It’s week two of your new work reality, and by now you’ve totally realized that the dining room table isn’t going to cut it as your permanent place of productivity.
Because whether it’s noise from the TV, the pitter-patter of tiny feet (be they human or animal) or the plaintive refrain of “I’m bored/tired/hungry”, the need for a separate space away from the rattle and hum of daily life is going to be a key factor in your work from home experience.
Not only that, a dedicated routine—and yes, one that makes allowances for walks, breaks and cuddle time—is paramount to helping you being the best remote worker possible.
Here are a few suggestions on making a routine and maintaining some semblance of order (and sanity) as you continue to navigate the telework landscape.
Get dressed and get to work on time
Sure it’s tempting to roll out of bed and logon while you sip from your cup of morning Joe. But treating work from home like a regular workday keeps ready and refreshed for your day. This means changing out of your jammies, donning some semblance of work attire and being ready for work—just as you would if you were in the office.
This means going through your regular routine (whatever that may be) and having the tools you need on-hand to get you through your day.
Have a dedicated, distraction-free workspace
Okay, so you just might not have any other option but to work from the kitchen or dining room table. But if you want to keep a clear head and clutter at bay, you need to make a distinction on which area is a designated space, and set boundaries or “no-touch” zones. This is particularly important if you’ve got little ones or housemates.
Let everyone know that this is your workspace, and that a clean, optimized and quiet zone is required for the work you’re doing there. If necessary, keep a basket or banker’s box on hand to act as a filing cabinet or extra storage to keep your zone unfettered (a box or bin also helps when you need to pack up at the end of the day and revert the space to its intended usage).
Structure your day
Just because you’re at home, doesn’t mean a routine isn’t required. As best as you can, structure your day similar to how you would were you still in the office.
With children at home, it may mean that you return calls during their quiet time (like nap time, or as they eat lunch), or schedule conference calls around their independent play.
An upside to working at home is the potential to get a project done at your own time and pace.
Platforms like Zoom or Slack enable you to maintain a regular schedule and keep up with your team’s progress, and you can block of DND time through online calendars when you need to focus, tend to your kids, walk the dog .
Because you’re at home and in a comfortable space, it’s super-easy to get engrossed in work and fall into a work jag. But the reality is you will need to take breaks to keep yourself refreshed and focused.
If you’re someone used to walking through an office all day, putting out fires or meeting with employees, sitting all day can really start to take its toll.
Get out and take a walk, or head to the balcony or front porch for fresh air and some stretching. If you can’t get outside (or you’re erring on the side of total self-isolation) get up and walk around the house.
Whatever break time means to you, don’t neglect it because you’re at home. Schedule breaks as you would at the office, and make use of the time to decompress for a few minutes.
Log off. No, really. Log off
I’ll be the first to admit that one of the problems with working from home is the temptation to just…keep working. The boundaries of work-life balance really become blurred.
Because I set my own hours, I don’t usually book clients or do any business related work between the hours of 4 and 8pm. This is usually when my daughter is home from school and I need to help her get settled from her school day, help her out of her uniform, get her a snack and then make dinner.
I try as hard as I can to spend real time with her, and that means shutting down my calendar (and closing my laptop) in order to be present.
No doubt this will look different for you and your situation, but the idea is that once closing time rolls around, you make a real effort to put away the work for the day and decompress.
And in those first few moments of out of office, don’t reach for the remote and turn on the news. Make the end of the day about finding a small moment of peace; there’ll be plenty of time later in the evening to catch up world happenings.
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And Bang! There you have it. Keeping yourself in a regular routine and knowing when to pull the plug at the end of the day can help you enjoy the flexibility and autonomy that comes from working at home, while deftly navigating some of the pitfalls that can put a damper on your spirits and productivity.
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