Make Your Home Work
Although the number of people working from home has been on the rise for the last several years, the corona virus epidemic has accelerated this phenomenon to unprecedented levels during the last few weeks. If you have started to work from home, here are some strategies to help you do so efficiently and effectively, courtesy of professionals who have worked at home for more than a decade.
1.) Dedicate Space
Before your first official first day of work at home, designate a space for your home office. One of the biggest advantages of working from home is you can literally work anywhere. That said, one of the most challenging issues of working from home is you can literally work from anywhere. Lounging on the sofa or bed is a sure fire way to fall into nap territory.
Instead, dedicate a space that you can physically and mentally associate with work. If you have a spare room, that can be ideal. If not, at least select a corner of a room where you can set up your computer, phone, paperwork and desk. Depending on your situation, you may need to invest in a few things like a reasonable office chair or noise-canceling headphones.
2.) Develop a Morning Routine
When you were going to the office, you probably had a morning routine. Perhaps you got up early to work out, have breakfast or listen to your favorite podcast during your morning commute.
Make sure you establish a new morning routine at home. Don’t wake up too late, but you do have the luxury to get some extra minutes of sleep in. Do you have an 8:00 a.m. conference call? Wake up at 7:15 a.m. instead of 6:30 a.m. Brush your teeth, take a shower, and change into business casual clothes. Don’t make the mistake of waking up five minutes before the meeting begins, rushing to turn on your laptop, and arriving late and unprepared for the call.
3.) Schedule Breaks
You were probably encouraged to get up, stretch, and move around at the office. Perhaps your office surroundings required it due to the locations of meeting rooms, community kitchen space, and colleagues’ offices.
Be deliberate about taking breaks. If you have a significant other (sorry, single people), go on a lunch date. Or, take time to make lunch and spend some quality time with your family.
Every hour or two, take a stretch break. If you find yourself working inefficiently, getting easily distracted or simply stuck in a mental block, do something else for a while. The beauty of working from home is that you have some flexibility to choose the time you do your best work. Morning people may get up early and do their heavy-thinking tasks before the sun rises. Night owls may choose to do the same tasks after the rest of their household is asleep.
4.) Set Ground Rules and Take Notes
Make sure the rest of your team knows when you’re on calls and when you’re working. Although breaks can be refreshing and revitalizing, too many distractions are a sure fire way to fall behind.
During and after a meeting or call with your boss or colleagues, write down what needs to be done and set deadlines. Ideally, this is done during the meeting for all participants and then shared so that everyone understands the next steps. If you’re on your own, DO NOT get up until you notate what needs to be done. Whether you complete the work at 10:00 p.m., 7:00 a.m. or even 4:00 a.m., you need to know what needs to be done by when.
One big pitfall of working from home is leaving a virtual meeting, walking away to focus on something else, and then coming back and thinking “What did I need to do again?”
5.) Agree on Expectations, Over-Communicate, and Be Deliberate
When people think about working from home, very different visions can arise. Before you begin this arrangement or early in the process, have a frank discussion with your boss and team members on expectations. Is everyone expected to be available for immediate response and impromptu video calls during certain hours? What’s the expected response time for emails or slack notifications? How long should specific projects take? How often do people want a progress update?
When you’re in doubt about updates, err on the side of over communicating. Since you lose the spontaneous check-in moments you may have had in the office, be sure to let others know what you’re doing and if you run into problems or delays.
Finally, be deliberate about your work time. If you need to be available for calls and questions between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. each day, schedule out the remaining four hours of independent work at your prime working time. For some, that may depend on your partner’s or children’s schedule. For others, you may be more efficient during certain periods of time.
6.) Establish a Wrap-Up Routine
Before you headed home from the office, you probably did a few things to prepare for the next day. Perhaps you thought about the next morning, gathered documents for the next meeting, or sent out a few last-minute emails. Do the same thing at home.
Organize your thoughts and lay out your tasks. Write down when they are due or create a list of tasks organized by priority. This will help you finish the highest priority tasks first, jog your memory the next day on what needs to be done, and even help you mentally leave your work at your home office.
It can be challenging to achieve that work-life balance when you work from home. If you find yourself constantly thinking, “Oh, I need to remember to do that tomorrow” while you’re reading a bedtime story to your toddler, writing things down before the end of your work day will help free your mind to better focus on the rest of your life during the down time.