Tips for working from home successfully

With so many being asked to work from home, many of our clients are struggling to feel productive and successful without all of life blending together.  Many are finding themselves working late or in ways that seem to take longer than usual.  Most if not all of the routines people typically do on work days that help mentally and physically get into work mode and be productive have been disrupted and many are struggling to sort it out.  Although I wouldn’t call myself an “expert”, I’ve run our company from my home office for nearly 28 years.  Below are tips we are sharing with our clients for thriving while working from home. (yes, I’m typing this in sweats and house slippers and a yeti full of coffee!)

  1. Don’t expect things to be “normal”; instead ask yourself how can work from home work best for me? Your typical routines are disrupted. Work to create new routines that get you ready to work physically and mentally.  Grooming, breakfast, communicating expectations with family, etc. are examples of things that “just happened” when you had to go to an office that now require new routines and new expectations.  Most don’t think about all of the routines that get them ready for work.  Identify which routines that are most important for you to get ready for work physically and mentally and adapt them for your “home office”
  2. Dedicate a space for work only. If possible, find a room or place at home that when you go there it is to work.  When work is done, leave that room or space.  If possible, keep the space away from the kitchen or other high traffic space in your home.  With temporary offices setup close to or in kitchens, many of our clients are reporting higher level of snacking or atypical eating patterns that they fear will put on extra pounds if they don’t change.  Try to avoid spending work time so close to easily accessible food items.
  3. Setup your office and leave it setup. With laptops and tablets it is tempting to work from multi-use space (couch, kitchen table, etc) and “close down” when not working on your device. If you can dedicate a room or specific space for work, leave your computer and everything needed for your work setup.  You will transition to work more easily and your energy and focus will be on getting to work efficiently and getting work done.  This way getting started is less of a hassle and you don’t have to set up the office each time you need to work.
  4. Create time and task structures and routines and stick to them. With work and home being in the same place, it is easy for everything to blend together.  Time and task structures are what allow us to get things done and limit work to specific work hours.  Look at your typical time and task structures from “the office” and create them for home work.  Start and stop work at specific times. When are you planning to take breaks during your work day?  Are all work tasks scheduled everyday or are certain tasks schedule on specific days and times only?  Many of these answers may be dictated by how your company is operating but now many may be under your control.  Organize and define them to allow yourself to keep boundaries around work and allow yourself to mentally transition to “being home”.  Other things to be sure and include in your time structures to help maintain your vitality are specific meals times and movement and exercise sessions. 
  5. Practice “single tasking”. Do work tasks during work time.  In client conversations I’m finding that people working at home are now prioritizing “home” tasks into their work day.  This is very tempting but can hurt work productivity and focus.  Multi-tasking leads to doing “shallow” work as focus is split between 2 or more activities at the same time.  Most have large “to-do” lists that require full work days to address.  Taking time away from work tasks is causing some to work later into the evening then typical because less work is happening during “work hours”.  If work demands are flexible and work volume is lower right now, doing home tasks can fit.  But for those that are working full days, keep home tasks during non-work hours to help keep work contained within work hours.  Successfully working from home means drawing boundaries between work and home tasks so it allows us to mentally let work go and transition to personal life.
  6. Go outside, move regularly and connect with people safely. We humans need to move and get fresh air and sunlight.  Take breaks and step outside.  Breaks give our brains time to relax and help us to transition to new tasks and avoid decision and task fatigue.  Moving regularly is well documented to help reduce the harmful impact of stress – and it’s just good for you.  So make time everyday to go for a walk, do some stairs, ride a bike, etc. You don’t have to train like an Olympian, just move regularly. Staying connected with others in the digital age is as easy as setting up video meetings for work when possible and with family and friends to stay connected.  Platforms such as facetime, zoom, and skype allow for easy ways to see people live without the risk of in-person contact during this risky time.  Regular social connection is part of good mental health.  Although more challenging now, connecting with others is important to all of us. 
  7. Commit to sleep habits and routines. Sleep research tells us that most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep daily (National Sleep Foundation).  Our quality and quantity of sleep is negatively impacted by disruptions in our typical going to bed and waking cycles.  Maintaining your typical sleep patterns will help your mind and body work at their best by minimizing disruptions to your usual sleep patterns at a time of great change for most of us.  Get up and go to bed at consistent times.  Also, keeping your typical (and healthy we hope) sleeping routines will allow you to more easily transition back to working at the office when the time comes.
  8. Laugh everyday. Humor helps lift our spirits and helps keep us mentally relaxed to better cope with stress and challenge.  Watch funny movies, stream comedy channels on pandora or spotify, watch your favorite comedians on youtube or watch your old funny favorites again.

Stay health and stay safe!