Making “Work From Home” More Workable
June 17, 2020
Many of us have been at this “work from home” thing for a couple of months. By now, what may have felt like a grand experiment at first is starting to seem a bit more normal. We’ve found the space (and virtual background) to take conference calls, draft memos and reports, and more—all in the same place where we educate our children, cook our meals, and entertain ourselves. And as exhausting as it can be to do it all right here at home, a lot of us are finding that it’s surprisingly, well, workable.
Businesses around the world have begun to realize that in-person interactions aren’t nearly as necessary as they once thought. Many will be making work from home the norm, long after the COVID-19 crisis has ended. When it comes to working from home, what began as an adaptive response to a pandemic is being adopted—permanently.
With that in mind, whether you’ll be returning to the office someday or not, there are plenty of things you can do to optimize your remote setup for serious productivity.
Start with a Schedule
When you headed into the office every day, you probably had a solid schedule, leaving home at the same time, grabbing coffee from the same spot, checking email before your first meeting, and so on. At home, it’s much easier to let things get a little more loosey-goosey. It can feel great to wake up a later and conduct meetings in the cozy slippers no one can see—squeezing in a nap sometime after lunch. But if you want to stay on top of your game, you need a schedule.
Now, that doesn’t mean you can’t work in your favorite footwear; you just need a little structure to get the most out of your day. Set your alarm and put on at least one piece of clothing that makes you feel professional. Sit down to work at the same time each day. And while it’s fine to take a midday break, consider some endorphin- and energy-boosting exercise rather than a snooze.
It’s also just as important to clock out as it is to start the day at a reasonable hour. Consider signaling that your day has come to an end with a simple ritual like taking a walk around the block or changing your clothes. Spend the time you’d be in your car or on the train cooking something more complex than you’d have time for otherwise, or simply play with your kids outside.
Upgrade Your Space
While your bed, couch, or kitchen table may be comfortable enough, creating a designated space from which to work can go a long way in both boosting productivity and protecting your downtime. Moving into a space designated solely for work tells your brain to get moving. Meanwhile, transitioning from breakfast to a board meeting or from sleep to a sales call without so much as a shift in position doesn’t do much for your motivation. And vice versa—if you’re returning to the same spot where you’ve been plowing through emails or making calls to relax, you’ll probably find it hard to shut off. Consider investing in a proper office setup to train yourself to get to business when it’s go time.
If you already have a home office or designated workstation, ask yourself whether it’s as functional as it could be. Have you found yourself without a printer but wanting to read pages instead of a screen? Maybe a scanner, a designated phone line, or something as simple as a few plants or better lighting would make your day a little brighter. Those items may well make all the difference in your work life.
Remember that Communication is Key
Just because you aren’t seeing your manager, employees, or colleagues in person doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep in close touch—quite the opposite actually.
Set up a schedule for regular communication with your co-workers, and don’t skimp on spontaneous touch points either. While you can’t physically swing by their desk for a quick huddle on something pressing, you can—and should—make the effort to connect over the numerous technological channels available to you.
While many are tired of Zoom meetings, sometimes it really helps to see one another—especially when so many of our out-of-work interactions are limited to those with the people in our homes. Do your best to make sure everyone is in the loop. And don’t forget to check in on how they’re doing, period.
Finally, keep an open mind about your potential and the potential that may be present in this new (and simultaneously quite familiar) environment. We’re all navigating new territory, and while that can be scary, it’s also ripe with opportunity.