Prior to the Pandemic, more and more people began working remotely. This shift took place due to evolving technologies such as Skype, Slack, Facetime, and Cloud computing, as well as shifting work values. However, when the Pandemic struck and spread globally, employers were encouraging and even requiring people to work from home.
So, whether by choice or by necessity, you may be having to establish new routines and habits in order to work effectively in your home environment. What once was a dream for many has become a reality, and while flexibility, autonomy, and comfort can be definite perks, unique challenges are also present due to our personalities and lifestyles.
Everyone who works from home has to determine when to work, where to work, and how to work in a home-based setting. As one who has been facing this challenge myself over the past two years, the following are some strategies that I have found helpful and may be of benefit to you.
Dedicate a Space for Work
When beginning to work from home a person might be tempted to work from the couch or a reclining lazy chair. However, guaranteed this will not be as productive as working in a designated “office” space. Creating a physical space dedicated as an office/work area impacts the psychological. It tells your brain it is time for work and shifts your energy level to business mode. Ideally, your workspace will be a separate room in the house with a door to open at the beginning of your workday and to close at the end. However, this may not be possible for you.
Initially, when I began working at home I set up an office area in the back of our family room. My husband built a desk to fit the space (Ikea hack), I purchased a computer, a comfortable, supportive office chair, a good desk lamp, some shelving and made this workspace my own. If it had been necessary I would have also purchased a decorative room divider.
Wherever you decide to work in your home be consistent, make sure it is quiet (if necessary purchase noise-canceling headphones), be sure to have the items I mentioned above and fresh air if possible.
Create a Schedule
Working from home does not necessarily mean working from 9-5, that is one of the perks. You can work around and according to the additional demands on your time. However, whatever your day may look like, it is important to create a schedule, a routine, and stick to it as much as possible.
The following suggestions may help. First, create a morning routine. Set a regular time to wake up. You may wish to set some time for exercise or reflective meditation, or taking the kids to school. You will also definitely need time for grooming and some form of breakfast. Then, plan out your workday.
Consider the following:
- Be familiar with your natural cycle and work around that as much as possible, in other words, what time of day are you most productive?
- Know when your boss needs you available.
- Be aware of the best time to reach customers and co-workers.
- Know your priorities and how long it will take to do these tasks.
- Determine what you will do if you have extra time?
- Be sure to plan for breaks and or rewards in your day.
Finally, having determined your schedule, be sure to communicate this to your boss, colleagues, customers, and family members. For example, if evenings are family time then be sure to communicate that you do not check emails in the evenings. Having a consistent work schedule will keep you accountable and will enable you to be efficient with your time.
“Dress for Success” is not an empty expression, it actually works. Although it might be tempting to work in your pj’s or sweats, especially if you are not seeing others in person, it is not all that motivating. Now, this does not mean that you have to wear a suit, but there is something to be said about wearing clothes that make you feel energized and capable. So every working day dress in such a way that you feel motivated and are ready for any unexpected video chat that may come your way.
Set Boundaries/Eliminate Distractions
As much as possible keep your work and home/personal life separate. This will mean creating boundaries with others and with yourself. As mentioned earlier when setting boundaries with others, especially your family, be sure to communicate your schedule; days, and hours of work. If you have young children at home all day you may have to work around their sleep schedule or in the evenings. You may also be able to create a co-parenting schedule with your partner, another family member, or a neighbor. If children are home for part of the day get creative and put together some games for them to play, projects, or crafts for them to do. As children get older divide the domestic chores and have them chip in. Whatever you decide, be sure to also communicate and practice that when you are not “at work” you will show up 100% for them.
Creating boundaries with others is one thing but creating them with yourself is another. It is easy to become distracted with household chores when at home. If at all possible close the door to your office when you are working, or place obvious chores, like laundry, out of sight. Social media also has a way of becoming a distraction. Place a barrier between yourself and the tv. If necessary put your phone in a drawer or out of reach. You can also put it on do not disturb mode so that you only get essential work-related notifications, and consider shutting off social media notifications. One last boundary you can build into your schedule is to include breaks in your day, the next helpful suggestion.
Take a Break
When creating a schedule be sure to add in breaks. It may be easy to get carried away at home and work long hours without taking a break. This is actually counterproductive. A break is a healthy boundary to create with oneself. It can be as simple as standing up from your desk and stretching, going for a short walk, or grabbing a healthy snack. In my reading, it was mentioned that working for 50 minutes and then taking a short break increases productivity. There is also another technique called the Pomodoro method that you can check out. If you find it difficult to take a break, especially when you are fully engaged, set a timer to go off in order to remind you to take a breather.
One challenge that I have found with working from home is the lack of connection with others. Working in an office you have the potential for collaboration and interaction with others. Working from home not so much unless you consciously make the effort to build connections into your week. Technology has made this easier with Facetime, Slack, and Zoom. Try to reach out and connect with your co-workers, customers, and even friends (especially if self-employed) a couple of times a week through email, the phone, or a video call. Perhaps arrange to meet a colleague or friend over your lunch break. I have recently been walking with two girlfriends every Friday afternoon for an hour or so and can make up the time in the evening. Your social health is important too.
The bottom line is that working effectively from home can be challenging. The good news is that making some relatively simple changes to your time and space can result in a productive workday. This may look different for each individual, but by implementing some of the previous general strategies you will figure out what works best for you and your family.