2020 has been a struggle to say the least. Few have escaped the impact of Covid in some shape or form. One of the large scale effects has been the necessity of working from home instead of a physical office. Working from home can present different challenges depending on your life circumstances from dedicated space, to new distractions, to trying to work while your kids run amuck. It’s going to be a challenge no matter what but here are some tips to hopefully make it a little easier on you.
- Shared Spaces
If you are lucky enough to have your own personal work space within your home, count your blessings! In my house we have a large spare room that is part guest room, part my office corner and part my husband’s office corner. I know others who are simply working at their dinning room table. I suggest trying to find a dedicated space that is just yours that can be used only for work. Mixing purposes for your work space can lead to low motivation during work time and/or a struggle in setting work time boundaries where you just end up working all the time. Even if it’s a tiny corner in your living room or bed room, setup a desk in a sectioned off space where you can set in your mind “when I’m in this space, I’m working.”
As I mentioned, my husband and I share an office space. Unfortunately we both have to take a lot of video calls. My husband created a genius invention to separate our spaces whenever needed. He installed curtain rails on the celling around or desk areas and attached decorative show curtains that can be opened or closed as needed. This provides a background that isn’t our guest bed and helps to eliminate distractions.
Our office space doesn’t have great lighting… Especially here in the PNW where the sun doesn’t shine that much to begin with. We added back lights to our monitors and got little ring lights to help us look our best during all those pesky video calls. Good lighting can of course help you see better (duh) but it can also help reduce eye strain and give your mood a little boost!
- Personal Touches
Just because you’re working from home (hopefully) temporarily doesn’t mean your work space needs to be boring. Add fun personal touches to help your get through the long (seemingly endless) days. I have art, some of my favorite Knick knacks and a collections of some of my favorite crystals surrounding my desk. I also light a fantastic smelling candle every day before I start work. Lighting the candle at the start and blowing it out when I’m done for the day really helps me set the right mindset for the tasks at hand. Surrounding yourself with personal touches really does help make the work day a little less grueling. Plus your coworkers and boss don’t get a say in how you decorate your space so go crazy!
- Noise Canceling Headphones
I can’t even begin to tell you how important noise canceling headphone are! There are so many more distractions at home than in the office so put those ear buds in and focus!
- High Quality Microphone
If like me you spend a lot of your workday talking to other people, convince your employer to invest in a high quality headset or microphone. Meetings and long conversations go much smother when you don’t spend half the time asking if they can hear you and repeating yourself. logi makes an excellent headset that also helps reduce background noise for your microphone, making it easier for your audience to listen to you and not your barking dog.
- Video Conference Software
Whether you prefer Zoom, Teams or Google Meet, get to know your software through and through! The more you understand your video conferencing system, the smoother those meetings will go!
- Multiple Screens
I know it’s temporary, but it’s already been 10 months… If you are still trying to operate at full speed on only a laptop screen, how’s that working out for you? Please please please invest in a second and large monitor! I swear it will change your life!
Organization is your best saving grace in our current work climate! There are a lot of ways out there but my personal favorite is Trello (not sponsored but I’m open to it, *wink wink Trello people*). You can organize your to do list and check lists or each to-do item! You can invite others to your boards to collaborate and get the project done faster and more efficiently! and you can set deadlines to keep you on track!
- The productive hour
The definition productivity from home is a little different than it was in the office. You used to take breaks to grab another cup of coffee and chat for five minutes with other adults. Now it seems you are interrupted by needy dogs, poopy diapers, invasive cats, distance learning connection issues, toddler tantrums and so much more! How do you log your time worked when you are constantly pulled away to other things? Let me introduce you to the productive hour! 20 minutes working, 10 minutes distracted, 15 more minutes working, 5 minutes distracted, 25 minutes working, you just worked 1 productive hour. I know that the time it took to work an hour was long but in the end you can accurately calculate how many hours you spent actually working.
- Focus time
Get more of those productive hours in by blocking out focus time! Tailor it to your life schedule. My husband and I worked out an arrangement where distractions (kids needs) before noon were my responsibility and distraction after noon where his responsibility. That way we both got at least half a day of un interrupted focus time. If you don’t have help from a spouse or family member you can arrange focus time between activities. For example, early morning before everyone else wakes up, nap times for younger kids, while actively in class for older kids, while kids are watching a movie and of course after the kids go to bed. In between these focus times don’t try to work distracted. Put your out of office on and spend precious time with your family. Enjoy the extra family time while you can and fit work in where you can.
- Limit distractions
If you do have help in the way of a spouse, family member or nanny do everything you can to block out distractions. Close the door and pretend no one is our there. Put on those noise canceling headphones we talked about and jam out while you are working. If you like to listen to podcasts while you work now’s the time to binge! By the way I host a podcast called Crime & Conjure if you are looking for a suggestion! 🙂
- Add the small things to your to do list
I know we are talking about work here but just because you have to work doesn’t mean all of your other responsibilities go away. Add those to your To-Do list and make them a priority! Take a walk, Make dinner, call Grandma, those are important task too!
Stay in Touch
- Turn your Camera On
Full disclosure, I haven’t put makeup on (or jeans for that matter) since March… In the past I never would have gone to work without makeup on but I’m at home… It is even more important to connect with your coworkers now than ever before! One of the best ways to do that is to turn your camera on! If they can see you they will be less distracted during your call and you will feel more connected to the outside world. No one has cared that I don’t have makeup on by the way. Turns out no one cared in the first place!
- Pick up the phone
Emails and texts are easier sure but a call can do so much more. I can’t tell you how many times I have called someone for one simple question and learned so much more through an actual conversation. Yes I could have quickly asked my question in an email or chat message but I would have missed out on valuable information.
- Set Boundaries
We talked about how to focus on work but it is equally important to stop working. When I went into the office I had to leave at 4:30 in order to catch my train home. Now I don’t have a drop dead time where everything falls apart if I keep working… Burn out is real people! Don’t allow yourself to be on 24/7! Set boundaries with the people you work with, clients, vendors and anyone else that may demand your attention during your non working hours. Set your out of office with information on when you will be available, mark your time off on your calendar and don’t answer if they don’t respect your set hours.
- Take Care of Yourself
- Take breaks
Work is important, home responsibilities are important, you know what else is important? YOU!
Don’t run from one task to another. Take breaks! Get up and stretch, take a walk, step outside and take five deep breaths. Take 30 minutes to read a book or watch an episode of your favorite tv show while you eat lunch instead of stuffing food in your mouth as you answer emails. Take time to take care of yourself!
- Schedule time for yourself
Even more than breaks, Take serious time for yourself! Schedule a virtual yoga class for right before work. Hide in a closet and read a book for a while. Enjoy a glass of wine in a bath at the end of a long day. Whatever floats your boat, just do it! Schedule it into your calendar and keep to it like someone is depending on you! Because they are, your sanity needs you to dedicate time to yourself!
- Challenge yourself to try something new
Another benefit of lock down that many people enjoyed early on is trying something new! Bake bread, make soap or candles, pick up photography, start a podcast, seriously the possibilities are endless! Starting a new hobby can dramatically improve your life! And there is no better time than now!
- Take breaks