Almost a year into this pandemic and many of us can take away some of the good things that we’ve learned about working from home. Many of us were forced into unchartered territory when asked to pivot to remote work in March 2020. Some quickly despised it and others have learned to love it.
Remote work can have its perks. No early alarm clocks, dressing for the office, packing a lunch or making that commute in a snowstorm. On the flip side, one can feel stuck between four walls, on a screen for hours, with no real adult interaction. You may feel you’re working more than ever before and your brain won’t shut off. Working from home requires a certain approach, discipline and perhaps time to adjust.
Whether remote work is new to you or not, there are a few ways to make the transition easier on yourself. By now you have likely found what works for you to still accomplish what you need to do, but working more efficiently will help your physical and emotional health. When you feel better and have a rhythm you are more likely to avoid burnout and you’ll naturally be more productive.
10 step plan to home office success:
- Environment is everything- Your office style may be dictated by your living situation or the layout of your home. Have a dedicated work space with a good work surface and a comfortable chair. Ensure you have the right equipment (books, papers, supplies). Have good technology and reliable Wi-Fi service. Set your computer at a height where you aren’t looking down and ensure your background is appropriate. No one needs to see your laundry mess behind you on Zoom. Make sure what you need is accessible. Add a plant or a candle and space for your water or coffee. Since your office space is where you are spending your time and making it all happen, you want to make sure it is a well-organized, comfortable and inspiring.
- Setting a routine and boundaries are key- Establishing a regular schedule and preparing for your day just as if you were going outside the house is a great way to help you get into a rhythm at home. Set some office hours and make sure to share them with your clients. Otherwise, resist the urge to respond to emails at all hours (until the next business day during office hours). Also tell your family your office hours and give them notice before going on important calls.
- Be a lifelong learner– Some people are new to remote work and all this technology so we all have to give each other some grace. Admit you’re still learning and you’re not a technology wizard yet…unless you’re in IT of course. There are always new things to explore and this is a great time to take advantage of those things you couldn’t get to in a traditional office space. You can learn new skills online and do professional development from your home. You are never too old and it is never too late. Try a new course or gain certification because many of them are being offered online right now. Put yourself out there on Linkedin and get connected with others in your community.
- Anticipate disruptions– Eliminate distractions like the dog, the cat, your family, doorbells and phones ringing. Make sure your parents know that just because you are home doesn’t mean you can drop everything. Focus is important at home more than ever and you need to address things that may pop up. However, you also need to be flexible because sometimes they do and other people in your household may need you.
- Know your limits and make a break for it– Recognize when you’ve had enough screen time. Too much can contribute to a sore neck, eyes, head and legs. Just because others stay on for 8 hrs. at a time doesn’t mean you have to. Many of us never learned how to manage technology and it is an important skill. If you have young people around remember you are setting an example for technology use. Put the phone down and limit your screen time. Designate a screen free zone during your week (maybe Sunday) to give your eyes a break. Limit meeting times and look away as much as possible. Make a conscious effort to break away from the home office at regular times during each day so it becomes a habit. If you take a little time away you will be more refreshed when you return. Stretch, give yourself breaks and meal times.
- Work smarter, not harder- Cut yourself some slack. Even though these are not normal times, working from home is becoming more of a norm. Try to simplify your day so you are not doing the same thing over and over. Chunk email, work time, phone time and meeting time so you aren’t going in circles all day. Give yourself permission to start late one day or take a Friday afternoon off if you can swing it. Have that cappuccino or watch TV or do something to relax. Unwind from your day. Look at the big picture. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Do what you can and be happy with it. Don’t beat yourself up. There is always tomorrow.
- Make healthy choices. Drink water, eat healthy and go outside. Physical health is important in keeping your immune system in fine working order. A walk outside in the fresh air can do wonders. Getting Vitamin D through sunlight will also help you through those Winter months.
- Get some Face time– Make plans to meet with friends and family virtually if you can’t do in person. Interact via phone, Facebook messenger, zoom, WhatsApp or facetime. It is important to step outside your bubble and comfort zone. Resist the urge to always text or complain about your day. This will help recharge your emotional health.
- Set realistic goals– Set daily/weekly/monthly/annual goals. Some of us can get carried away when we get onto a project and it’s important to be reasonable in what you take on each day. Set goals that are feasible and respect deadlines by keeping a good calendar.
- Reward yourself- When the day is done give yourself some words of encouragement. By establishing a daily closing, you tell yourself the office is closed and you leave it behind. Mark your work day done on a calendar or close your laptop or office door. Most of us are used to decompressing in our car or on public transit on the way home from work. Figure out what works for you before switching over to the next chapter of your day when you step outside your home office.