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April 17, 2020 • read
How to work from home effectively
While your commute is undeniably better, working from home isn’t all peaches and cream. If you’re having trouble adjusting, know that you’re not alone. At least some of your coworkers are muting the conference call on their end because their toddler is tantruming or JoJo Siwa is blaring in the background. Working from home can be hard. That’s why we’ve compiled these tips to help you work from home as effectively as possible.
Set up a proper home office space
It’s one thing to answer a couple of emails from bed first thing in the morning, but it’s another to treat your bed like the office. Beds are for sleep and sex, and working in bed can mess with your sleep hygiene. Even if you live in a single room, it’s important to have a designated workspace that is separate from your bed. Not only will it be easier to organize your workspace, it will also allow you to “unplug” from work when it’s time to take a break. Some companies are giving their employees a stipend to set up a home office, but even if your work isn’t, try and make your new workspace as comfortable as possible. It’s hard to work from home effectively when you’re balancing your laptop on your knees.
It can be tempting to stay in your jammies all day. After all, they’re probably the most comfortable thing you own and it’s not like you’re going outside or having company. But no matter how productive you are, staying in your pyjamas all day is a recipe for feeling bad. No one’s suggesting you don a three-piece suit or put on a full face of makeup, but depression and dropping personal hygiene standards often go hand-in-hand. Show yourself some respect by continuing to practise self-care. Brushing your teeth, showering regularly and getting dressed every day are important ways of doing that. Plus, these actions help form a routine, which is important for both sleep and mental health.
Just because you’re at home doesn’t mean you’re available. This is crucial to communicate to your kids and partner, or anyone else you share space with. If you already have a home office (especially one with a door) this’ll be easier. But you can still get the message across even if you don’t. Try posting a sign to indicate that you’re busy and can’t be interrupted right now (think, “shhhh, mom is working” or something similar). Other cues like lighting a candle or playing classical music during work hours can also work. Just make sure you explain the situation to your kids in advance.
Stick to a schedule
Setting boundaries isn’t just for your family. Your work should also respect that working from home doesn’t mean working whenever you’re home. Try to start and end your day at the same time as you did before the pandemic. And don’t forget to take your usual breaks throughout the day. If your workplace has flexible hours, make sure your boss and coworkers are clear when you’re available — this helps you set limits with them and also keeps you accountable to your schedule.
Without the structure of a typical workplace, the freedom of working at home can start to feel like free time. For the procrastinators among us, this makes it easier to put tasks off until “later,” only to realize that it’s too late. In terms of getting individual work done, figure out when you’re most productive. Aim to do your most challenging tasks then, and set that time into your schedule every day. That means no answering email, no cleaning the kitchen, and no getting sucked into Facebook. If your most productive period somehow also corresponds to your kid’s neediest one, don’t be afraid to drop them in front of the iPad for a while to get some work done. This is all temporary and some extra screen time right now won’t cause lasting damage.
Make time for breaks
It’s easy to feel like you should be slogging through your work day without stopping. But not making time for breaks can lead to burnout. By all means keep working if you’re “in the zone,” but if you’re going over the same thing again and again, stop and refocus. Taking breaks, especially movement breaks, leaves you refreshed and ready to jump back into your work. Plus, it can be a way to reward yourself for a specific task. A good rule of thumb is that for every hour to 90 minutes you spend sitting and working, you should take a 15 minute break to get some movement.
Since kindergarten, most of us have had routine and structure as part of our built-in environment without having to think about them. You have to impose structure on yourself to work from home which can feel downright impossible for some. Don’t stress if you’re not at maximum productivity right away (or if you don’t get there at all). Learning to work from home effectively can take a while, even under the best of circumstances. Remember, everyone is doing the best they can right now, and no one is expecting perfection.