The coronavirus pandemic has confined millions of workers to their homes. When the stay-at-home orders first broke, many relished the idea of working remotely, avoiding commutes, dressing super casually, and enjoying the creature comforts of home. For some, especially those who’d worked remotely before on occasion, the transition was easy. But for many others, the experience has been unnerving, if not harrowing.
The truth is that the size of your household, and the number of people in it, don’t play as big a role in the work-from-home experience as you might think. It really comes down to creating a new routine that allows everyone to do their jobs efficiently and maintain a sense of normalcy in their personal lives. That balance is as important to your mental health as it is your physical well-being.
Ask Your Employer for Things You Need
To produce the quality and quantity of work you did in an office, you need the right equipment. Of course, not everyone has the high-quality equipment that most companies provide at home. Don’t be afraid to ask your employer for whatever you need to get your job done relaxed and comfortable, including the correct monitor, keyboard, mouse, chair, printer, software, and whatever other tools you use on a regular basis.
Set Up a Separate Phone Number
Having a business-only line is not only more professional than using a personal phone, but it also helps you mentally delineate between work and personal calls. Free services such as Google Voice or Skype are ideal for this if you don’t want to invest in another cell or landline. The family will also appreciate you not tying up the home phones with business communications.
Pajamas are so comfortable you’ll be tempted to wear them all day when you work at home. But psychologically, it’s better to get dressed as you evolve from sleep mode to work mode. The clothes don’t have to be fancy, but a fresh change coupled with a shower and hair styling will surely put you in a more productive state of mind. You also never know when a Zoom meeting might be on the horizon, so don’t get caught looking like you just rolled out of bed.
Carve Out a Workspace
Designating a workspace in your home is tantamount to your success. It not only puts you in the right frame of mind to be as productive as possible, but it also ensures that you don’t let your job take over your life. Whether it’s a small desk in the corner of a room or a spacious layout in a garage or basement, it should be dedicated to work. That separation from home you felt going to an office every day is vital to your mindset, and if the home and office worlds blur into each other, both will suffer.
Make your workspace comfortable, with a good supportive chair and as much natural light as possible. Try to make it so that whenever you sit down in that chair, work mode really begins. At the end of the workday (around 5 PM if that’s when you used to leave your office), tidy your desk, power down all your peripherals and other equipment, and walk away until the next morning.
If you live in a small space where your workstation has to be set up in the same room you use to sleep, do your best to keep your paperwork together and hidden away. Push in your work chair and turn off the lamp whenever they’re not in use. Above all else, remember that you must take downtime to remain productive and sustain your mental and physical health.
Don’t Power Through Illness — Take Sick Days
Whether or not you have paid sick days, it’s important to let yourself heal when you’re sick. Your productivity drops during these times, after all, and not getting the proper rest will only make the malady linger. Ease back into the eight-hour workday gradually afterwards, starting with just a couple of hours when you start to feel better.
Establish Work Transitions
When you commute to work, you have time in your mind to prepare for your day, whether it’s a 10-minute or hour-long drive. Working at home, you don’t have that car time. For that reason, you might find it helpful to insert a transitional period into your morning, as well as into the late afternoon when it’s quitting time. Drink a cup of coffee while you read a newspaper, play with your dog, or just challenge yourself with 10 or 15 minutes of online trivia. But jumping from the bed into your office chair with no buffer will just frustrate you.
At the end of your workday, you need to wind down before you relax for the evening. Check the kids’ homework or catch up on personal communications with friends and distant family. Have a cocktail or other favorite beverage to foster a peaceful state of mind.
Working from home can be a real blessing with just a little planning and creativity. You also may find this stay-at-home experiment helpful if, like many companies, yours decides to permanently make staff members home-based later on.