How To Make Working From Home Work
In light of recent events and to support the health of our 80-plus member team, earlier this week Digital Echidna implemented a temporary all-staff work-from-home policy. While some Echidnas have worked from home on occasion, for some of us this is new territory.
Buffer's 2019 State of Remote Work report underscores how working from home can present some unique challenges - not just for productivity but for personal wellness. In fact, 49 per cent of remote workers surveyed by Buffer note that their biggest struggle in telecommuting is wellness-related. More specifically, 22 per cent can’t unplug after work, 19 per cent feel lonely, and 8 per cent can’t stay motivated.
As we all get used to the new normal, here are some tips for working at home comfortably and productively.
Get up and get going
Try not to hit snooze so much that you wake up five minutes before your work hours begin. I am the first to admit I love not having to wake up at 6 a.m. to get ready and commute into work. But I also enjoy taking the time in the morning to do some things that set me up for success. Sometimes this looks like yoga or stretching, sometimes I’m listening to a funny podcast, or even calling a friend while drinking coffee.
Dress for success
Get out of your PJs! Putting on some “real” pants will clearly create a mental signal that you are ready for work. I assume most of us take this step as part of our regular routine when heading into the office, so keep it up. Also, you likely will need to look presentable in the instance of a surprise video chat with your manager or clients.
Create an Offical Workspace
The kitchen table, counter, or desk from college are all great options. Folding furniture dug out from your basement is your friend. I recommend you avoid working from bed and maintain your bedroom as a place for relaxing and decompressing once your workday is over. If this isn’t possible, ensure you are taking breaks to step outside to create some distance. Being outside is a change of scenery and getting some fresh air can offer a mood and perspective reset.
Engage with your other senses in your space
You’re at home, so why not light a nice-smelling candle or run a diffuser with uplifting essential oils? Listen to calming music out loud. Intentionally creating a space will help you feel your best, and be prepared to show up as your best.
I swear by this tip even when I’m in the office. Pour your coffee/tea or water in a big container: More in your cup to begin with equals fewer trips to the kitchen and less opportunity to find yourself distracted along the way. While I can literally see my kitchen from my workspace, I still am using my travel coffee mug and trusty one-litre water bottle!
Four-legged co-workers must be introduced and shared
If you have a pet and your pet is sitting on your lap when you join the internal video call or facetime meeting, you have to show your co-workers your pet. Listen, I don’t make the rules. And to the co-workers who are meeting a new friend? You have to say hello to them, don’t be rude!
Structure your day
This means outlining timeframes for when you will be working on certain tasks and having your calendar open to ensure you are ready to join in any meetings to which you have been invited.
Outside of work tasks, structuring your day also means identifying times to break and a time to have lunch. Often when we are in the office, we can walk down the hall and start chatting with our friends for a little mental break or just to stretch our legs. At home, remember that connecting with a friend on your break or moving your body feels good and allows you to mentally refresh in preparation for your next meeting or task to tackle.
Creating a new routine is essential to managing stress and avoid feeling overwhelmed with the new changes.
Keep the phone at bay
Put your phone on “do not disturb” or in a different room altogether. It is easy to get sucked into the social media void on a good day. However, when news is being shared at a rapid pace across all fronts, it’s important to focus on one thing at a time. If you are struggling with focusing, Spotify, Apple Music, and Youtube all have great collections of music that supports concentration. Here are my favorites from Spotify - Binaural Beats: Meditation and Peaceful Piano.
Set boundaries with new “co-workers”
Your roommates, spouse and/or kids are probably also working from home during this self-isolation and social distancing time. Communicate your needs with people you share your space with and be clear to them that you are “at work”. You may need to occasionally ask for their silence to take a call, for example.
Support them too, during their work hours and need for space and quiet. Some days will feel more distracting, and that is okay.
Increase virtual communication
It’s also important to communicate your needs with the people you virtually work with - your colleagues. A lot can get lost in the Slack and email shuffle, so use other tools to communicate if you are reviewing an important topic. Video chat and phone calls add a human element to the discussion that online tools lack.
You may need to be more vigilant in explaining when peers can expect you to be offline, or when you’re sharing any issues that you’re facing in a project, or confirming deadlines that need to be met.
Your home office is not open 24/7
And at the end of your work day, stop working. Really. Turn off all push notifications and exit your workspace. It’s easy to blur the boundaries between when work begins and ends when working from home, but it is important to take your time off-work to relax, solo or with family, call your loved ones, and decompress.
It is OK to be uncertain
I understand that this situation may be very new for a lot of people, so my hope is these tips help you define your own structure to work at your pace.
This is likely a new-ish process for you, and remember it likely is for your peers as well. Don’t forget to reach out and ask for help from people you trust. This could mean asking for help figuring out how to set up a Zoom meeting or for a virtual coffee chat for a few minutes of company. It is okay to feel anxious and overwhelmed during challenging times, but I find strength in numbers and power in sharing how we feel with our close friends. This is a one-day-at-a-time experience and it’s okay to have moments where it all feels like it’s too much.
Taking breaks is encouraged to maintain the balance of home and work when home becomes your workplace. Remember to hold space for your co-workers who are likely navigating this process for the first time and engage with compassion -- we are all steering this ship together.
Once this period is over, you will have gained at least one new skill in communication and a new appreciation for the team members that you work with.
Be as gentle with yourself as you are with others, and trust that your team has your back.