Working from home used to be a luxury for me. I lived in Wilsonville and had to commute to Portland and Salem for my job. I felt like I was always on the road and put 25,000 miles on my car the first year. My boss at the time (with a different employer) allowed me to work from home every now and then when I didn’t have any face-to-face meetings. I would take my laptop home, put on comfy sweats and sit in my easy chair and type away. I learned some valuable lessons early on that helped me to stay engaged and productive while working from home, and have gleaned ideas from others as well.
If you’re working remotely now or in the future, I hope you find these tips helpful.
- Get dressed – it may be very tempting to stay in your PJ’s all day when working from home. I strongly encourage you to act like it’s another day at the office and get up and follow your normal routine. Take a shower, get dressed and eat breakfast. You may not need to put on clothes as nice as those for the office, but getting dressed helps us feel human and confident. And if you get pulled into a video conference at the last minute, you’ll thank me!
- Designate a specific workspace or home office – keeping a separation of work and home is important. Just like entering your workspace in the office, have a designated space where you’ll work at home and enter it to begin work and exit it when you need to take a break, eat lunch and finish up for the day. I have a space reserved that has my laptop, files and books. It’s my work space.I sit down around 8 a.m. to open my laptop, and I leave that space at 4:30 p.m. when my day is done. I don’t eat dinner in that space, and I don’t do personal email or social media after hours in that space. The separation is important.
- Keep clearly defined work hours – when they announced that schools would be closed, one of the first things a friend sent me was an outline of how to structure your child’s day. There were blocks of time for reading, writing, math, play time, lunch etc. It was a wonderful guideline for keeping my daughter on task. As adults working from home, a similar schedule can be helpful. I don’t expect to get calls at 7 in the morning when I’m working from home, even though my home is my workspace. My hours begin at 8. I also love making lists and checking things off, so keeping to my calendar and blocking time for calls, research, writing, lunch etc. keeps me on track and helps the day go by productively. Don’t let the lines blur when you work from home. Treat yourself like an employee and hold yourself accountable.
- Build transitions into and out of work – when we drive into work, we have commute time to think about our day and what we have going on. There is preparation time to get ready for work. Before you go to your home workspace, take a few minutes to give your brain time to prepare for work. That might mean taking a few deep breaths, getting some water or checking that the lighting is adequate — whatever you’d do in your workspace at work. And at the end of the day, most of us have the same drive home and time to unwind, unplug and think about family and friends and what the evening holds. Take time to step away from your home workspace. Turn off your computer, clean up your area and walk away from the space. I often unwind by going for a quick walk down to the mailbox to check the mail, changing clothes and putting on some music.
- Don’t get too sucked into the news or social media – this may be a personal thing, but I stay away from watching the news and reading what frustrated, angry, scared people are saying. Not only is it distracting and unproductive, much of the information is either not true, not relevant to me, or too hyped up. I’ve been relying on the experts: the CDC, The Governor’s press releases and the DAS Coronavirus webpage for my information.
- Communicate and stay connected – some of you may be finding your productivity has soared without all the meetings to attend. I can understand how meetings take a lot of time. However, don’t neglect one powerful reason for meetings – staying connected. A few days after I started working remotely, I participated in an all-staff conference call. It was reassuring to hear the voices of others on my team, to know that we are ok and still providing service to other state employees. Also, my manager scheduled reoccurring team meetings for us to stay connected and to check in on each other. We’re professionals and we get our work done, so it isn’t about her “checking up on us”; it is the importance of reaching out, staying connected to each other and keeping communication flowing. It is reassuring to know others are out there doing what you’re doing and caring about you. Communicate, communicate, communicate!
- Don’t forget to play – one of the ways I re-energize is to share stories and laugh with my co-workers. I have a best friend at work and I love checking in with her to see how she’s doing, how her kiddo is doing and what’s new in her life. It’s easy when her cubicle is 10 feet away from me at work. Don’t let out of sight become out of mind. Continue to reach out and laugh with co-workers. Maybe a text now and then or a quick IM or email. Laughter and emotions are very important at a time like this. How we feel affects how we work, so make sure you keep nurturing social relationships when working remotely.
If you’ve found something to be helpful while you work remotely, please share.