So, you’re working from home now.
Welcome to the club, I’ve been doing this for close to 12 years now. I remember when I first started as a remote worker…. I thought “Ah this is the life, I don’t have to wear a suit and heels”, then before I knew it I had slipped into a bad habit, my work and my life had all blended together. One day. I looked in the mirror at 5 pm and my hair was standing on end and I was still in my pyjamas. Trust me, it’s not the best look for a corporate leader.
What about you? Are you working at home now with the COVID-19 outbreak?
Are you trying to work while the kids are racing and your husband is having a loud conference call in the living room?
Bet you thought it would be a breeze. No more commuting, no more suits and full make-up. How do you avoid feeling like you’re always at work and somehow work, evening, family time all run together in one mass of chaos
So what do you do? Well, you need a new strategy.
Here are a few tips to help you succeed.
Create A Schedule
Decide when your workday will start and when it will end and then stick to your schedule. Perhaps you have to trade off parenting with your spouse so they can get some work done too in alternating times or maybe you get the kids set up to do school work or quiet play during your focus time.
One of the biggest work-at-home pitfalls is that, though you’re never at the office, you’re always at work
At the end of the day, pretend you’re coming home from work and say “Hi” to everyone and give them a kiss and tell them you’re back in their world.
Rituals help to create a new normal, so use this time to change into your after-work clothes, just like you did when you were working outside the home.
Accomplishments vs Busy Work
Know what you need to achieve and use this as your daily goal.
Instead of “working” for the same number of hours, decide exactly what needs to be completed by the end of the day. Use this time to focus more on getting the right things done in the most efficient way.
Begin by planning tomorrow’s work in advance. Spend the last 15 minutes of your day planning what you want to achieve tomorrow, set specific uninterrupted focus time in your calendar, schedule time for all the meetings, email and Slack conversations you need to have.
Get dressed for work. I’m not saying you have to get dressed up the same way you would for a day in the office but get out of your sweats or pyjamas. Put on some decent clean pants, a nice blouse and do your makeup.
That way you’ll be ready for any impromptu video conference calls.
Getting dressed for work will help you show up as your best self, it’s a reminder to yourself that you are at work. These rituals and the trigger will help you focus more effectively too.
Create A Workplace
If you have a spare room, that’s great. Set it up as an office. If you are tight for space designate a table or desk that is exclusively for you to work.
Close the door on your office or put up a divider to hide your workspace from your living space during off-hours
When it’s time to work, go to your “workspace” and at the end of the day, avoid using that same space for family time.
If you have very limited space and need to use your kitchen table to work, place a table cloth on your table and then at the end of the day put your computer, papers, table cloth and all work material away in a box.
It’s important to create a separation between work and home or you will feel like you are always working and you may be tempted to continue working long into the night which means you won’t take time to relax and spend time with those you love.
Do Not Disturb
You may need a do-not-disturb sign, on your door or it might even be a post-it note on the back of your chair when you need to concentrate
It helps everyone if they know when you are off-limits. Tell the kids, “I need some quiet time starting in a few minutes” and make sure they have all they need during that time slot
Put up a “do not disturb” sign on your office door or divider and use noise-cancelling headphones. It helps your family to respect your time and learn how to create clear boundaries.
When you’re allotted time is up, take the sign down and let them know that you’re available again.
Good clear communication will help avoid conflict and frustration for everyone.
Take Time For Lunch
Schedule a lunch break in your calendar and when it’s lunchtime, leave your desk.
Eat something nutritious and move your body.
Go for a walk or do some light exercises to get your blood flowing.
It can be easy to slip into continuing to work while you nibble on lunch at your desk and computer. Avoid temptation.
Stay Connected With Co-Workers
You might feel lonely and isolated when you work from home. The casual fun conversations that used to be so easy and natural before a meeting or as you were walking to get coffee don’t happen the same way.
To create some new habits you could:
Set up a time for a casual video chat with your workmates while you’re eating lunch or during designated break time just like you would if you were in the office.
Send a note to your work friends to say hi, ask them how they’re doing and maybe share a funny story.
Talk to someone every day, but not about work. Make sure to go beyond the transactional conversations you must do to get your work accomplished.
Get Your Tech In Order
You may need some new gear now that you’re home-based.
Will you be bringing home your work computer or are you expected to work on your own equipment?
Upgrade to the best internet connection available. A fast, reliable connection will make a big difference to your work at home experience.
If your company doesn’t have its own protocol, consider these tools:
Zoom for video conferencing and deeper conversations and meetings
Dropbox for secure file sharing
Google Docs for shared collaborative documents
Slack for quick and effective communication between teams
Leave a comment and let me know what your biggest challenge is when you're working at home.