Most people know that I’ve been working in the sports, retail, and research industries for a long time. Not as many are aware that I’ve been working from my home office for the last 20 years. Given the current circumstances, a lot of folks are faced with a new ‘work from home’ reality. I thought I’d take some time to share the tips and tricks that have worked for me over the years, and I hope you’ll find them helpful.
I’m sure many of you thought working from home would be a fun adventure when you first started out – and I bet that feeling lasted about two days.
Working from home can be challenging, and it requires planning and discipline. Our homes are our refuge. It’s where we go to unwind, escape the pressures of work, and nourish our spirits. This is antithetical to our work space.
To effectively work from home, you must first designate a space that is “where you work.” Hopefully you have enough space to carve out an area that is separate from where you eat, sleep, or watch TV. When you’re in that space, you are “at work;” when you’re not, you are “at home.” It may sound silly and pedantic, but this is a very important first step.
Next, get yourself a comfortable chair. Most dining room and kitchen chairs look great, but are not designed to sit in for hours at a time, so make the investment. Your back will thank me. You will not only be more comfortable, but also more “in the zone” when you sit in an official office chair.
Once you have your space and furniture sorted out, establish a routine. It should not be the same as when you’re in the office. For instance, your commute is surely a lot shorter, so sleep in a little. However, get into the habit of getting to your home office at the same time each day and go through the same motions regularly. This will provide structure and continuity to your day. I’m also not a believer in working in our pajamas. To me, dressing in work-like clothes helps ground us in the tasks ahead.
If you have housemates, set some boundaries. If you’re lucky to have a separate room, keep the door closed. Set a signal on the door to remind your housemates that you’re in the room and at work. Tie a scarf or put a ball cap on the handle as a reminder. Remember that “Do Not Disturb” sign you stole from that hotel over spring break? Use that.
You must take micro breaks throughout the day. In the corporate office, you don’t sit and stare at a screen all day (I hope); you’re getting up to ask a colleague a question, pick up copies from the printer, and go to and from meetings. At home we don’t have these natural breaks, so we need to create them.
You must also decide when your work day ends, and officially shut things down. Constantly checking emails into the evening makes your workday longer and more stressful. I also recommend to avoid sending out a lot of messages during off hours, as it’s unfair to your colleagues.
Equally important is your mental health. Connect somehow with the outside world, even if it’s just to stand in the doorway and wave to the mail person. Walk around the block if you can. We all crave human contact and working from home can be lonely, but it really doesn’t have to be.
Also, take sick days when needed (mental/physical health days also count here). When we’re ill, we need to rest and recharge. Being at home is not an excuse to work sick.
And finally, check in with your work friends outside of meetings. Take a few minutes to call or send a text. Given the situation we’re all in today, we need to check in on each other right now. A few of my colleagues and I held a virtual “Happy Hour” last week. It was refreshing to be silly and have some fun.
I hope you find these tips useful. Stay healthy and be careful out there!