Let’s get this out of the way early. Please put some pants on.
Being told to get dressed in the morning isn’t a helpful working from home tip, it’s just what you should already do. If you need a reminder to get out of bed and put some clothes on before you begin work, we might have a bigger issue on our hands. As working from home (WFH) becomes a reality for many of us in the coming weeks, let’s look at some useful ways to keep productivity at a high despite your lax surroundings.
Set up your new designated workspace.
In order to get things done, you need somewhere to do them from. Like, as in, somewhere other than the couch. Everyone’s home setup is different, but hopefully you can claim a quiet room/space/corner of your home to transform into your temporary office away from the office. Obviously, you’ll need a desk, and a comfortable chair with support (your back will let you know how it feels about your dining chairs within hours). If there’s a door on this new pop-up space, even better, because if you share your home with anyone else—especially kids—you’re gonna need it. If you were thinking of just setting up shop at the dining room table, it’s imperative you reconsider—especially if you can see the fridge from where you’re sitting. Jokes aside, you need to limit all distractions and interruptions if you want this to work. Be as serious about it as you would in the office.
Stay connected with video calls.
Zoom, BlueJeans, Google Hangouts, Skype, or just good old fashioned FaceTime—whatever platform you use, video conferencing allows you to continue meeting with your co-workers so that projects stay on track, whilst also holding you accountable. Keeping in visual contact with others also helps with the social isolation you might be feeling after a while, which in turn helps the postman who has unfortunately begun to bear the brunt of your cabin fever. He’s just being polite, he doesn’t really care about your brother-in-law’s new business venture. Let him get on with his route; chat with a co-worker instead.
Working from home will likely take some getting used to. Perhaps your productivity levels will dive a little in the first few days, but that doesn’t mean you have to make up for it by overworking yourself or denying yourself breaks. In the office, breaks actually occur quite frequently without you even recognising them as such. Quick trips to the coffee shop, catch ups with co-workers in the communal kitchen, even just a friendly chat with someone who stops by your desk all constitute as mental breaks that won’t happen at home—and their absence will become obvious pretty quickly. Pro tip, if you don’t trust yourself to actually get up and leave the room, set an alarm on your phone and name it something like ‘Let me out!’ If you remain unmoved by your own plight, try tricking yourself by setting a ‘check the car for parking ticket!’ reminder to get you out the door. If social distancing will allow, take a quick walk around the block or even just spend ten minutes in your yard. It will make you ten times more productive when you get back inside.
This is especially important if you have kids, but maintaining a healthy work/life balance is essential for all of us. Try as best as you can to maintain normal work hours and get up and leave your desk for the day at the same time you would otherwise, even if your new commute is four meters to the living room. The same goes for start times in the morning. Allow yourself time to eat breakfast without a screen in front of you, and don’t feel bad about doing things that aren’t work related in your own home, like spending time with family and/or spouse. Be sure to make those boundaries apparent to your co-workers or higher-ups, too, so they don’t try to take advantage of your availability. It’s also important to be honest with your co-workers about any hurdles you’re facing working from home (E.g. If you hear screaming during this conference call, that’s just my four-year-old walking on Lego), but also maintain professionality when needed. This new workplace reality is going to take some getting used to, but remember, we’re all in this together. Now go and check the car.