Until recently, working from home was a coveted fantasy for much of the American workforce; a concept characterized by the luxury of zero commuting, extra time with family, and even
working in pajamas all day. With the COVID-19 pandemic however, many people are learning that the romanticized view of remote work is far from the truth. The home office presents many roadblocks to productivity: distractions from kids, pets, and deliveries; internet outages; difficulties adjusting to digital meetings and new software; and challenges in maintaining team communication. Luckily, there are many strategies to help ease the paradigm shift from going to the office, to working from home.
Our first piece of advice is crucial when working from home: remember that you’re still working and responsible for holding yourself accountable for professional expectations.
This may seem obvious but it can be very challenging in practice when distractions arise. One way to manage this is to designate specific work hours and structure your workday. Unless you live alone, it’s important to get the people you live with on board. While some things can’t be avoided, letting your family or roommates know that you won’t be available or will be taking a video or voice call at a specific time can significantly reduce distractions. Remember to limit your work hours to the designated workday if possible; many remote workers find it easy to slide back into work during “off” hours. While it may be tempting to get extra work done when everyone else has gone to bed, it’s a recipe for burnout and decreased output.
Along with defining your work hours, it can be very helpful to demarcate your workspace. While your bed may be a comfortable option, it’s not a great idea for your productivity.
If at all possible, set up your work area outside of where you eat and sleep. On that note, make sure to leave your work area for meals. Even though your home and office may occupy the same physical space, stepping away from work to take care of essential needs helps people feel less like they are at work all of the time.
Along with organizing your work time, space, and boundaries, it is important to prioritize your mental health. Start the day just as you would if you were going to the office. Get dressed in the attire you’d normally wear to work and take regular breaks. Make sure to drink enough water and eat healthily to keep your body and mind working optimally.
Finally, remember that communication with your co-workers is going to take more work. Schedule specific times to check in with your team. Video calls tend to be best as it’s the closest thing to in-person communication and less context is lost. If a video call isn’t possible, opt for phone calls and then email. Try to avoid communicating solely by texting as a great majority of the intention, emotion, and subtext can easily be lost with this form of communication.
The transition from working out of the house to a work-from-home environment can be difficult. Working from home presents unique challenges, such as distractions and interruptions in the workday and having to define your workspace and hours. However, with careful planning and strategies to facilitate workflow, communication, and productivity, working from home can be successful and rewarding.