We’ve all had dreams of a job where we can work from the comfort of our own home, but I don’t think this is quite the dream we had in mind. With schools and businesses shutting their doors and everyone practicing social distancing, employees and students are being forced to work from home. Most of us envisioned WFH as waking up in a beach house, slurping a morning smoothie, and answering emails from a hammock - well, at least that was my vision haha. But now here we are and those new to the game are like “WTF! How do you WFH???” As I'm sure some have already experienced, it's not as easy as it looks. Even for those of you who do work from home on a regular basis, these tips could help you increase your efficiency and effectiveness at “the office.”
I am fortunate that I have been researching and working on a WFH routine for the past 9ish months now. But when I first started, I struggled to stay focused, not eat everything in the kitchen, and keep a sane mind while working in the same space I also lived in. Because we might be here for the long haul, I've gathered a few tips and tricks that I've learned, tried out, and practiced over the past few months, and I'm sharing them with you! Then hopefully your first experience at working from home will be a little less chaotic and a little more productive than my first few months were.
Designate a space
Don’t make the couch your new home office. You need a spot to camp out and an actual tabletop for your laptop, notes, calendar, pens, etc. If you already have a desk or some extra counter space, great, otherwise consider getting a cheap folding table. Just something that you can actually call a “desk.”
This is also a nice courtesy to roommates/family members. Rather than leaving your stuff on the couch or taking up the whole dining room table, you have a designated space to leave your work.
Make it personal
So you have a space, now have fun with it! Give it your personal touches - it should make you smile when you’re sitting there. For me, that means having a candle, a plant, natural lighting, and fun artwork nearby! I also like to have a whiteboard to write notes on. Maybe you have a lava lamp and a cute throw blanket. Just add your own personal flair.
This is a big one when at home, and I use the term “distractions” very broadly. Usually, distractions mean your phone and chatty co-worker, but at home that also means the tv, pets, dirty dishes, snacks in the kitchen, or your cozy bed. If possible, be in a totally different room from your distractions. If I work in the kitchen, I’m usually tempted to reach for the snacks two feet away from me. Or it’s easy to say, “I’ll just put Netflix on in the background” and next thing you know, your laptop is closed and your eyes are glued to your 16th episode of The Office.
Sometimes I even put my phone in another room. When you’re at the office, you might be less tempted to be on your phone because your boss is just around the corner, but at home, it’s just that much easier to forget what you’re supposed to be doing. Even if you need your phone for work, turn off certain notifications so it beeps and buzzes less. I use the app Stay Focused, which gives me the ability to restrict the amount of time I spend on certain apps.
Track your time
This may not be feasible for everyone or some of you may already be required to do this, but I found that if I have a timer going, I am much more likely to put my head in the books. I feel the pressure of the timer.
I use a free website/app called Clockify. I can create different projects, start and stop timers, and review reports of how I spend my time.
Another option is to give yourself a dedicated amount of time. Start a timer for 15 minutes and work on only one task until the alarm goes off.
Set a schedule
Along with tracking your time, it’s a good idea to block certain hours for certain tasks. Because it is just that much easier to get distracted at home (“I’ll just do the dishes quickly” turns into “I'm going to completely reorganize my closet”), it’s helpful to know what times of the day you should be working on certain things.
A schedule is also important because it gives you time to relax!!! Since you don’t have to worry about a commute and no one is going to shut the lights off on you at 5 pm, the end of the day can quickly go from 5 pm to 8 pm. Just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean your home has to turn into a 24/7 job.
Even if you are working in an office, this is important. Allow yourself brain breaks and get your blood flowing. It could be some easy stretches or a quick dance party! If I’m working from home for long periods, I like to go outside for walks to change up the scenery. It’s easy to become stagnant when required to stay home.
What does staying hydrated have to do with WFH? Well, a lot of offices have water coolers, free La Croix, or a fountain you walk by every day to remind you to fill up your water bottle. At home, that’s something you might forget. So add your favorite water container to your new workspace.
Isn’t the perk of WFH getting to stay in your PJs all day? It is...but getting dressed, doing your hair, brushing your teeth - all the things you do for your regular morning routine - are important to keep up. This helps get you in that work mindset rather than a lazy day at home.
It also makes you feel good and ready to own the day!
Distance, yes. Isolation, no.
One of the hardest things for me when deciding to be my own boss was being my only co-worker. It can get lonely! And even though most of you still have co-workers you’re messaging throughout the day, I cannot stress enough the importance of human interaction. If Logan is ever out of town, there can be days that I literally don’t speak.
Especially during an isolation period, I highly recommend you still use video calls instead of just messaging or phone calls. Talk to a live person, see someone smile back at you, use your hands when you’re talking - little things like that can really help with your sanity. Even if it’s not a co-worker, you can still do a virtual happy hour with your friends after work! Something besides just words on a screen or pictures in your newsfeed.
Have Personal time
Now on the opposite side of things, space is also important. You might have roommates or family members who are also working from home; that’s a lot of time being around the same people in a small space. Take time to be away from one another and go your separate ways. It can be hard sometimes because after a day of working at a computer it’s nice to have that human interaction, but spending too much time together can also cause people to get on each other's nerves. Find the best balance for your household!
Be kind to yourself
Allow yourself time to adjust to the transition. I’ve been doing it for 9 months now and I’m still not totally used to it. Depending on your personality type and work style, working from home can be a real struggle for some people, so don’t be too hard on yourself! I try to start my day with meditation or will take quick yoga breaks if I feel myself getting overwhelmed during the day.
Well, there you have it, my 10 tips and tricks to working from home! Take advantage of this time. There are some great perks to working from home, so utilize the flexibility and make a schedule and workspace that is best for you. I hope you can take something from this and start kicking ass...even if you’re doing it from your PJs on the couch. ;)
p.s. more bonus tips
Added April 29th
I can't even keep track of how long we have been in quarantine now, but it has been well over a month, going on two...I think. Throughout these weeks of the Stay-at-Home orders, I've discovered a few other tips that may help keep you sane and on track for a successful working-from-home routine!
Leave For Work
I know what you're thinking: "Lindsay, we can't leave for work, that's the whole point." Right...but what if you did? What I mean is at 8:45 am when you would usually leave for work, you should actually leave your house! That could mean going for a short walk around the block, giving the car some exercise with a quick spin, or picking up your drive-thru coffee. Doesn't matter what you do - the important thing is to leave the house all ready to go for work. Then you turn around and go to your new at-home work station! Gets you in the mindset of "work time" and helps you to continue with your morning routine.
Keep an Afternoon Routine
Now, on the other side of things, I've come to realize the importance of an afternoon routine as well. Back in the day when you used to go into work, what did you do when you got home at 5:30 pm? Likely you stripped-down from your office attire, maybe took a shower and tuned in to the evening news. Well...still do that! As I mentioned earlier with setting a schedule, it's hard to know when to stop working when there's no indication of when the workday ends. So, if you set up an afternoon routine, you can go through the motions and know that it's time to close the laptop and enjoy the evening in your comfy pants.
Weekend Date Night
Ok, this is really the last one, I promise! With the majority of your household being at home 24/7, it's hard to know when the weekend is. My tip here is to have a weekend date night! I'm using the term "date night" loosely because really, the idea is just to have something to look forward to when 5 pm on Friday hits! Maybe it's virtual happy hour with friends, you schedule some family fun activities, you make a big Saturday morning breakfast, or actually do a quarantine date night with your babe! Whatever it is you choose to do, just make sure you set up some activity to make the weekend a little more special.
Logan and I have done a couple of creative date nights including making our own Mexican restaurant complete with homemade margaritas, authentic Spotify music, and, of course, Mexican takeout. We also did an Italian-themed night with wine, cheese, homemade pizzas, and a virtual painting class! Check out our Instagram to see more.
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