How to Make Working from Home Work for You
Many people are now working from home for the next few weeks or months. While this can be a welcome change in the short run, it’s not something everyone feels comfortable with in terms of productivity, social interaction, teamwork, and familiar routine. I have worked from home for the last nine years and have found ways to make it work well for me. Here are some suggestions on how to make working from home – work for you.
Act as though you are going into the office
When working from home, do all the things you normally do to prepare for a day at the office: Set your alarm, make your coffee, have breakfast, and get out of your pajamas. If you normally workout before work, continue that routine. Set a specific time to begin working.
Choose a dedicated workspace
If you don’t have a home office, set one up in a location that you can keep dedicated as your work area. For me it’s one end of the dining room table. I have a wire basket that I can put my papers and materials in at the end of the day to keep things tidy, but my laptop stays in this location for easy access.
Structure your day
Try to stay on a schedule and segment what you’ll do and when you’ll do it over the course of the day. I use both an online calendar and a paper planner. The online calendar manages my conference calls and appointments. My paper planner manages my tasks. I enjoy physically crossing off a task in my planner when it’s completed.
Strategically work when you feel the most productive
Most people don’t work nonstop from morning to evening — your motivation and attention will naturally ebb and flow at different times during the day. Take advantage of your most productive periods by saving your more challenging projects for when you know you’ll have the right energy level for them. Use slower points of the day to focus on the easier tasks that you need to accomplish.
Use technology to stay connected
Working from home might help you focus on your work in the short term, but it can also make you feel cut off your team or colleagues. Instant messaging and videoconferencing tools can make it easy to check in with coworkers and keep up with projects, deadlines, and office news. The New York Times recently featured an article about how not to feel isolated when you are working from home. One suggestion is logging into Zoom or Skype with a couple of co-workers, check in with each other for a specified period of time, and then turn off the audio and just do your work with your colleagues still on video. It helps give a sense of camaraderie. Here is a link to the article: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/16/opinion/coronavirus-self-isolation.html?referringSource=articleShare
Use laundry as a work timer
Doing the laundry is a built-in timer, so use the time to start and finish something from your to-do list before changing the load. Focus on one assignment during the washer cycle and another during the dryer cycle. This can help you work smarter on tasks that might have taken a longer period of less focused time to get done. Plus folding the laundry and putting it away is a natural built-in break and a time to clear your head. I also use cooking to the same advantage.
Communicate expectations with anyone who will be home with you
Make sure roommates, siblings, children, parents, or spouses respect your space during work hours. Just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean you’re available whenever they want your attention. The exception to this rule is dogs. When my dog wants to go out, she doesn’t care that I’m in the middle of something. On days when I have lots of conference calls or a big project, I take her to the local doggy daycare so she can play and I can focus.
Don’t let the idea of working in the building where you live prevent you from taking a few minutes to relax during the day. Use this time to go on a walk outside or engage with other people in the house. One technique I regularly employ is – when . . . then. I tell myself, when I finish these four tasks, then I can take a break and have lunch or make a personal call (or do something else for myself).
Pick a finishing time each day
Just like you chose a time to begin your day, pick a specific time to end your day. You don’t have to stop at precisely that time, but knowing your workday is officially over can help you start the process of saving your work and moving on to the rest of your day at home.
As you get more familiar with this new routine, you will get more comfortable with it. It is normal to feel unsettled by a big change like this so please be patient with yourself. What tips do you have to share for making it easier and more successful to work from home?
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