Updated: Mar 24, 2020
Hey everyone, it’s Jessica here. I am based in California, which means I have been on the “Shelter In Place/Safer at Home” program here in Los Angeles for a few days now.
I’ve been working remotely for over 17 years, so working from home is nothing new for me, but I’m happy to share some tips and also things I’ve observed since our worlds turned upside down a week or so ago. I've had quite a few people ask about ways to manage it, so here we are. I've gathered my own experience and pointers from others all in once place. Would be happy to hear your tips as well!
Let's be real: when you go from an office to working at home, it can be an abrupt and jarring experience. I remember the first time I transitioned from an office environment to an “at-home” office, and it was not easy. It was lonely, it was strange, and it was blurry mess. That was 2003. Since then, I’ve enjoyed my remote experience so much, that it became a requirement in my subsequent jobs. Hopefully some of what I share will help you love it (or accept it) too.
There are three key areas I’m going to focus on for successfully transferring into a Casa de Office world: Mental, Physical, and Connection.
Being at home can drive you a little nuts. Especially since we are unable to go out and socialize. The other major obstacle to at home working is distraction; we’ll talk about how to manage that in a second.
The best thing you can do for yourself mentally, is have a schedule. Make sure that schedule includes any work items, phone calls, to-do lists, and kids' homeschooling. It is important to block out hours for work time, as boundaries around your time (boundaries are going to be a theme here) will be very important to productivity.
Wake up, do your usual morning thing, and then, GET DRESSED. Now, I am all for the sweatpants/pj working wardrobe, it is very comfy, but almost too comfy. Most remote workers will tell you that getting
dressed helps keep them more focused. It helps to create a boundary between work and home, and the psychological effect on feeling "fresh and clean" can impact productivity. Also, how many calls are now via videoconferencing? Why not look your best?
** Extra tip** make sure that you get dressed head to toe, as you probably remember this hilarious and darling BBC reporter interview a few years ago. He later shared that he did not get up from his desk because he was wearing jeans with his suit top!
In your schedule, it’s important to take breaks. There’s no water cooler around or cubicles to duck into to talk shop, so you’ll want to go to the kitchen a grab coffee, or a snack, or lunch. Take a real lunch break if possible. Truth be told, I almost always eat at my desk; however, just be forewarned… THEY CAN HEAR YOU EAT while you're on the phone.
Other break ideas include meditation (get started here) to reset midday or to start off your day. If you tend to get overwhelmed, this is a great option to consider.
This is my personal favorite break option. My friends may joke about my napping, but I prefer a 20-40-minute power nap over cups of coffee. If you are lucky enough to have the environment and the schedule for it, a power nap can boost your energy
and give you a great mental reset. Naps can restore alertness, enhance performance, and reduce mistakes and accidents. A study at NASA on sleepy military pilots and astronauts found that a 40-minute nap improved performance by 34% and alertness 100%.
There are a million distractions at home that don't exist in an office. That thing that needs to be fixed. Family/deliveries coming and going. The phone ringing. Laundry. Decide if you are someone who can embrace the distraction and include it into the schedule, or not. If you're okay with some distraction, then deal with each as they come. Don’t use it as an excuse to walk away from a job function or use it as an excuse for procrastination, just incorporate it into the schedule, or you can save it for the weekend!
Finally, you will need to end your day at some point. This is another boundary moment. It’s very easy to just keep working when you aren’t really “leaving the office.” Make it a point to shut down, and move away… and maybe even move onto a glass of wine, because a little wine and celebration can be great for your mental health too.
If at all possible, create a dedicated space for your business. It can be a home office, a dining room table, some place where you can work relatively distraction-free and be comfortable, productive, and focused. This puts a boundary in place for work versus life in a physical sense.
A great chair is important, if you already have one, congrats, if you don’t, here are some ideas for ordering a chair on Amazon, Walmart, or Target (all still open online from what I can see). My personal favorite is a Herman Miller chair if you decide/need to work remotely permanently.
While we are discussing an ergonomic workspace, it pays to invest in a monitor or stand that keeps your screen at eye level, and allows you to type/mouse effectively and painlessly. Those hours add up, and just like in your office, can add up over time and onto your shoulders, neck and back.
Cell phones are fine for most calls, but you might feel better with a phone. Landlines can be difficult to set up and expensive, a nice alternative is a Voice Over IP (VOIP) using your existing internet service. I've been using Vonage for years now with limited disruption. Your company may provide this for you as well. While you are on the phone, consider also ordering a headset. A headset allows you to be hands free for taking notes, running Zooms/WebExes, or walking around! Yes, walking around and standing up enhances your vocals. It can also help you get through phone calls faster if you happen to be on the receiving end of a call. And, if you love standing up, consider investing in a Varidesk or similar standup desk.
It’s always a good idea to keep moving too. Doing exercises from your own chair is one way. You can also get up and stretch, walk around the block, or dance in your office (like I do hehe), the idea is to not get stiff.
Lastly, drink water! Stay hydrated to combat fatigue and keep your mind sharp.
The final component in at-home work is connection. Staying connected is important. I was single for most
of the years I was working remotely, and needed to create a social calendar to feel connected. When you are unable to go out and join gym classes or meet up with friends in this current time, allow yourself phone calls or video calls with co-workers, friends, or family. Most companies have Slack, IM, or another chat tool in place to keep remote employees connected. Set up virtual happy hours with friends (they are fun!), and join groups like Society of Saleswomen to stay connected.
Being a remote employee is a change, but it can be a fun and adventurous change if you choose for it to be. Who knows, you may want to work remotely for the rest of your career?
- - - - - - - - - - - - -
Have any other tips or anything that worries you about your current job, company or working remotely? We want to hear about it and help! Join us for one of our upcoming “Who Moved My Toilet Paper?” Web events. The first one is Tuesday, March 31. Participation is limited to 10 attendees, but if there is a lot of interest, we will set up additional sessions!
The Ladders, Why Dressing for Work at Your Home Office is Important
New York Times, How to Stick to a Schedule When You Work from Home
WebMD, The Secret and Surprising Power of Naps
How to Power Nap
Answer Phone Calls Standing Up to Get Through Them Faster