coffee at 10 am, eat lunch at noon and have that afternoon coffee break at 3 pm, keep doing so at home. Routines will save your sanity.
- Set Ground Rules: If you have children, a significant other, roommates, or family living with you, be sure to set the ground rules early. Trust me, they will be happy that your home and will treat it as a weekend. You are not there to hang out with them, pick up after them, make their lunch, or coddle them. Set the rules that you are not to be disturbed during your work. If they want to speak with you, have them request an appointment and put it on your calendar. It is okay to set aside time for them throughout the day but beware of the pitfall of committing too much; it can be a time and sanity sucker.
- Use the same equipment and office supplies you are used to: You should equip your home office like your office at work. It could be as simple as having enough sticky notes. Remember, you will be doing the same tasks, why wouldn’t you want the same supplies. Bring your calculator, calendar, stapler, staple puller, tape, paper clips, and any other supplies you use at work. Take your pictures too! Nothing is more frustrating than searching through a stack of papers one by one because we forgot to bring the stapler. If you can get two monitors in your home office, do so, but understand there may be restrictions on this.
- Don’t let your pets drive you crazy: Who doesn’t love the feeling of how happy our furry little friends are when we get home from work. Now that your home, your pet doesn’t understand that you still have work to do. If pets are caged during the day, cage them while you are home if you can. Sometimes ignoring them all together gets the job done. Don’t be overly affectionate with your pets when you are working; they will continuously bother you until you give them the attention they want. If they make a lot of noise when you are on a call, it is best to apologize and describe your situation; reasonable people understand but please quite them when on a call, it can be very distracting.
- Keep the TV OFF!: If you are not used to television in the background at your office, it will be a massive distraction at your home office. It is best to keep it off. Also, stay away from the news. Each channel has its version of what is going on and what we should be doing. It is best to take the advice your company is providing as well as the CDC and turn the news off! Practice social distancing keep washing your hands, and everything will be fine.
- Stay out of the refrigerator: Trust me from experience; food does not grow or cook in the refrigerator no matter how many times you open the door. To deal with anxiety or stress, many of us turn to food. Eat as you would at work at the same time you would at work. You can go as far as packing your food the night before ensuring you maintain consistency. If you are feeling stressed or anxious, proceed directly to tip #8!
- Go for a walk or exercise: Many of us overcompensate our work when we are working from home with good intent. We want our managers to know that we are still working, so we try to do faster. This is a slippery slope, and the quality of your work could be compromised. Take your time, do good work, they know you are capable. If you think you need to hit the gas to show-off, slow down, take a deep breath, stand up and go for a walk or exercise to clear your head. No one thinks you will be dogging it; the quality of our work is still essential.
- Socialize!: Working from home can be lonely. We miss the interaction we have at the office. We miss popping our heads in on our co-workers to ask how their evening or weekend was. Pick up the phone and call someone, send a quick instant message, or video chat your compadres to see how they are doing. After all, you are still part of the same team. No one wants to feel like they are alone on an island. Be social, if you hang out with friends after work, schedule a virtual happy hour, we are all in this together.
- Respect yourself and your family: Know when to unplug. It is very tempting to complete that task that you wanted to get done at 7:30 pm. Chill out, spend time with your family and furry friends. Your evening routine should be the norm. That task will be there tomorrow morning. Keep a journal of the things you got done and what you need to get done. Your family needs you to be happy and healthy too, be respectful and know when to shut it down for the night.
I hope these tips help. If you have any questions or concerns about working from home, please chat us. I would love to hear your stories, good and bad, on how you were able to make home and work coexist.
Stay healthy, and best of luck!
Vice President, Business Development