7 Tips for Working From Home
Working from home (WFH) is becoming a new norm in the age of COVID-19.
Even before these trying times, more and more companies were considering remote work as a perk for employees. For businesses, remote work can translate to more productive workers for less overhead. For employees, it can be a welcome salve, creating more space and time to focus on work and avoid traffic.
Here are some practical tips to help you successfully WFH.
Set up a dedicated space
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Not everyone, especially in Los Angeles, has a separate room from which they can work. But look around and see where you can get clever. Is there a corner of a room in which you can set up a workstation? Maybe you can carve out a small space in a hallway?
The point is to dedicate a space to work. This helps you to emotionally separate "this is work" and "this is not work" at the start and end of each day. If that space is your couch, so be it; just make sure to close the laptop when working hours are over.
Assess your equipment
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Many of us could perform much of our work from phones and/or a laptop plus a connection to the internet. If you want to go further, a mouse and mousepad, external keyboard, or even a second monitor are nice touches.
Next, think about where, how, or if you're sitting. A desk or a dining table work just fine, or consider a lap desk to use with a comfy chair or couch. If you sit all day every day and it's hurting your body, consider building or buying a standing desk.
When taking conference calls, it’s your phone's earbuds can suffice, or upgrade to a fancier headset. Either way, keep yourself on mute when you're not talking, lest leaf blowers or sirens interrupt your call.
Also consider where you'll be accessing and storing your work. Maybe you need a cheap but effective printer, paper folders, filing trays, or cabinets. I also highly recommend setting up a cloud-based backup for your digital work. That way, in case your machine gets lost or gets spilled upon (ahem) you won’t lose anything.
Finally, consider weaving in plants, art, and lighting. These are nice-to-haves, but can make your space feel more professional and yours.
Get ready for the day
One of the major perks of working from home is that you don't have to put up appearances. In theory, you could work in your pajamas all day. I'm not lying; I've done just that. But, day on day of loungewear can start to wear on me emotionally.
Maybe you want to go through the normal routine of getting ready. Maybe you opt for clothes that fasten, not just stretch. Maybe you even need to go on a “commute”—be it a walk or drive around the block—in order to mentally shift from home to work.
Establish a rhythm
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As you WFH, you may develop a strained relationship with the clock: find yourself staring at it, willing it to move forward; or, glance up and realize 90% of your workday is gone.
Just as you would log a set amount of hours in the office, do the same at home. Maybe that’s 9-5; maybe it’s 12-8. Confer with your colleagues to figure out the hours you need to be online, then stick to them.
The lines can blur, sure. You have more time at home, so you could check one more email or do one more task. But be kind to yourself so that work-life balance doesn't get incorrectly weighted.
If you need an extra boost to your productivity and structure, try establishing a timed system. For example, work for 90 minutes followed by a 10 minute, or a 45-minute burst followed by a five-minute detour. Use your phone's timer or an online productivity tool to help you stay on track.
Take a break!
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Now more than ever you need to attend to your physical and emotional wellbeing. Even a five-minute stand-up-and-stretch helps.
- If you have 10 minutes, open your window or step outside. Maybe watch a funny online video to take your mind off things.
- If you have 20 minutes, go for a walk around the block to get your blood moving.
- If you have 30 minutes, take a lunch break—ideally, not standing over your sink while reading work emails.
- If you have 60 minutes, squeeze in a workout. There are many online options from which to choose, from yoga to weightlifting.
I also find it incredibly helpful, and soul-filling, to leave home a couple times per week to see other people. This could be a trip to the gym, a coffee date with a friend, or even a lunch out. (Right now, of course, these may not be possible. But try scheduling a video chat with a friend, or walk to grab takeout from a local restaurant.)
These moments of rest and refuel may actually make you more creative. On many occasions, I’ve had a burst of inspiration while taking a lunch break (or a walk).
Fuel your mind and body
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When you work from home, you may become so immersed in projects and conference calls that you forget to eat.
Schedule meal breaks into your work calendar if you must, but don't forget this essential need!
I thank my WFH lifestyle for the ability to eat more thoughtfully. I can plan a true lunch rather than eat a snack bar on the go, or get a head start on dinner by throwing things in the slow cooker.
Hydration, and coffee, are also essential. For me, the latter is a basic office need. My husband often jokes that our at-home espresso machine gets commercial-grade usage. Now may be the time to invest in a new coffee or tea set.
Co-working with pets and kids and roommates, oh my!
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If you work from home, it's highly likely that you are not the only living being in your space. From kids to pets to roommates, these creatures may not understand that this is "work time.”
You'll need to establish your own rules around this—I won’t be the one to tell you how to parent or co-exist with your roommates or spouses. But, may I suggest you establish some cues.
At our house, I usually work at a desk and my husband is at the dining table. When we are in these designated “work zones” we are careful not to interrupt the other—sometimes going so far as to text each other before infiltrating the other’s space. I’ve also heard of people who wear a visual cue, such as an "I'm working" hat, or stick a post-it note on the office door to say "do not disturb."
As for smaller beings, there are some steps you can take, and some things you can’t control. If you have the space, tuck your pets into a spare room during conference calls, for example. Set up your kids with an art project or a good book during an especially taxing work session, perhaps.
But now—especially when so many of us are WFH due to a world-changing pandemic—those slices of real life (kids playing, dogs woofing) are a welcome dab of humanity, reminding us that we are all in this together and doing our best. (If you're looking for more ways to keep your kids busy during this time, head on over to this blog.)
The perks of being a worker-from-home
As you settle into your WFH rhythm, you may find unexpected benefits. Often, you can achieve more work in less time because you don’t have “water cooler” distractions. You can multitask, mixing housework and work-work, such as starting laundry or cleaning your counters while on a conference call. You also gain more balance—time for workouts, time with family—and lessen your stress by eliminating the commute.
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Amy Duchene is a writer by day and by play. She creates content for some of the biggest tech brands in the world and writes stories for children. She has worked from home in Los Angeles for the better part of a decade and is thankful to skip the freeways.