work from home

Looking at a blank screen doesn’t count as work. Dog is not fooled.

You may be one of the many people who have never or only occasionally worked from home, and now find yourself doing so every day and likely for a long while. While the work may be the same, the environment is quite different and can take some getting used to.

20 years ago, I started running my own business from a home office. Having spent my adult life up to that time in a corporate environment, it was a steep learning curve to be focused and productive. Here, seven tips to help you get comfortable in this new situation and set you up to have a smooth transition when you do go back to working on-site.

  1. Get up at the same time you always have. This isn’t going to last forever. (Is it?) Keep your biological clock on your normal schedule so re-entry isn’t brutal. Whatever time you used to spend commuting, use that time to slow down your morning routine a bit. No one I know complains about having too little to do and too much time to do it. Take advantage of these found minutes. Savor your first cup of coffee/tea, read a few pages of a book, or perhaps yoga or meditation is your thing. What have you wanted to do but never had even 20 extra minutes to do it? Well, now you do.
  2. Work your regular hours. Just because your office is in your home doesn’t mean you should think about work 24/7.  Set clear boundaries for yourself. Whenever you used to start the workday and pack it up at the end of the day, try to keep those same hours.
  3. Look how you want to sound. Shower, fix yourself up (for me that means hair and makeup, but you do you) and put on decent clothes. By decent I mean not spending all day in your pajamas, holey sweats or yard-work clothes. For most of us it’s hard to feel professional sitting in your robe and underwear with bed head. But yes, to slippers.
  4. Ask: Is this what I should be doing? Household chores you dread now start to look more appealing when you’re faced with a work project or task you don’t like. Be mindful of how much you drift away from work work to do personal work. And that definition of personal work can get blurry. Use the same criteria you would if you were in your office. Would you make a doctor or car service appointment from your office? Then it’s probably OK to do that working from home. Would you clean out your kitchen junk drawer from your office? Back to work, you.
  5. Look out for loneliness. When you’re used to being around people all day, sooner or later working from home can feel isolating – even lonely. (Of course, not if your entire family is at home, too. But that’s a different blog post.) If you find yourself missing the company of other people, consider having video conferences – not just conference calls. Reach out to co-workers with questions or thoughts that you would have talked to them about in the office. The difference here is that you never know when you’re interrupting since you can’t see what they’re doing. Have a conversation about the best process for keeping in touch now that you can’t just poke your head in their office. Email is just as isolating, so pick up the phone.
  6. No real people? Try TV people. If you won’t be tempted to watch it, turn on the TV to a boring station. The people on screen that you see in your peripheral vision can feel like a connection to the outside world. Low volume or no volume dependent upon how distracting or helpful you find sound. Do you work better in complete silence or with a little ambient noise?
  7. Get some fresh air. One of our pups needs a short midday walk, which is a nice break and re-fuels energy for the afternoon. Getting outside for 10 minutes midday is a good practice anytime. But right now, when social distancing compliance means spending nearly 24/7 inside, give your brain a break. Leave your phone on the desk and clear your head during a walk around the block.

Come back here for two more posts about working from home (leading your team and managing your family dynamics). Or better yet, get quick tips each week. The Minute Shift takes 60 seconds or under to read and smart people tell me it’s time well spent. You’re smart, right? 😉