In addition to the daily stressors we’re facing due to COVID-19, many of us are having to learn what it means to work from home for the very first time. Social media is always available (and unsupervised!). Doors open and slam. The freezer beckons you, reminding you how easy it would be to grab a tub of ice cream and spend your day binge watching Chopped. The temptations are great when we work from home, and since working from home is a part of the national call to practice social distancing, many of us are also navigating loneliness, restlessness, and anxiety (I feel you extroverts, I’m struggling too!). Here are a few tips that can help you on your journey.
1. Re-Clarify Expectations With Your Supervisor
When you’re working from home, there are new rules and considerations. Your boss is not around to check in on you and you can’t drop in on co-workers to ask for advice or clarification. For this reason, it’s important to clarify expectations about performance and communication early on. What will be your main forms of communication between you, your boss, and your coworkers? Will there be any changes in how performance is evaluated and tasks are managed while things are virtual? Make sure to check in with your boss so that you’re in alignment with your company’s expectations.
2. Advocate for the Tools You Need
Ask yourself: What tools do you need to be successful working from home? And then go one further, and ask: What would be really helpful to have even if it is not “essential”? Some tools to ask for could include: phones, laptops, office supplies, subscriptions for digital communications platforms for meetings, webinars, etc, or even reimbursement options for WIFI, personal phone bills, and other personal items you use for work. There’s nothing wrong with a request and many companies will (hopefully) be more than happy to give you the tools you need to continue to be successful in your role. ASK, because as my friend always used to say “Closed mouths don’t get fed.”
3. Create a Morning Routine
Working from home gives us an opportunity to develop and maintain a morning routine that can help us get our day started on the right foot. Morning routines can include everything from making coffee to taking a digital yoga class to going for a morning run to reading the morning newspaper. Whatever you add into your morning routine should be something that helps you ground yourself and start off your day on a positive note. This is the time to do those things you never have the time for when you’re running out the door to beat the morning traffic!
4. Build a Workstation You Love
Very few of us have home offices that are specifically dedicated to work, but this doesn’t mean that we can’t have a specific place in our apartment set aside for work (even if you’re in a tiny studio or an overcrowded apartment situation). Be creative with what you have. Try to choose a space that is separate from where you relax — this is a great way to practice work/life balance. At the end of the day, all you need is a laptop. If you need to work from your kitchen counter or on your living room couch, that is still preferable to working from your bed.
5. Create Daily Goals
What do you hope to accomplish today? This is a great practice to do even when you’re in the office, but it’s especially important when you’re by yourself the majority of the day. Creating meaningful goals can be a great way to manage your time, track your progress, and show your supervisor you are being intentional with your time at home. You’ll also feel amazing each time you check something off your list!
6. Create and Enforce Boundaries with Potential Distractions
For those of us who don’t live alone, working from home can come with additional barriers like adorable pets who want our love and attention at all times or roommates who either keep coming by to chat or listen to music at full blast in the room next door. All of us, unfortunately, also have to deal with the distractions that our particular homes can bring (for me it’s the pile of new shiny books that I want to get through while I’m stuck in my apartment after work!).
The biggest thing we can do here is establish boundaries, both with ourselves and others. Have a conversation with your roommates about your work schedule, and come up with expectations around noise and interruptions. Create a new routine with your pet that includes a mixture of cuddles, affirmation, and alone time when you need to work. Direct communication and strategic planning will be your friends here-so come up with your list of needs and negotiate as quickly as possible to implement a regular schedule that works best.
7. Find Friends to Work With, Digitally or In Person
Though you are no longer hanging around the water cooler with your coworkers, that does not mean that you have to spend your working days alone. The good news is that there are tons of people now working from home, and some of them could be your close friends and family. Come up with a scheduled daily phone conversation with your work bestie or eat digital lunch with someone you’ve been meaning to catch up with. Social distancing doesn’t have to mean spending the whole working day alone. Be creative and find ways to be social throughout the day.
8. Take a Full Lunch Break and Be Intentional with Your Break Time
Though capitalism may not want you to believe it, you DO deserve a break, especially now when many of us are struggling with the stressors that come with social distancing. Set up boundaries around your break time (block it out in your schedule and let your team know) and spend it doing something you enjoy.
9. Get Some Sunshine/Fresh Air at Least Once a Day (if You’re Able)
Just because we are not spending the majority of our days basking in the sun right now, that doesn’t mean that we don’t deserve some fresh air and sunshine! Take a few moments each day and go outside if you are able. If you’re stuck inside, then sit by the window to get some rays, open your window for a brief period of time, or invest in a sun lamp.
10. Check in On Your Friends Who Aren’t Working From Home
Not everyone has a job that is easily translatable to the virtual, and I think it’s important to note that while you may be working from home, many of the people in your community are either out of work at this time or have to go to work, despite their health status, to pay the bills. Job loss and job instability can lead to feelings of hopelessness. Reach out to your friends and let them know you’re here to support them.
If you are out of work and you’re reading this, please don’t be afraid to lean on those closest to you! Many of us have an abundance of time right now to offer support whether that’s by checking in with you once a day with a positive message or offering some help as you start a digital job search for a new position.
We don’t know when or how this thing will end, but we do know that we will get through it by banding together and keeping perspective. At the end of the day, it is important that we take care of ourselves and our community. Never be afraid to reach out and ask for help. I hope that some of these tips make the journey a little easier.
What are some of your favorite working from home tips?