We’re in a state of flux right now. I don’t know how this will end, I don’t even know what will happen next week and it’s unnerving and it’s scary.
What I do know is that this “social distancing” thing is a real and necessary thing right now and many of us are being asked, or told, to work from home.
My job is managing Marketing & Public Relations for a not-for-profit genomic sequencing company. I am lucky that my job allows me to work from home, but some people are unfortunately not that lucky.
In my previous roles, I traveled extensively for work, and worked from home whenever I wasn’t traveling. I would have anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks at a time at home, and the rest of the time I would be traveling.
In those 12 years of working from home, I feel like I perfected the process and now that we’re in this state of #stayhome I am seeing a lot of people on social media asking for tips on making it work, so I thought I’d share with you my top 5 tips for working from home.
1 Get ready to go.
Firstly, it can be difficult to just get started. Home is for home life, it’s not where you work, so it can be difficult to get into the mindset of working from your comfortable home space. One thing that can be quite useful is to ‘get ready for work’. Even if you aren’t going to see anyone that day, get dressed for work and prepare yourself – this will help prepare you mentally as well. You may end up on a video call at some point during the day, so at least make sure your top half is presentable. But apart from that, the routine of putting on your ‘work clothes’ will help your mind shift from home to work.
2 Prepare your space.
Prepare a space that is specifically for work. Boundaries are very important for people who work from home and you will need to be able to leave the space at the end of the day. Not only does it give you a space to leave, but it also allows other people at home to “see” you in your workspace. They will learn to respect that when you’re in that space, you’re working and they should avoid interrupting you. It doesn’t always work out that way, but it does help to have that separation. Part of this space should include a good chair. Working from the couch does sound like a great idea, but it can be diabolical for your back and neck. Set yourself up with a proper desk space with a good chair that will support you all day. Again, this becomes a place you can ‘leave’ at the end of the day.
3 Make time for the distractions.
There will be things at home that could distract you from your work. For me, when I’m working from home, I can always sense the pile of laundry that’s waiting for me. We tend to feel like we should ignore it because it’s not work, but it will play on your mind until you get it done. So make it part of your routine. I set the machine going before I start for the day and take a break mid-morning, around the time I’d usually grab a coffee with a colleague, and use that time to deal with those wet clothes (coffee in hand of course!). You’ll feel better about getting something done, you’ll get it out of your head, and you’ll make yourself some headspace to get more work done.
4 Stay in touch.
It can be so easy to cocoon yourself away and work through the day on emails and papers and presentations and before you know it, it’s 5pm and you haven’t spoken to anyone or had any human interaction all day. Working from home can be a very isolating experience and it’s very easy to find yourself alone in your own thoughts. It’s important to make some time during the day to make contact with others. Try to space out your meetings throughout the week, have a phone catch-up with one of your teammates over a coffee in the morning or during that afternoon slump.
5 Set routines for yourself.
Without the buzz of an office or other workspace environment around you, it can be very easy to spend your day meandering between topics, to go off on tangents, or to just get stuck in the one task. Set yourself routines. Start your day be making a list. Grab a coffee and sit at your desk and let your brain tell you all the things that need to be done. Just wrote everything down, regardless of due dates or the order of events. Go through your calendar and write down your appointments for that day. Take note of any phone calls or emails that you have to get done that day. This process can take as little as 10 minutes. Once you’re done, prioritize your list and make a schedule for yourself for the day to make sure that you can achieve as much as you can on that list.
Bonus: Do something for you.
Many of us will be saving an hour or more in commute times by working from home. What can you do to fill that time? What things have you been putting off because you ‘don’t have time’. You could start work earlier and have more time in the evening, or you could create a morning routine for yourself to work on something that will make you feel good about yourself, which will set you up for a good day ahead. Morning routines can be very beneficial, and I’d love to write a whole new post about that another time.
I hope you’ve found these tips useful. I’ve taken some of these into my everyday desk job as well and I think they help me to be more productive at work.
Working from home can be isolating, as I said, but it can also be incredible productive and rewarding. I’d love to hear any other tips you have for working from home. Let me know in the comments.