10 Ways to make Working from Home Work for You

I started working from home on March 19, 2020 as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. This is the first time in my professional life that I will not be working in an office for an extended period of time. I am still adjusting to my new work environment. My best day was the one I spent working from the deck on a gorgeous 70 degree day.

I gathered the tips below for my team. They work for me and I hope they will work you.

1. Choose a dedicated work space.

Where you work matters. Even when you don’t head to a separate building for work, it should feel like a separate space.  Have a separate space as much as possible. A separate office is ideal, but even if you don’t, just allocate a space you can leave at the end of the day. Mentally, it helps me to disconnect.

2. Structure your day like you would in the office.

Working from home can blur the lines between personal and professional. Make sure those boundaries stay up. Keep yourself to a schedule, especially when it comes to the beginning and the end of the day. To stay on schedule, segment what you’ll do and when over the course of the day. If you have an online calendar, create personal events and reminders that tell you when to shift gears and start on new tasks. I enjoy the Omnifocus app and have used it for about eight years. Omnifocus is a task management software for busy professionals.

3. Maintain your daily routines.

Just because you don’t have that hard separation between work and home doesn’t mean you should neglect your daily care rituals. Get dressed every day, do your routine. It’s easy to procrastinate showers and stay in the same PJs for three days and that’s a fast track to depression. I continue to make my bed, read a devotional, shower, and drink my fruit protein smoothie every morning, as if I were going to my office. I also exercise at least five times per week with the help of free Amazon Prime videos.

4. Enjoy the great outdoors.

We all get a little stir crazy sometimes. Try to get outside! Whether it’s for a walk or just sitting on a porch. Get sunlight and, more importantly, fresh air. Working from my deck is absolutely invigorating.

5. Plan out what you’ll be working on ahead of time.

Spending time figuring out what you’ll do today can take away from actually doing those things. And, you’ll have planned your task list so recently that you can be tempted to change your schedule on the fly. It’s important to let your agenda change if you need it to, but it’s equally as important to commit to an agenda that outlines every assignment before you begin. Try solidifying your schedule the day before, making it feel more official when you wake up the next day to get started on it. The Omnifocus app comes in really handy with my planning.

6. Use technology to stay connected.

Working remotely, you don’t have the luxury of body language or bumping into people in hallways, so communication becomes key. 

Working from home might help you focus on your work in the short term, but it can also make you feel cut off the larger operation. Instant messaging and videoconferencing tools can make it easy to check in with coworkers and remind you how your work is contributing to the big picture. Zoom meetings are now the standard with my work team and colleagues.

7. Match your music to the task at hand.

I enjoy listening to music while I work. Whether it’s streaming my favorite radio station or Pandora music really keeps me going during the day. And since I’m at home, sometimes I even “bust a move.”

During the week, music is the soundtrack to your career (cheesy, but admit it, it’s true). And at work, the best playlists are diverse playlists — you can listen to music that matches the energy of the project you’re working on. 

8. Communicate expectations with anyone who will be home with you.

Of course, you might be working from home but still have “company.” Make sure any roommates, siblings, parents, spouses, and dogs (well, maybe not dogs) respect your space during work hours. Just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean you’re home.

9. Take clear breaks.

It can be so easy to get distracted working from home that you avoid breaks altogether. Don’t let the guilt of working in the building you sleep in prevent you from taking five to relax. Rather than just opening YouTube and watching some comfort clips, however, use your breaks to get away from your desk. Go for a walk outside, chill out on the deck/porch or spend time with others who might also be in the house.

10. Don’t get too sucked in by the news—or anything else.

Distraction is one of the big challenges facing people who work from home—especially people who aren’t used to it. Your home is right in front of you. So, whatever you’re usually thinking about getting home to after work is now with you. It’s human to get distracted. But you need to be wary of how much you let yourself get distracted.

You probably already take a few breaks throughout the day at the office, and that’s fine to do at home, too. Using that time to throw in a load of laundry is OK, but try not to look at your new work arrangement as an opportunity to finally clean out that closet or anything else that takes a lot of sustained focus.

Right now, one of the biggest distractions is the news. Checking in on COVID-19 updates is going to be at the front of your mind. It’s good to stay informed, of course, but it’s also easy to scroll yourself into an anxious mess.

I suggest setting timers for any breaks you take. You don’t want to get too immersed and forget that you’re at work altogether. If you’re someone who’s susceptible to getting distracted every time you get a news alert, turn your notifications off during the workday, too. The news will still be there after 5 PM. I have gotten into the habit or turning off the television at 9 AM and turning it back on at about 6 PM.

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