10 Tips For Successfully Working From Home
Even if you’ve done it before, working from home because of coronavirus might feel like a whole new world. And because none of us can socialize in person outside of work, we think it is especially important to have a connection with everyone inside of work.
These tips will help you make sure that you’re successful, not just at getting your work done, but at maintaining your mental well-being as well.
Tip #1 – Stick to Your Normal Pre-Work Routine
One of the hardest transitions you are going to have to make is going back to the office after working from home for such a long time and on a different schedule. Your system may be in a state of shock when you start your commute an hour earlier once office hours resume. Usually, our morning commutes help wake us up so we are ready for work by the time we get to our desks. At home, though, the transition from pillow to laptop may be a bit harder.
The easiest way to mitigate this is to get out of bed the same start time each day as you would if you were going into work. Take your shower, make your coffee, eat your breakfast, and you can stretch it out a bit more leisurely until 9 am rolls around. Sluggishness can hinder motivation. By keeping to your office schedule wake time, you’ll be able to transition back to your regular work schedule much more quickly. Use the extra hour we’ve been given as a sort of brain commute from sleep to work, and you’ll find your day more productive and less stressful.
Tip #2 – Get Dressed!
It may seem like a waste of time to change from your pajamas only to change back into them at the end of the day, but studies have shown that giving in to the temptation to stay in your PJs results in slower starts and less overall productivity. We’re not talking suit and tie. Wear what you would on Fridays. Experts say that getting dressed makes you feel more engaged with the world and more confident. Subconsciously, it also lets you distinguish between being “at” work and being at home.
Don’t leave it at just getting dressed, though. Take a shower, brush your hair, shave, and/or put on a bit of makeup. Try to do what you would usually do if you were going into the office. This pattern of behavior goes a long way in keeping you connected to your professional side, which can slip when there is no one else around to keep you on your toes!
If none of these insights have convinced you yet, consider this. We are in the age of digital everything, and you never know when someone may request a Skype call or Zoom meeting. You don’t want to look like you do right now, do you? Just kidding, we know you are rocking it.
Tip #3 – Designate a Work Space
One of the big challenges when it comes to working remotely is keeping your work and home lives separate. If you never fully disconnect from work, your work productivity will suffer and your home life can take a hit as well.
We are used to going into an office each day where the separation between work and home is physical. You want to try to recreate that as much as possible with a designated physical workspace at home. Your workspace doesn’t have to be its own room, it can just be a corner in the living room, but it should feel as separate from the rest of your home as possible.
Try to make your workspace comfortable with a chair you can sit in for eight hours a day and a few decorations. Find an area with good natural lighting too, if that’s possible. Even if you don’t usually spend a lot of time outdoors, losing out on the time you spend outdoors during your commute can start to weigh on you quickly, and it will only happen faster if you don’t have natural light coming in. If you are used to distractions, a desk by a window can help provide some interest that will help as well.
Tip #4 – Keep Clearly Defined Working Hours
Just as you designate and separate your physical workspace, you should be clear about when you’re working and when you’re not. Not only will this help with your transition back to your workplace, it helps keep your work and home lives separate.
Unlike at the office, you are in charge of your environment and have to treat yourself like an employee. This means holding yourself accountable, but also recognizing when enough is enough, just as a good manager might. If you are extending your work hours because you aren’t doing anything else in the evening, tell yourself that it’s time to put work away, recharge, and start tomorrow fresh. The work isn’t going anywhere.
If you live with other people, you already know that this separation is critical. It is essential to establish boundaries so you can cut down on distractions during the workday. Once you’ve disconnected from that work, you will be able to give the people you care about your full attention.
Tip #5 – Don’t Get Too Sucked in by the News—or Anything Else
Distraction can be of the big challenges facing people who work from home—especially people who aren’t used to it. We’re not talking about the occasional exerciser walking by your window and it is human, after all, to get distracted. We’re talking about time-sucking distractions like CNN, cleaning out your closet, reorganizing your kitchen. After all, your home is right there. Your chores are staring you in the face. Don’t let them pull you away.
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. Cleaning out that closet or anything else that takes a lot of sustained focus is not.
Right now, one of the biggest distractions is the news. Checking in on COVID-19 updates is naturally going to be at the front of our minds. It’s good to stay informed, of course, but it’s also easy to scroll into an anxious mess. Try setting timers for any breaks and go back to work when it goes off. The news will still be there at 3 pm.
Tip #6 – Communicate
Many of us are single and don’t have company throughout the day. Many of us have our entire families around us and would like some conversation about topics other than food, school, and “I’m bored.” We’d all like to know how each other is doing and a call or text would be welcome. Don’t hesitate, as well, to reach out to your manager if you are finding it difficult to work from home or are having any challenges.
Working from home is not for everyone and frustrations can lead to misunderstandings. Keep the lines of communication open and remember that the rest of your team is likely feeling the same way. It is helpful to hear someone say that she is going through the same thing, and you may have a solution for each other. We are lucky that at Mutual Assurance our IT team has set up an easy to use and effective system for communicating with each other. If there is someone you want to check in with, do it. You can bet they’ll be glad you did.
Remember the buddy system from grade school. Find a work buddy during this time away and check in with each other daily. Keeping these connections is key to reducing stress and feelings of isolation.
Tip #7 – Save Important Calls and Meetings for the Afternoon
Experts have found that people who work from home are often slower to get in gear in the mornings. They assign this trait to the lack of diversity in environment. Commutes are often when workers are able to begin dialing in for the day. The transition from home to work acts as a sort of caffeine to the mind and body, waking it up for productivity.
Because our minds and bodies wake up slower when we work from home, it is better to schedule important calls and meetings for the afternoon when we have fully awakened and are at the top of our game. Use the morning for simpler tasks, if possible, like organizing paperwork, compiling notes, entering data into GWIN, etc. After lunch, you can speak and interact with confidence knowing you are on your game.
If scheduling calls and meetings in the afternoon isn’t possible, waking up at the time you would have if you were going into the office (as noted in tip #2) will give you the time for your brain and body to “commute” into working mode.
Tip #8 – Plan Your Day The Night Before
It is impossible to know ahead of time what a day will entail, but planning out your day the night before will help you feel more in control and less stressed. It will also help you from becoming unfocused and less productive, which leads to stress. If you can do this in your head and remember it, that is amazing. Most of us have to make notes – on our phones, on paper, in our calendars – to stay on track. Plus, there is something quite satisfying about marking something off the list.
There is also a sort of “official” quality that making a list provides. Once noted, a task is no longer an idea; it takes on substance.
Another suggestion is to make a list longer than you have the time to accomplish. Having items left over to do helps strategize the next day’s activities and can help inspire more ideas. Just as you are sticking to a schedule, stick to a program as well. This focus will help countermand boredom and stress!
Tip #9 – Use laundry as a work timer
You might have heard listening to just two or three songs in the shower can help you save water. And it’s true; hearing a few of your favorite songs start and end, one after another, can remind you how long you’ve been in the shower and shorten your wash time.
Why bring this up? Because the same general principle can help you stay on task when working from home. But instead of three songs off your music playlist, run your laundry instead.
One of the great benefits of working from home is being able to keep up with laundry without having to run the dryer up until bedtime. Doing your laundry is also a built-in timer for your home. So, use the time to start and finish something from your to-do list before changing the load. Committing to one assignment during the wash cycle and another during the dry cycle can train you to work smarter on tasks that you might technically have all day to tinker with.
Tip #10 – Bring nature indoors
Studies suggest that adding plants to workspaces can lead to a 60% reduction in stress levels, and actually help clean the air.
Of course, if you don’t have a green thumb, an artificial plant and an air purifier will do the trick, and you won’t get stressed watching your plant die – which defeats the purpose. Seriously, though, the air in your home can be toxic to you because of allergens and undetected problems like radon or a build-up of toxic gasses like carbon monoxide. Here are some symptoms to look for:
- throat irritation
- breathing difficulties
- tightness in the chest
- runny nose
- allergy-like symptoms, such as sneezing
- burning sensations in the nose
- dry, itchy skin rashes
If you think you are experiencing any of these issues more than you do during a day at the office, try getting an air purifier and crack a window in the room where you are working, if the weather permits.
Also, here are some easy to maintain plants you can keep on your desk. The visual, mental, and physical benefits of keeping a plant nearby can’t be replicated with silk and mechanics, so give it a try:
For more information on working from home and managing stress: