Working from home can be one of the best outcomes of a horrible situation like the pandemic. A lot of people in different industries had to leave their offices and bring their work home. And while in theory that is a silver lining given what everyone was going through in 2020 (and 2021), that transition was tough too. Not to mention some people had to balance having their kids home-school via zoom while the parents were working in the same room/home.
Everyone had to change the way they were doing things to adapt to our new reality. And from someone who has anxiety and OCD tendencies, working from home sounded like a blessing. However, working effectively from home is a different story.
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How to Work From Home Effectively
Organizations and employees had to make many adjustments to how communication, interaction, and work were going to be done through a remote setting. Sectors such as IT probably had the least amount of disturbance since most companies have been open to the idea for years, with some allowing 100% remote jobs pre-pandemic. Other industries needed some serious adjustment.
And while we are getting back to some form of normalcy (let’s hope) in the coming months, there are some people who do not want to go back to the office. The npr did an analysis on that which you can read here. The benefits of remote working have caused some people to want to quit (according to another article by Bloomberg.com) if they will be required to go back to the office post-pandemic. With so many first timers working from home, they have now gotten the taste and the level of productivity that can be achieved without being in the office.
Although there is a high turnover rate for people who want to continue working from home, there also needs to be boundaries and the cultural mindset shift of how to actually work from home effectively. This means not giving up your life completely, but also making sure that you are as productive (if not more) than when you were in the office. Here are some tips and skills you need under your belt to make sure that you are being productive and sane while working from the comfort of your home.
1. Stick to Your Work From Home Hours
Before you start the job, make sure that you have set your hours with your manager. If you are working with a company that has employees in different time zones, make sure they know that when you are available and how flexible you are. Do not over extend yourself just because you are “available” at home. There needs to be set hours that you start and end your day so that you can have that boundary with your work place. This is the first and ultimate step to creating a healthy boundary of remote working.
2. Morning Self-Care
When you get up from bed, don’t just roll over and pick up your laptop and check email or start work. Give yourself about an hour to do your personal self-care routine to prepare yourself for the day. Respect your body. Take time to take care of your body, brush and wash up, have some breakfast, do some yoga or meditation, or exercise. Once your mind and body are taken care of, then open your laptop and begin.
3. Create a Space in Your Home
When working from home, you need to have a space that is separate from your bedroom (or maybe a corner of it) that is dedicated as your office. Try not to use the dining room table, or your couch as your office desk. When you are in the rest of your home, let that be your time. Do not spend it working or talking on the phone with someone from work, etc. Use your office space as just that – everything work related. This way you are making sure there is a distinct line between where your work is, and where you home is.
4. Create Boundaries with Everyone
Make sure that both people at home and people at work know your work hours, how and when they get access to you, and when they need to take a step back. When you’re in a regular office setting, it’s easy to leave the building and subconsciously that is your signal to mentally leave work too. This may not apply to some people who take work from office to home, and sometimes into dinner, vacations, and bed. I’m culprit of doing that in the past. However, when you’re working from home those same boundaries seem to get hazy or do not even exist.
This goes with number 1 above, that when you are working your work hours, that personal interruptions should be at a minimum. And when you are not at work that is completely non-work time to enjoy. While it is good to be flexible on both fronts – work and home – creating boundaries helps you not get overworked or overburdened with both parts of your life.
5. Productivity Burn-Out from Guilt
Some extremely dedicated employees harbor guilt for not being available to theuir managers or teams 100%, that they overcompensate by working extra hours or tasks. While we are being paid to do the job, there is a limit to how productive you need to be before your lose your mind. Make sure that you think of how much you did in the office to be 100% productive – and bring that mindset home too. You do not have to work twice as hard just because you are working in your pjs or because you didn’t have the stress of the dreaded morning commute.
Everyone else who is working from home should also give a 100% but without the burnout of guilt. Make sure you are practicing number 2 above by showing yourself some care too. This does not mean that those who were giving less than 100% a free ride. No! You need to work for your paycheck, just do not overdo it at the expense of your health.
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6. Recess – Taking Self Directed Breaks
There is a reason we have break time. It gives your mind and body something else to break the one-track mind you have when you’re constantly working. When you are done with a meeting or a long stretch of meetings, make sure you are scheduling time to take a bio-break, get a snack/lunch, and take a breather in your back yard. When you were in an office setting, you would have taken a bio-break or gone out to grab lunch or take a break by walking over to a colleagues cube to talk about non-work.
While these activities may be frowned upon by some employers, shame of them, they are actually healthy activities for both your mental and physical self care. We are not robots built to chug along. We have to take breaks during the day to cut down on stress build up. From a purely physical standpoint, sitting in one place and staring at a computer screen can cause eye strain, carpel tunnel in your hands, low circulation in your legs, and other issues. I’m not even going to get into the mental struggles here. Make sure you schedule breaks and take them. Be as dedicated to your breaks, as you are to your meetings. Which leads me to my next point.
7. Always Show Up!
Working from home can be so beneficial to both employee and employer. However, the priviledge of working frm home should not be an escape for you to be present to your collegeaues and employer. Make sure you are showing up at meetings, providing input, and being present as you would in your office setting. People tend to get comfortable behind a compueter screen since no one can walk up to them and call them out. Don’t be that person. Do what’s right and attend that zoom call, schedule meetings with your manager to check on your progress, call up your teammates and ask how they are doing. Again, leading to my next point.
8. Socialize as You Would at the Office
One of the most common issues I’ve heard from people who work from home is that they have lost the ability to socialize with their teammates. This is a biggie for those who thrive on building rapport and making connections at work. Sometimes it is due to office rapport that things actually get done. When you are not physical around people, it is harder to build that connection. This is where you need to start becoming creative in connecting with your teammates and your manager and whoever else you need to be successful at your job.
Schedule happy hours every other week, or a bowling session every month. Get on the phone or IM and talk to your teammates about anything non-work related (within HR guidelines) to build a connection. This is a real big deal right now with the pandemic and with everyone still dealing with kids at home – so make the extra effort to check in on others in your work place.
9. Home Office Build Out
If you didn’t know, now you know. With more companies open to remote employment, they also provide you with funds to build out a home office. The funds can and should be used towards a desk, chair, headphones or anything else that will make your work from home environment more amenable. Ask for the funds or the equipment you need and make sure that you communicate if there is anything else that will make you more productive. Get a cellphone that is dedicated to work calls only. That way, when your work day is over, you can switch that thing off and not worry about being bombarded by work calls or emails or IMs.
10. Close Out Your Work Day
One of the most difficult things for the mind is to shutoff from work – especially if its been a exhausting or tough day. However, this has to be one of the most important things to do when you are a remote employee. You need to stop working at some point in the day. Overachievers and workaholics are no longer s*xy. They seem to be the people who just do not have a life. And while they may feel proud of those titles, their mental and physical health begs to differ. As mentioned in number 1 above, you should stop work when your workday hours have been satisfied.
Unless there is an absolute critical need to work overtime, make sure you stop when it’s time to stop. Honor the work activities that were done that day, and take time for yourself. Get out of the workspace or even the house, run those errands, and shut your mind off from work. Work will always be there and you can and will return to it the next day. Make your peace with stopping work and honor the rest of the time you have. This is where work-life balance kicks in.
Working from home effectively can be achieved. There are many ways to get there but the ones listed here are some of the very specific tips that can guide you into success. You can be extremely productive and happy too. Both things can be true if you standardize some activities, and create the boundaries necessary to sustain your happiness of being a remote worker. Use all the tools you have to create an amazing experience for you, your family, your teammates, and your managers. Working from home in a sustainable way can be effective for everyone involved. And once that is all satisfied, shutdown the laptop and enjoy life outside. Everything else can wait.
What things have worked for you? Share this article with your teammates to generate conversation about what works for them too. Comment below and let me know!
Featured image courtesy of unsplash.com