With the COVID-19 outbreak, many companies are turning to remote work. I write and have been working from home for a couple of years. My wife starts working remotely on Monday. She’s a librarian manager who generally works with lots of books, other media, and the public. We only have one desk, so this may be an exciting transition.
But, working from home has its perks. You don’t spend time commuting, which means you can sleep longer or enjoy a morning stroll. Your new flexible schedule might allow for a variety of activities. Plus, you avoid the noise and distraction of the traditional workplace.
Nonetheless, working from home can be difficult. If your home and office are the same places, establishing boundaries and supporting work-life balance needs to be a priority.
For my wife, working from home is new. I want to help. So, keep reading if it is new to you. Here are my tips for productively working from home:
It is tempting to lay on the couch or even in bed, but is it really the best option? Your bed is where you sleep, read, etc… let’s leave it that way. Your workspace can be a desk with all the bells and whistles or your kitchen table. Claim it as your space. When you sit down at this new workspace, all you do is work. When you step away or break it down for the day, you’re done with working.
This one is important. Make sure you have everything you need for work. This could be a stable internet connection, headphones, webcam, and specific software. Keep in mind you’ll be typing a lot of emails, chatting online, and receiving possible video calls. Depending upon your career, you’ll know what you need to set yourself up for success. Don’t forget to test everything in advance. Fewer issues mean less confusion, and more things get accomplished. Plus, it will help you focus on what is important.
Sadly, some people think that working from home means not working at all. You’ll have friends, and family members expect you to do housework or be available to talk at any time of the day. You have to let them know your work hours and break times. Additionally, you’ll need to ask them for privacy, as some of your work may be confidential. Don’t forget to assure them that you’ll make time for them. Some may even find it beneficial to schedule a time outside of your work hours for friends and family.
Set Your Schedule
Define when you are working and when you are not. You’ll want to stick to that schedule because it will help you stay focused and know when to relax. Remote work gives you more flexibility, but your job is to keep it balanced. So if you worked through the evening and possibly into the night, you may want to allow yourself more time the next morning for recovery.
To help out, you may consider developing a block schedule on your calendar. Be careful not to overschedule yourself. I’ve made the mistake of scheduling myself into a rut. I did the same thing over and over until I started rebelling. I did not want to see another day the same way again. So spice it up. This is a time where you can experiment and try something new. I suggest adding time to read a book or to learn something new, like how to play the ukelele.
Start Your Day
You might think that this is part of scheduling your day, but I wanted to separate it. How you start something sets the tone for how you finish it. So starting your morning right will set the bar high for the rest of your day.
Most likely, you have a routine set in your current workplace, and that has just been shaken. I’ll admit remote work is tricky to start up, but if you try to create the right atmosphere, the productivity will follow. So, go through the regular home routine that you used to use before work. Shower, shave, get coffee, have breakfast, and get dressed. Now, this is where my advice will deviate from others. I believe in being comfortable but still dressed in clothes that I would not mind my neighbor seeing me in. I don’t believe that you must force yourself to wear a bra or tie unless you have a conference call where other people will see you.
Work can often distance you from fresh air and physical activity. So it is important to make sure to take breaks that require you to stop looking at a computer, tablet, or phone screen. Go outside, breathe some fresh air. Even if you just step out on your porch, do it. Schedule this time. If you have time for more, take a walk or jog around the neighborhood. Don’t spend your breaks reading news on the coronavirus or the stock exchange.
There is a lot of verbal communication happening when you are at work, and working remotely can make you feel out of the loop. That is why it is important to stay active on messengers and emails. Check-in with colleagues. Make them aware of what you are working on, ask for feedback, and post weekly highlights for your team. This also means being responsive to coworkers who are sharing their work. You want everyone to be on the same page.
Know When to Stop Working
You’ve set boundaries and achieved a work-life balance. You have accomplished all your goals for the day, and it is time to stop working. This is an essential part of the routine. Just like getting started with your day, stopping for the day is a signal to switch into a different gear. This is your fun time, your family time, and your self replenishment time. Get to work on living your life and get ready for the next day. You’ve got this.