These days, if you’re like most, you’re working from home.
All those little annoyances of someone stealing your lunch, cutting you off in traffic, or asking for your help on something are gone.
Had someone have asked you if you wanted to work from home before the pandemic started, you probably would have said yes. If you’re like me, you pictured working from home to be sort of like a vacation.
There you would be, in perfect isolation where you could work, peacefully. Waking up would be easy. Maybe you’d even fix yourself some breakfast and then get to work, most likely still in your pajamas. You’d punch in your eight hours and then go and watch tv. Piece of cake.
Instead, working from home has become more stressful than anticipated.
Turn Off Work
When you’re watching TV, do you often think of work?
Or, when you’re working, do you catch yourself thinking of things around the house that you should be doing?
When you are at work be at work. When you are at home, be at home.
Set a schedule as if you are back at the office.
Having the flexibility to work whenever you want while having the ability to be at home can make you feel like the two are blending together.
While your home is now your place of work, remember it is still your home.
Separate the two.
• Set an alarm to alert you that it’s the end of the workday.
• Make an appointment with yourself every day at the end of the day (ex. walk the dog every day at 5PM). When you return from whatever the activity might be, do not go back to work. This appointment is how you are turning work off and turning home on.
• Let those who need to know your work schedule. This way no one calls you to talk about work when you are on home mode.
Even if you’re alone and working from home, I think there will always be interruptions.
It doesn’t matter if home is an apartment, a house, or a townhouse, noise travels. At some point in time the grass will get mowed, dogs will bark, kids will play, and phones will ring.
Whatever the case, don’t let these things take up too much of your time. At first you might think, oh a couple minutes won’t hurt, but you’ll be surprised at how fast time flies and now you’re left with less time to get the things you wanted to get done today, done.
Whatever you’re working on, give it your attention. That way when your work is through, you can enjoy everything else a little more.
• Listen to music or white noise to help drown the noise happening around you
• Schedule time for breaks
• Plan out when you are going to work on certain tasks depending on the time of day. Consider your energy and at what times of the day are you more inclined to work on bigger/smaller tasks
• Crete a signal to let others at home with you when you do not want to be interrupted (ex. headphones in, closed door, etc.)
Choose a Place
Along the lines of maintaining focus, comes the decision to choose where you are going to work.
When you were working at the office, you likely had a specific place just for you.
The same can be done at home.
Rather than working at the kitchen table, then the couch, then at the desk, to even your bed, designating a place that is only for when you are at work (this can help you separate work from home).
• Try sectioning a portion of a room for work so it feels like a separate space
• If you don’t have the room for a designated work space, simply keeping your computer out of sight when work has ended can help you avoid the temptation to think about work or even log back on, even if that means closing the door.
Working from home doesn’t mean that you’re alone; You still have coworkers.
If everyone were back at the office, you’d likely chit-chat with them over plans for the weekend, family, or sporting events. This doesn’t have to stop just because you’re apart.
Connection is good for everyone, as long as it is not a distraction.
• Ask a coworker (or two) if it’d be okay you called once a week or every other week just to connect. They too are probably lonely and missing the connection that it is probably be good for the both of you.
• If you do not want to connect with your own coworkers, there are groups out there on social media made entirely for connecting.
Ideally, the term working from home means having a home office – someplace separated from the rest of the house.
For many people, that is not the case.
Whether you live in a studio or a small one-bedroom apartment, or have roommates and the only space you have is your bedroom, you can still create an effective workplace from the comfort of your home.
This might mean that you sacrifice design for functionality. Remember that ironing board that someone got you and you hardly use, well now you can. An ironing board, an end table, a TV tray, or dresser might just be the space you need.
If you need more space, try rearranging your furniture, or better yet, reorganizing. You might come across more space than you originally thought.
It can be hard to work with poor to little lighting. Try to set up your workspace near a window. There is nothing better than natural light – it can uplift your mood and increase productivity. Plus, on a nice day you can open the window and feel a breeze of fresh air.
• Paper takes up valuable real estate when you are already crunching for space – try and go paperless whenever possible
• Multipurpose furniture – not that you have to purchase any furniture but if you do, consider each piece before purchase. Some furniture has storage compartments or can easily be folded when not in use
• There are these things called room dividers if you like those sorts of things
Doing anything in a new environment takes some getting used to.
For some of you, you’ve been working in an office for the past 30 years, and now you’re doing everything from home.
This change is bound to take some time.
No matter your circumstance, you’re not doing it alone. There are a lot of resources out there on how to work from home; What matter though is what works for you.
Some encourage you to get ready for the day as if you were going to work, but if you work better in your pajamas, go for it!
Working from home definitely brings it’s own challenges, but it can also be very rewarding – so long as you know what you’re getting into, and can handle some of these common issues.
If you embrace the good things about remote work – flexibility, independence, etc. you might enjoy it more than you thought you would and even have more time for life outside of work as well.