If you have ever worked from home for any extended time you know that with that privilege comes responsibilities and the line between home and work tends to become a bit fuzzy. It wasn’t uncommon to hear things like, “You’re lucky to be able to work remotely” or “It must be nice” prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now it’s more of a commonplace to hear, “How do you do it?” or “What works best”. The short answer is it takes work and dedication to make it work. Here are a few things I’ve had to learn over the years to help to make working from home easier.
Before I begin, let me provide a little background on my personal experience that has led me to my core beliefs around what is needed to work from home. I was afforded the luxury of working from home in my previous positions and experienced working remotely both part-time and full-time. In the beginning, like many others, I stayed in my PJ’s, opened the laptop up, and just worked around the house. What happened? Yep, you got it. Distractions came easily and frequently. It wasn’t until when I was working 100% remotely from Maryland for a company out of Georgia for over 2 years that made me stop and really analyze what works and what doesn’t. This is where I leave off on my personal life and relay the fundamentals of working from home.
Get Ready and Get in the Right Mentality
First things first. Do you look like you just rolled out of bed? If so, get back in it and start again. Whether your office is an hour away or a flight of stairs down, there are things you always do before heading to work. That’s right…Clean up and get dressed. There’s much to be said about dressing for success. Keep that in mind before grabbing those slippers, sweats, and hoodie. Simple right? Not so much.
It’s easy to get into the bad habit of just rolling out of bed in your PJ’s, firing up that laptop, and thinking you’re going to be productive that day. The sad fact is your brain is still on sleepy time and hasn’t switched over to work mode. By the time your brain is ready a couple of hours have passed you’re likely still staring at a blank email you started to write and can’t remember what you were going to say. In short, you need to get yourself in the mindset of being ready to work.
Here’s one last thought for all those commuters that must work remotely now. How much time does it take you to get ready in the morning and how long is your commute? What are you doing with your commuting time that you always wished you had time for and never go around doing? For many people, that’s 5+ hours of time that you would be stuck in the car/bus/train on the way to work. For me, it’s been really nice having a hot breakfast in the morning lately.
Claim a Workspace
Routine, check. Now what? You need a spot in your house dedicated to working. I chose my basement because my original office has since been taken over by my 18-year-old daughter. She needs her own spot once distance learning kicks in for high schools. I know, I know, not everyone has that luxury of a separate room away from everyone. The intent is to have a place that your brain starts to associate with work.
If it becomes a choice between the couch and the kitchen table, take the table. We all know that TV isn’t going to magically stay off all day if you do. “Wait…I have a spot, but my kid/dog/significant other/etc keeps coming in”. It’s quite alright and to be expected, and in many cases downright cute/funny during those conference calls with clients. Just remember, life doesn’t stop just because you’re in your ‘spot’ and you have to roll with the punches.
Distance Doesn’t Mean Isolation
Let’s talk about keeping your edge now. Weeks go by and you are sticking to your morning routine, your spot has programmed your brain that it’s your second office, and you are cranking away and feeling good about work then it hits you. Something just doesn’t feel right, and you can’t quite put your finger on it. You start getting into a funk. Wake up! We are practicing social and physical distancing, not social and physical ostracization. Think about it a little.
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Pre COVID-19, we went to lunch, did happy hour, hung out with friends, and many other things. Those were both physical and social activities that stimulated your brain and kept you fresh. Change it up a little. Get some fresh air or take a longer walk with your dog, call your family, spend time with your kids. Remember that time I mentioned you saved from commuting? It is a good time to think about how to repurpose that time and put it to good use. You can still practice social distancing, but with close communication.
We are trying to get through this situation as best as we can. While I am used to WFH, I’m just learning a new dynamic in the Work From Home (WFH) that will apply to many folks. It’ FWFH (Family Working From Home). Yeah, you know who you are. It just started this week for myself since my wife is a teacher and my daughter is a high schooler. Both of them have officially gone to an online format the past couple of weeks. What does this mean? You got it. Noise everywhere and the need for headphones and plenty of personal space. This too I will need to figure out moving forward. Best of luck everyone.