Having worked from home much of the last three years, I have seen many articles that are providing an unrealistic picture of what working from home looks like in practice. Based on my experience, I thought it would be helpful to share some of my personal insights on how to manage our new normal.
Get ready for the day. You do not need to dress to impress, but at a minimum, brush your teeth and get in comfortable clothes. Even a five-minute morning routine can get your brain ready to roll. There might be days where you end up in your pajamas for most of the day, and that is OKAY, too. That said, if you have to be on a video conference, do what you feel is appropriate for your organization.
Find the best workspace you can. People who work from home regularly often have a dedicated office space, but not everyone has the square footage necessary to have this. Given the current crisis, many have been tossed into a work-from-home situation that they are simply not prepared for and don’t have access to a dedicated space. I prefer not to work at a desk and, despite having one, end up working on my couch most of the time. Realize that as long as you have a space where you can focus, it doesn’t matter where it is in your house.
Stay connected with your colleagues. It is easy to get caught up in the isolation of working from home, but it is still important to “show-up.”. Make sure to pick up the phone more than you typically do, over-communicate with your colleagues, set your status in your messaging platform and maybe even send status updates of what you are working on. Reminding people that you exist goes a long way – it is really the only way to demonstrate your work ethic and give people a glimpse of what you are up to.
Block out the sounds around you. Whether it be a barking dog, your children yelling, your neighbor’s new found love for home improvement projects or someone else in the house working, white noise or noise cancelling headphones can help drown out some of these unwelcome distractions. I have young children at home and regardless of how far away they are from me, they are loud! A little white noise or headphones can make a world of difference in allowing you to focus on your work.
Stay focused. It is easy to get distracted when you are home, so it is vital to your productivity that you set blocks of time to put your head down and work. If you now have your kids at home that are older, make a plan, communicate and give them something to do that will keep them occupied. If you have younger children, take advantage of naps and, if you have a partner at home, work with him or her to trade off so that you can get a chunk of time to work. If you have tasks on your personal to-do list, calendar them to make sure you don’t get distracted.
Don’t forget to eat. Unlike when you are in the office where you either bring your lunch or go out to grab a quick bite, you are now having to make your lunch in the middle of the day. This is something that I tend to either put off or forget to do almost every day. When you are at home, people are not coming by asking you to go to lunch, the hours seem to blend together for you and your colleagues. Calendaring lunch can be a helpful reminder, while also signaling to your colleagues that you are not available. Taking a little time will allow you to stay productive and give you a much-needed break.
Right now, I think it is important to remember that most everyone in the world is in the same situation. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to have this perfect version of working from home. The most important measures of success are that you are able to be productive and do your job well. It doesn’t matter what that looks like – you do you!