Amidst the outbreak mitigation of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, many office employees are being asked to work from home for an extended period of time.
For some, working from home sporadically was the norm, for others, it was never an option. In either case, here’s how to up your home “office” mindset game and keep your transition a continually positive experience.
Working from home is a great way to get a change of pace from office life, and it will certainly feel novel for a little bit! Enjoy it! But realize that it will wear off, just like starting any new job. Being in a comfortable environment (aka, home) can lead to leaning more towards complacency, which is why it’s important to separate work from home.
I’ve worked for a fully remote organization for over a year now. When this comes up in conversation, the response is generally, “Oh wow, you’re so lucky!” or, “I wish I never had to go into the office!” or, “My work from home days are the best, I get so much done around the house!”
100% remote has its perks, but there are tradeoffs. At first, it really does sound like the most amazing way to work. Pancakes any time, working from bed, never getting out of your pajamas.. Of those, I only recommend the pancakes.
If you work from home occasionally, most of these tradeoffs may not have occurred to you because it’s still novel.. Hold onto this feeling forever if you can. However, these tips are to mitigate these tradeoffs before they become habits that need breaking. It’s easier to start out with good habits, rather than trying to break bad habits and re-learn new ones later. Trust me on this one.
Test your equipment
Technology is meant to make our lives easier, but sometimes it doesn’t. We’ve all been there.
Take some time before your first remote day to ensure your internet is strong enough, you can access your VPN, your peripherals are accounted for, and you have someone to contact should you not be able to get your computer up and running.
Once you know your connectivity is good, it’s time to set up your home workspace.
Designate your new work space ahead of time
The goal here is to separate work from home, to the extent possible. You don’t want work feeling like home, nor home to feel like work.
Designate a specific area for work. It’ll help your mind learn where work is supposed to happen. If you’re short on space and working at the kitchen table, sit in a different chair or facing a different direction than you usually do for meals.
If that’s not possible, give yourself a visual cue. Put a framed picture, vase or a fun tchotchke out to symbolize that it’s work time. During breaks and off-work hours where you need to use the area, move it.
As much as possible, ensure your new work area is ergonomic. Working even a few days at the couch will be terrible for your back. You’ll miss the real office chair. Here are a few things to keep an eye on:
- Use a chair with a back. Don’t opt for a stool or one of those chic low-back chairs for very long at a time.
- Keep your knees bent at a 90° angle. Grab a shoe box or Amazon box to lift your feet as needed.
- Keep both arms perpendicular to the table’s edge. Working with your arms’ weight in different places can cause misalignment. (Coming from someone who’s pinched her shoulder nerves twice now from trying to ignore this.)
- Look straight ahead. This is where the center of your monitor should be. You can use another Amazon box to lift your monitor or prop your laptop and use a wireless keyboard to…
- Keep your arms bent at a 90° angle as you use the computer.
- Pay attention to your posture.
Being sent home to just “make it work” is not ideal, and it’s totally possible that all of these things can’t be met. Do what you can with what you have. The last thing you want is to be going stir crazy after work andin pain.
Keep portions of your pre-commute morning routine. Treat it like you’re getting ready to go to work. Because you are. It’s not a lazy weekend day, and it’s important to prepare your body for work, not weekend.
- Wake up and have a sip of water
- Get dressed. Yes, even if you don’t plan to leave the house. Change into other PJ’s if you want. The objective is to go through the movements.
- Wash your face and moisturize. Skip makeup if you’d like, but don’t shirk on your skincare!
- Prepare your morning beverage and eat breakfast
- Go for a walk around the block. Exchange this block walk with your commute. Seriously. Go outside, even if just for 5 minutes, even if it’s raining or snowing or hailing. Just stand there if you must!
- Then settle into your work day.
Do yourself a favor and don’t work from bed, as cool as it may sound. Bed is for sleeping and NSFW things, not work. Don’t train your body otherwise!
Yes, take your normal breaks and meal periods. If you need to set reminders to take breaks, do so. They’re just as important as taking breaks while in the office.
But take your breaks away from your work area. If you can’t, remove your visual cue from your work area. Change chairs, hit up the couch, scoot over a few feet on the couch if that’s all you have for a workplace, take a power nap. Do what you can.
I recommend going outside again to help break up the day. While working from home, you do have more flexibility here. You can start that load of laundry, put away the dishes or run a quick errand. This is one of the perks! Though I do feel like I spend half my break time washing dishes..
Time to go home! ..Oh wait.
5 o’clock rolls around, and.. You’re already home. As best you can, do simulate “going home”, similar to the morning routine.
- Clean up your workstation and put away your computer peripherals as much as possible.
- Remove your work-time visual cue if you use one.
- Get up! Don’t just pick up your cell phone and start scrolling social media.. Go outside again! At the very least, change location in your home.
- When you get back, do what you’d normally do when you get back.
- Enjoy your at-home time that you didn’t just spend commuting!
Keep Separating Work from Home
You might be tempted to see just how long you can stay in bed before you can roll over to log in and appear online. It doesn’t feel as good as it sounds. Neither does finishing work, and still feeling like you’re at work. Nor does feeling like you brought work home, or even to bed (yikes).
I’ll say it again: It’s easier to build good habits and get in the right mindset at the start than it is to re-train your brain and body. I recommend writing out what you want your day to look like and how you want your days to feel, work and home included, and arrange your routine around that.
Make it something you can keep up doing long-term, not just because you have to. You’re doing this for yourself 🙂
Treat it like a job, because it still is one.