There are a lot of benefits to working from home. You spend less time commuting, it’s easier to make mid-day appointments that are closer to home, and you don’t exchange germs with your coworkers.
Whether it’s a long-term arrangement or some random Thursday so you can sign for a package, working from home has its unique challenges. Offices are optimized for work. Homes are optimized for… well, everything else.
Working remotely can a difficult path to navigate, especially when it sneaks up on you. Here are some tips to help you transition from the corporate office to the home office.
- Dedicate a space for work. When you work from home, you need to be even more careful than ever about creating boundaries between work and home. Start by creating a dedicated space where you work. Ideally, this will be someplace where you can work without the kids making a cameo on video conference calls. This will also let your family/roommates enjoy their day without enduring the details of your progress reports—boundaries work both ways. A dedicated space also sends a signal to your brain—when you’re in this spot, it’s time to work.
- Define your routine. This is another boundary that works both ways. Create a schedule of when you’re going to work and—importantly—when you’re not going to work. If you’re working as part of a team, a consistent schedule helps your team know when you’re available, when you’re not, and when they can expect to get a reply from you. Life happens, and so does work, so there will be times where your work hours get shuffled around. Remember: just because your coworker (or boss) is sending emails at 9:47pm on Saturday doesn’t mean you can’t wait to reply until Monday morning.
- Crank up the communication. We have an innate human need for society. Working remotely, we miss out on the casual conversations that happen in the office. Make extra efforts to stay in touch. Say hello in Slack when you start your day. Hold a quick conference call to discuss a project. Schedule a fifteen-minute Zoom meeting for casual conversation so the team can catch up. Distance is no longer an excuse for isolation.
Get dressed. Sound advice from Jon Acuff:
I’ve worked from home for 7 years. Here’s some free advice if you never have. Start the day with a shower and then dress like you normally would for work. I love pajama pants too, but they’re a breeding ground for depression. Flannel feels like failure by day 3.
— Jon Acuff (@JonAcuff) March 16, 2020
You don’t have to suit up, but you’re not on vacation, either. Wear something that’s comfortable. At a moment’s notice, you could be on-camera with a client, a coworker, or your boss. How you dress—how you present yourself—is an important part of how effective you are at work.
- Keep moving. At times, I have intentionally parked at the back of the parking lot just so I’d get more steps in walking to the office. With a home office, that’s not going to happen (although I suppose I could park three blocks away…). Clicking a Zoom link burns almost 100% fewer calories than walking to a conference room. Find ways to stay physically active. Go to the gym. Take a brisk walk to energize body and mind.
- Ergonomics. Don’t just flop on the couch with a laptop for eight hours a day unless you specifically want to cultivate a love-hate relationship with your chiropractor. The more comfortable you are when you work, the better work you’ll do. A sit-stand desk (or adjustable laptop adapter) will improve your posture, increase your circulation, and boost your energy. For the times you’re not standing, get a comfortable, supportive chair. Remember to take breaks.
You can put up with anything for a few days. The situation may not be ideal, but you’ll make it. Don’t overthink it and don’t blow the budget gearing up.
If you’re going to be working from home long-term, this may be an occasion to gear up. See what your company will pay for or reimburse you for. Buy new gear incrementally, as you see what you need and what you can get by without.
Put some thought into your setup for working from home. Whether you’re on the clock or not, you’re going to be spending a lot of time there.