While the world has been turned upside down, many of us are lucky enough to continue to work from home. As stressful as this new normal may be, there are some patterns you can create to make this time as enjoyable and productive as possible. Personally, as the Content Manager at Nest Realty and the editor of , I’ve worked from home for nearly six years, and I’ve developed some rules to help me stay on task. Read through and find the ones that may benefit you…
MAKE YOUR BED
What does this have to do with work? Technically, nothing, but it starts your day off on the right foot. More importantly, it helps you to resist the urge to crawl back into it when the afternoon slump hits. Working from bed or the couch can seem appealing right now, but it simply isn’t conducive to productivity. It’s too easy to turn on the TV, rest your eyes, or cuddle with your favorite four-legged family member. (Though we highly recommend that last one!)
This may seem frivolous right now, but it’s important to get out of your pajamas and into a fresh set of clothes. That doesn’t mean you need to dress in business casual, but simply putting on a new t-shirt or clean set of yoga pants will help you mentally feel ready to tackle the day. If full makeup and hair make you feel normal in this bizarro time, go for it. If washing your face and putting in your contacts is enough to wake up your brain, that works too. Whether it takes five minutes or 20, find the routine that helps you focus and feel presentable for video calls (more on that below!).
SET UP A WORKSPACE
Your environment impacts your overall mood and productivity. By carving out a dedicated workspace, it’s easier for your brain to switch into work mode. During this crazy time when we’re all at home with our families, finding a quiet space to work may be hard, but it’s important to carve out your own work niche. This may be at the dining room table with your spouse or roommate, or depending on the age of your children, you may need to work alongside them at the kitchen island to be able to keep tabs on everyone. Consider something out of the box—transform your closet into a work cubby, or set up a desk under a window in the living room. Natural light is always optimal, but a lamp taken from another area of your home can also do the trick. There’s no need to order an IKEA desk online—use what you have. Is there a work table in the garage that could be cleaned up enough? Get creative. It doesn’t have to be beautiful, it just needs to function.
Now that you’ve found your spot, make sure to politely communicate with your family that this is your personal zone. Dress it up a bit with things that make you happy. Grab a favorite photo; add a pretty vase, candle, or small plant. Think about the things you often use at your desk at your office—if you are a person who prefers to make your to-do lists on paper, have your zone set up with a pad of paper and a cup of pens. Plug in your charger and neatly tuck away the cord. Bring two coasters—one for coffee, one for water. This will help stop countless mugs piling up, and will remind you to keep a full glass of water near you at all times.
Once you’ve established a workspace that is pleasing to your eye, keep it tidy. We’ve all heard the quote, “a clean desk equals a clean mind,” and it rings true. If your workspace is filled with clutter, it’s easy to become distracted. If there’s a nagging bill sitting next to you, or an empty plate from yesterday’s snack, it’s easy to let your focus shift. Each time you get up, take away any trash or empty vessels. Be sure to straighten up at the end of the day and wipe down your keypad and desk with a disinfectant wipe so you can start the next morning with a fresh and clean workspace.
ESTABLISH A SCHEDULE AND SET AN END TIME
The standard 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. may not be possible right now, so figure out what makes sense for you and your family. This may mean working in three-hour shifts with your partner while the other tends to the children, or beginning your day at 5 a.m. to crank out two hours of work before everyone else starts to stir. Try out different variations and see what works best. Then clearly communicate your new schedule with your boss, coworkers, and family members. This will allow you to set up calls or video conferences during your dedicated work hours. Realistically, this is going to happen, and that’s 100% okay…
When your work hours end, wrap up your emails and close your computer. It’s important to set boundaries and give your brain a break. Working 16 hours straight isn’t healthy or productive and will lead to burn out. Try to resist the urge to check your work emails from your phone. Unless something comes in that is absolutely critical, let it wait until morning. Checking emails from your phone means the emails display as “read” and you may accidentally forget to respond in the morning. (I have definitely been guilty of this!)
In this bizarre and stressful new normal we are living in, it’s important to stay connected. Seeing the smiling face of a coworker may brighten our spirits and give us a much needed dose of dopamine. Set regular Google Hangout or Zoom video calls with your team. This may be once a week or once a day, depending on the needs of your business. We may be getting plenty of quality time with those in our household, but it’s refreshing to hear the voices of those outside of your four walls. No coworkers? Set up regular video calls with friends! Take a 30 minute afternoon break for teatime (or happy hour!). Whatever works.
Do you have other work from home best practices? We’d love to hear what works for you!