With most organizations currently mandating their employees (who are able) to work remotely, we at Realized Worth feel it’s our responsibility to share our wisdom, tips and tricks for working from home. We have always been fully virtual – our team is made up entirely of remote workers. Some of us have been home-based for almost 12 years!
I’ve been working from home for almost two years now, and while it was an adjustment at first, I have intentionally (and sometimes unintentionally!) developed habits and strategies that help me be more productive than I ever could be in an office. I received an overwhelmingly positive response when I shared these tips and tricks with my personal network, so here I am sharing them with you—our colleagues, clients and partners—in the hopes that it will make your days more productive, structured and enjoyable as the world copes with COVID-19.
1. Always, always, always change out of the clothes you slept in. It doesn’t matter into what–there is no need for business casual so wear pajama shirts or sweatpants while you can! It can be a little trick to make your brain think this is a treat instead of a pandemic. Changing clothes will help you make the critical mental shift to work mode.
2. Routine is important, but don’t put pressure on routine for the sake of routine. If you are someone who thrives from breaking routine, do it! Seize the situation and make your day your own. On the other hand, if you know you need routine, good for you for knowing yourself and it is easy enough to make one: the key is to time-box your day, schedule breaks, and mirror your normal routine as much as possible.
3. If you’re a morning-enough person, take advantage of not having a commute time. Start work at the time you would normally leave for work. A quiet start to the day is great for productivity and, ideally, lets you sign off a bit earlier to take advantage of no commute time on the other end of the day. More “you” time!
4. Designate “work” and “relaxation” spaces, even if you’re not a routine person. Working in a room separate from where you sleep or relax at night will help with not getting distracted, lethargic, or on the flip side, having a hard time closing your laptop in the evenings. It also lets you slip in and out of work mode whether or not you have a strict 9-5 routine. Physical boundaries are as useful as time boundaries. If you’re confined to limited space because of roommates or other work-from-home-ers, try not to sit on or face your bed at the very minimum.
5. If you are sharing your home during the day with roommates, partners, or family, try to schedule breaks with each other for some social time. It’s also good to designate space between you ahead of time. This way, no one panics for private space when a meeting sneaks up on them, or has to be quiet in a common space during their only break due to someone else being in a meeting. And, if you have kids, all I can say is….best of luck to you.
6. Give yourself permission to socialize with your coworkers virtually, and make a point of checking in with each other. You will miss the water cooler and the lunch room, so don’t be shy about a 10-min chat break—your colleagues probably need one too! Just be conscientious about breaking their focus, routine, or interrupting meetings. Since you’re not with them, you won’t necessarily think about what they’re in the middle of.
7. Snacks!!! Stock up on healthy snacks (which has proven to be relatively easy to get from grocery stores these days, as opposed to non-perishables or junk). It is very difficult to motivate yourself out of a crash mid-afternoon, so best to try and avoid one. Also, drink tons of water. Tea counts, coffee does not.
8. Try really hard not to work for at least two hours before bed. If you work until you go to bed and then have to get up the next morning to work right away, the days quickly become monotonous and blur together which can make working from home really, really difficult and way more boring than it needs to be! Try to mark the days with activities you enjoy.
9. Watch your posture and take stretch breaks. Chances are you don’t have a complete ergonomic setup at home (I still don’t), and that can wear on you really quickly. It would be ideal to go for a walk around the block and stretch 2-3 times per day, but if you’re like me, it can be really hard to regain focus after intentionally breaking it. At the very least, try standing or pacing during phone calls, go for a quick walk when you’ve called it quits (especially as it’s getting nice out!), or give yourself challenges throughout the day, like doing a 60-second plank or stretch routine every time a meeting ends early. Also, do the full home fitness thing if you can.
10. Do things that make you and your space feel nice. Light a candle, turn on a diffuser, play music you can work to, open a window, work in a room with lots of natural light, keep your workspace tidy, keep other rooms tidy (so you’re not constantly thinking about how you should be cleaning them), wear something you love that you wouldn’t wear to an office (my daily joy is picking a scrunchie from a colourful assortment), or whatever floats your boat! Little things make working from home kind of like hanging out with yourself which makes it a lot less lonely and a lot more fun.
11. Keep it human and turn. on. your. video. I can’t emphasize this enough. We all need human connection in our lives, and while we are intentionally depriving ourselves of our normal dose, we have to do what we can to keep this experience human. Turning on your video—whether or not your colleagues do, at first—will encourage you to be more physically and mentally present. It may even encourage your colleagues to do the same. Don’t worry that your team may be seeing you with day-three-hair for the first time, or that you’re wearing a baggy sweater, or that you haven’t exactly gotten to that gallery wall behind you. Show up for yourself and your colleagues the most present way you can.
12. Be kind to yourself. Acknowledge that it is unreasonable to have the same expectations of yourself (and others) when working from home as in an office. It is harder to get and stay focused at home. Having worked from home once a week is not the same as indefinitely and it can be really hard! Focus on the benefits of working from home and make those work for you so it doesn’t turn into a constant fight for self-control. Sleep in and start early. Do laundry in the middle of the day on a Tuesday. Spruce up the place in the name of “productivity.” When you get distracted, let it be and come back to work later. Make more “me” time.