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How to Make Working from Home, Work for You
My work environment transformed dramatically in the past few weeks. The water cooler turned into a water faucet. The conference room features a cat and a coffee table. My colleagues are all related to me. Oh, and my mini office fridge has become super-sized (and so will my waistline if I don’t stop rummaging through it all day). I need to face the facts: I am working from home and I am most definitely NOT the only one. We are all in this together…just separately. It’s time to make your home feel like an office. Here’s four suggestions on how to make working from home work for you.
1. Make a Work Space...and Make it Nice
It might have been okay to shove your laptop among a pile of bills and kids craft projects for the first few days at home, but a clearly defined work space will lift your spirits and your professional game. Whether you are in a multi-room mansion or a studio apartment, establish a separate area where you can focus on your work, not the pile of laundry waiting to be folded. A distraction-free area will help you both physically and mentally get down to business. Studies show that adding natural light and plants to your work space do wonders for your mood and productivity. Be sure to keep that space organized in order to keep yourself sane. Having everything you need within reach and easy to find will save you time and frustration. Speaking of time…
2. Mind the Time
Now that you’re working from home, does it seem like you’re working longer and harder than ever before? It’s more common than you think. No commute time means we often end up firing up our computers a lot earlier and shutting them down a lot later. While those extra hours may make you initially feel like a master achiever, adding more hours to your workday can ultimately lead to stress, burnout and exhaustion. Set up a routine for yourself that includes clear work hours and plenty of breaks. Breaking up the monotony will clear your head and help you get more done in less time. If you’re surrounded by family or roommates during the quarantine, clearly communicate your working hours to your housemates to make sure everyone is on the same page about when it’s time to work and when it’s time to turn on Disney+.
3. Over-communicate, Professionally and Personally
Do you miss conversing with co-workers by the water cooler? I’ve always marveled at the collective brainstorming that can be done while we re-fill our coffees. We share ideas, get inspired, and then head back to our desks with a new perspective. Don’t let working from home cut off these off-the-cuff conversations. Re-create them virtually. Use applications like Microsoft Teams, GotoMeetings, and Zoom to connect to your colleagues. Rather than sending an email, try picking up the phone or have a video chat to keep those collaborative juices flowing. And let’s be honest, you don’t ALWAYS talk about work when you’re at the office. The best moments between 9 to 5 often involve sharing stories about our lives beyond our cubicles. So keep it up. Take a few minutes at the beginning of each call to connect on a personal level. Tell them about your day and, most importantly, ask how they are doing? We are all experiencing something new and crazy and a little bit scary. The more we share with each other, the better chances we have of getting through it, together.
4. Dress for Success
Truth time. I am writing this piece in sweatpants. But they are NOT the same sweatpants I slept in (I swear). The coronavirus has clearly re-defined what “work casual” means. Still, let’s not get too crazy. If we can establish boundaries for our office space and hours, we can at least have a modicum of differentiation between what we sleep in and what we work in. I’m not saying put on a suit and tie before you clock in for the day. However, changing our appearance signals to the brain that we are in work mode. So take that shower, brush those teeth, and at least put on a CLEAN pair of PJs before you get down to business.
Need more suggestions on how to crush it from the couch? Check our COVID-19 Resources page often for updates and articles.