In the first decade of the 2000s I had a job that allowed me to work from home full time. In over 10 years, I can say with confidence that I mastered the art—and if I am honest, prefer it to a traditional office setting (no offense to anyone I’ve physically worked with over the years!).
It’s definitely a learned skill, and since a large percentage of the population is currently navigating the home office set up, I thought I would share some of the tips and tricks I’ve learned that will keep you productive, healthy and sane:
It’s important to maintain the same schedule you would have if you were still going to an office.
- While it may seem tempting to sleep in just a little bit extra, this can quickly become a bad habit. Set your alarm like you normally would and try to keep the same morning routine.
- Make sure you take little breaks throughout the day when you work at home, just as you would at the office (and the beauty of these mini-breaks is that you can throw in a load of laundry or empty the dishwasher, which gives you more free time after hours).
- Take a lunch break, at least 30 minutes. You can easily lose track of time when you are working at home, and suddenly you realize it’s 2:30 p.m. and you are HANGRY. Use this break to nourish yourself with food and fresh air. If you are someone who loses track of time, add your lunch break right to your calendar as a reminder to yourself and anyone attempting to schedule meetings at that time.
- End your day at a reasonable time. Sometimes it’s tempting to “just do one more thing,” and before you know it, it’s 8 p.m., you’re starving (again) and the dog is giving you the side-eye. When it is time to end the day, let your coworkers know you are wrapping it up, straighten up your workspace, and turn off work-related computer apps.
Designated Office Space
Having a space designated for work is key for staying focused AND disconnecting.
- Whether it’s an actual home office, a spare bedroom or a corner of the dining room table, try to keep that space for work-related activities only. And go to that space only during business hours.
- If working from home is only temporary, still make the space seem like a ‘real office.’ In addition to office supplies, add photos, hand lotion, a candle, or anything else that will make it feel cozy and familiar.
- Working at home with children presents its own set of challenges, but try to remember this is an adjustment for them, too. Having a dedicated workspace teaches them boundaries, which will also hopefully minimize interruptions. Plus, the best part of having a daily schedule is you can promise your little ones you’ll read to them or play with Legos during your break at a specific time. This gives them—and you—something to look forward to.
- It is very tempting to just bring that bag of chips and tub of Bison Dip into your office space. DO NOT DO THIS. Since your kitchen is within reach, it is very easy to snack mindlessly all day, especially when we all have a bit more anxiety than usual and food is a comfort. Pack a lunch the night before, and portion out snacks to eat throughout the day. If you don’t trust yourself not to overeat while sitting in front of the computer, only eat in your non-work-designated spaces and only during your break times.
- Get dressed. I completely understand the desire to live in leggings or pjs while working at home. But force yourself to put on real pants a couple of days so you can quickly tell if you are eating too much. Plus if you dress like a slob, you will also start to feel one, and that isn’t great for your self-esteem or work ethic.
Lack of human interaction is probably the part of working from home that people struggle with the most (I’m talking to you, extroverts). It’s heightened during these times when social interaction is verboten.
- If you realize you are feeling lonely or depressed, you’ve already tackled the first hurdle, which is to acknowledge it. Recognize what you are feeling and know that the situation is temporary. You are tough and we will get through this!
- Play music or listen to podcasts. Having the sound of anything but your whirring brain will help you feel less alone.
- Pick up the phone and call your coworker, friend, sibling or parent. Working from home is new to most of them as well, and they are also experiencing moments of isolation. Use one of your breaks to commiserate or gossip or laugh or whatever feels normal and natural.
In the coming weeks, you may realize that you are actually more productive at home; being more efficient leaves you with more time for yourself.
Do you have any work from home tips and tricks? Head over to FIFTEEN’s LinkedIn to share some of your best ones.