With many offices shutting down and companies asking employees to work from home, we have a whole new group of telecommuters who are trying to not only figure out how to work from home successfully, but also juggle kids and pets too.
As someone who has been working from home for more than 25 years, here are some of the things I do to get work done AND keep my life balanced as well.
Set up a designated work area. Especially if you have children who are now out of school, or if you have pets, it’s important when working from home that you set up an office environment, both for practical physical reasons and psychological ones. If you’ve got a separate room you can set up as an office- great! However, even if you don’t have a separate room, putting a desk and chair in a guest room or if you have no other option, in the corner of your bedroom, is better than just setting up your computer in the living room where everyone else is.
When you’re working from home, you need to be able to identify what’s your work space and what’s your home space. Work happens in your work space. Kids don’t come into your work space nor do pets, especially during work hours. When the day is done, you leave your work space, turn out the lights, and close the door- leaving the work where it belongs. Even if you don’t have a separate work space, shutting down your laptop, closing the lid, and leaving that desk in the corner of your guest room signals the end of the day and time for you to move into your “after work” mode.
Create and uphold boundaries regarding your work space and time. As I mentioned above, your work space, even if it has to be your bedroom, should be off limits to kids and pets while you’re working. However, for those with young children, there’s only so much time you can leave them unattended, so if you don’t have someone else available to watch them, such as an older child or parent, set up scheduled break times where your kids will know you’ll “come home” and be available to them. Even a little one can tell what time it is on a digital clock and know that mom or dad will be out to get them a snack, or lunch, at a designated time. Once you create these boundaries, you need to uphold them, that means when kids come knocking at the door, you need to ask them to wait until break time. The same goes for spouses or family members who call or drop by during the day because you’re home and “not working” according to them.
Shower and get dressed, don’t work in last night’s pajamas. I know, I know, one of the joys of working at home (for some people) is not having to get dressed up in the morning. Well you don’t have to if you don’t want to, but do shower, brush your teeth, and dress in DIFFERENT clothes. You’d be surprised how much better you’ll feel when you’ve gotten ready for your day like you normally do. My friend Ed even goes so far as to drive from his home to get a coffee, then back to his home office because it makes him feel more like he’s going to work. Whatever works for you, but at least don’t stay in last-night’s stale pajamas without brushing your teeth.
Stick to a schedule. In these chaotic times, it’s easy to let bed time slip as well as wake up time in the morning. Try to stay on the same schedule as you did when you were going to work. You’ll feel better and be more productive when you maintain some semblance of a routine in your life. I like to get up in the morning, do my ranch chores, get my coffee and then sit on the front porch and check email in the morning. Then, I go shower, dress, brush my teeth, and go into my office and close the door by 9 am. At the end of the day, I wrap things up, leave my office, close the door, and leave everything behind until the next day. Although I sometimes do continue to take work emails and calls on my phone, after a set time at night, usually 7 pm, I turn the phone off, shut down the computer, and call it a day.
Take regular breaks. Not only are breaks good for maintaining structure as I’ve outlined in #2 above, but they’re good for your productivity, especially when working from home. Don’t do like I used to do and sit in one spot so long at your computer that you can barely move when you get up. One of the best things about having moved to the country two years ago is MOVING! At my suburban home, I would get so deep into doing what I was doing on my computer (while sitting on the couch- bad habit), that I could go 8-9 hours without getting up. I began having terrible trouble with my back and got to the point that I couldn’t walk down the block without needing to sit down. My doctor kept telling me to MOVE more, but moving hurt. What I’ve realized now that I live in the country, that taking breaks to go feed the horses, check for eggs in the chicken coop, taking the dogs out, etc., makes me get up much more frequently and I haven’t had any trouble with my back since then.
What other tips would you share with others regarding working from home successfully? We’d love to hear them! Please share in the comments on this post!