“Necessity is the mother of invention”. Never has a proverb or phrase been more relevant to our lives right now than this one. With much of the United States on a virtual shutdown, millions of office workers are being asked to transition to a “Work From Home” (WFH) situation. For many, it isn’t easy. But with some slight modifications to how we work, we can smoothly adapt to this new way of life for as long as needed and maintain productivity (and sanity) while we do it.
For full disclosure, I have had experience working from home for the last 15 years. I’ve experienced a mix of both traditional office and home office work environments. A mix of both is ideal, but I will get into those reasons in another post.
For now, the office option is not available to most of us, so let’s explore six key things that can ease your transition into a WFH environment and help you stay productive. It can also serve as a good reminder for those of us who are more familiar with WFH.
1. Create a separate workspace
This one is essential. You need some sort of physical separation to trigger your mind and body to understand when it’s time to work and when it’s time to be away from the office. For those who are unable to devote a separate room in your home for an office space, look toward a dedicated portion of a room or perhaps manufacturing an adjacent, outside portion of your home to work from (assuming your weather allows for it). The key here is to limit distractions and create a focused spot where you can deliver 100% of your attention to the job at hand. Working at your coffee table in front of the tv or in the middle of noisy kitchen are things to guard against doing.
2. Guard against distractions
Don’t allow the “home” portion of your WFH arrangement to bleed into your productivity. Abide by a schedule, just as you would in your traditional office. Don’t allow yourself or anyone else to think that because you are WFH, this makes you eligible to run errands, wash clothes or watch Netflix. When you are secluded in your separate workspace, you are “off limits” and laser-focused on working.
3. Be mindful of your home and work balance
One of the biggest pitfalls of those new to WFH is how the boundaries between work and personal tend to quickly dissolve. Managers unfamiliar with how to lead remote employees often make the incorrect assumption that they work less than office employees. I have found the opposite to be true—sometimes with bad outcomes. So, don’t burn yourself out in this new environment! Try to maintain the same routine that you’d have if you were working from an office (for example, showering and dressing in the morning as well as a dedicated mid-day lunch), have specific work hours and don’t feel the need to be on call 24/7 simply because you are WFH.
There are several upsides to being WFH and a big one is that you no longer have that dreaded commute to the office! Take advantage of that extra time by devoting it to exercise. A simple 30-minute walk will not only help you get out of the house but it will strengthen you and make you better-focused on the job. Countless studies have shown us that a sound body AND mind can create elite performance at work.
5. Schedule your week each Sunday night
It’s critical in any work environment to be organized and pan ahead. Running a work day in an ad hoc style increases the chances of long-term stress & fatigue and limits your ability to be efficient with the hours you’re spending on the job. Take 30 minutes each evening to chart a course for your upcoming week. Feeling that sense of control will help lower stress levels and allow you to better handle any curve balls thrown at your during your work week.
One of the challenges of WFH is that you’re distanced from your team. You no longer have the option of dropping by someone’s office or grabbing a quick coffee to talk through an issue. Proactive and consistent communication is crucial in WFH! Seeing a face is far more impactful than just hearing a voice, so try to leverage video conferencing tools as much as possible. Schedule one-on-one touch-base calls with your team to stay engaged.And don’t be reluctant to actively connect with your manager. Have regularly-scheduled touch-base calls, and actively seek out input on how your WFH arrangement is going from their perspective. Proactively soliciting feedback is always welcomed by those who lead remote teams.
Lastly, make sure you give yourself a break! This statement is always true, but it’s especially important to remember during turbulent times. We are all navigating through an unprecedented global pandemic. If you’re on a phone call and your child unexpectedly rushes into your home office, try your best to have a laugh about the interruption and allow others laugh at the absurdity of what we are all going through. Simply adjust for next time (communicate boundaries or lock the office door) and know that we are all in this time of transition together.
Stay safe everyone!