My guess is that you have become one of the countless employees around the world who have been forced to work from home. For some, this has been a seamless transition, for others it has proven more challenging.
I started working from home back in the Fall of 2018. I thought working from home was going to be amazing…and it is now. I love working from home! But just like any change, there are growing pains.
Here’s the best advice that I can give you:
Working from home doesn’t cure weaknesses; it magnifies them.
Most of the struggles that I had when initially transitioning to working from home were because of my own shortcomings. If you lack discipline in an office, you will lack discipline at home. If you don’t manage your time well in an office, you won’t manage your time well at home.
One of the best things that can come from working from home is the opportunity to form productive habits that will benefit you both now and when you return to the office.
In an effort to help you have a smoother transition than I did when it comes to working from home, here are a few tips…
Create Your Workspace
One of the best aspects of working from home is that it gives you the opportunity to become more self-aware and learn what environment is most conducive for your personal productivity.
This is where working from home gets fun!
You get to make the decision on your workspace. You are not assigned an office, cubicle, or workspace. You get to be the boss of that. (Unless your spouse or kids overrule you. Sorry, I can’t help with that.)
If you’ve always wanted to work from a place with a view, you can sit by a window. If you’ve always wanted to sit in a comfortable chair, you can work from the couch.
The most important aspect of choosing your workspace is asking yourself this question, “What space makes me the most productive?”
Your answer might depend upon what you are working on.
One of the benefits of this “workspace flexibility” is that you have the opportunity to move around. If you need more focus or deep thinking time, then you might work from the office, basement, or a place with minimal distractions. If you need to be creative, you might choose to be on the couch, kitchen table, or even outside if the weather is nice.
Don’t be afraid to experiment and find out what works for you!
One final note: We turned one of the spare bedrooms in our house into an office for me. I only work from that space. Here’s why: It simulates the start and stop time for me when it comes to work. I go to the office and start work and then leave the office when I’m done for the day. The way I’m wired, this helps me stay focused and motivated. Plus it keeps from thinking about all the things I need to get done around the house. That might not work for you and that’s great. Know yourself and choose wisely.
Plan Your Schedule
In my opinion, this is the most vital aspect to working from home.
You need to create boundaries around your work time by creating a schedule. Many employees who work from home get lazy and unproductive because they don’t have a schedule motivating them to start working.
When creating your schedule the most important piece is having a start and end time. (Just like you did when you went to the office.) For me, I start work between 8:30am-9:00am and end work usually around 5:00pm or 5:30pm. I’m not strict on those times, but they do keep me focused.
If your manager gives you latitude, don’t be afraid to think outside the box when it comes to your schedule.
Are you a morning person? Consider starting work earlier, with an earlier end time.
Are you a night owl? Sleep in and start work later.
I’ve said this before, but the most important aspect of scheduling is making it conducive to your personal productivity.
There are a few other aspects to your schedule that I want to cover, but I’m going to wait and include those in the “Have Fun” section.
Of course, what we’re talking about here depends upon the expectations of your manager. So make sure you check with him or her before completely customizing your work schedule.
Speaking of communication, you also need to communicate with your family. Your spouse and kids need to know what your work schedule is so that your time can be guarded. If you have kids that need more parental guidance during the day, rotate who is watching them. Some good friends of mine do this in 2 hour blocks. One of them watches their son for two hours and then tags the other person in. It’s a great break!
Choose Your “Dress Attire”
This is completely up to you! (As long as it is appropriate.)
If you don’t have any meetings and want to wear your PJ’s all day, do it. The key is to dress to your day. If you have a meeting with a client or co-workers, then you should dress appropriately for those meetings.
For me, I still get “dressed up” for working from home. Here’s what I mean. My attire is very casual. I usually wear jeans and polo. The reason I do this is because I believe in the quote “Dress for success.” I feel more prepared for work, focused, and ultimately productive when I get out of my pajamas and dress in work clothes.
I’m not saying that if your normal work attire is a suit, you need to wear that at home, but I am saying that even while working from home you need to select your attire based upon what is going to help you do your best work.
Don’t forget to have fun and still connect with your family, friends, and co-workers while working from home.
One of the things I learned early on when I started working from home was that I had to plan breaks in my day. I didn’t get the normal social interaction like I had in the office. So I had to be more intentional about connecting with people.
What does that look like in our current situation? Here are some practical suggestions:
Grab lunch virtually with your co-workers. Or plan a quick virtual meeting to catch up with your colleagues. Keep your Thursday happy hour but do that over a Zoom meeting where each person drinks whatever is in their fridge.
The same goes for family and friends. Don’t be afraid to connect with them during “work” hours. The goal is not to work 8 hours a day. The goal is to get your work done.
If you are doing your job with excellence and not letting any balls drop, give yourself the freedom to take off of work early to hang out with your kids. Or go for a walk in the middle afternoon with your spouse. Have a virtual coffee date with a friend mid-morning.
Remember: discipline equals freedom. The more disciplined and productive we are, the more freedom we earn to spend time with those we love.
One quick note: If you or your organization need any help as you transition to working from home, then click on our contact form and send me a message. I look forward to talking with you more on how we can help equip your team for success.