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Now that we’re all working from home, it’s time. Time to learn how to actually work from home. I was just speaking with a friend whose office sent everyone home and after her first day, she called and said it was an utter disaster. She didn’t get a thing done and wondered how the hell she was going to cope. Did I have any advice? As a person who has been working from home for 4 years, yes, turns out I do have some advice.
Keep a Schedule
It sounds a bit strange but keeping to your established work schedule is critical. The tendency in the beginning is to start late in the morning, not get much done, have lunch, and then to knock off for G+Ts early. You know, since the day’s been a bit of a write-off. Big mistake. If you normally start work at 8:30, keep starting work at 8:30. Take a lunch hour and actually make a lunch with your family. But keep it to an hour and get back to work. Keep the routine. Leave work at the same time. Have dinner at the same time. But don’t let that new-found joy of no tube journey take you off routine. Go to bed at your usual time, get to work at your usual time. Consistency is key.
Yes, the promised joy of working from home is being in your pyjamas all day. I like a good PJ-day, no doubt about it, but I do find that those days are my least productive. Even if I’m in front of my computer, I don’t get nearly as much done as I could. So I shower, and do (nearly) full hair and makeup, I put on clean clothes that are not yoga gear. And when I sit down to work, I actually work. There is something about that routine that helps me remember that it’s not a snow day, it’s not vacation, I still have deadlines and I am a professional. Have I ever been productive in jimjams? Yes, but only one time that I can remember.
Leave the House (NB: When it's sensible and appropriate to do so!)
This gem came from a friend with a dog. She’s an early riser by nature and so is the dog. They get up, have breakfast and then head out for a walk. When she returns, she makes coffee and sits down to work. It is a genius little move. Something mentally shifts when she heads for home, knowing it’s time to work. I don’t have a dog, but I find just leaving the house, even for a quick 5-minute walk really helps me to settle into things mentally. If you can’t get out of the house, for whatever reason, don’t despair. Leave the room, walk the house, anything to shift yourself into ‘And now it’s time to work’
Have a Dedicated Space
Insomniacs the world over will recognize this advice: have a dedicated place to work and do work only in that location. You need to have a place in the house that you associate with work, so that when you sit down there, it will help you shift attention from the cobwebs in the corner, the messy sock drawer, the kids fighting, etc… It doesn’t have to be a separate or dedicated room; it could just be a desk in the corner of a room or the niche at the side of the fireplace. Not the kitchen table, however. Having a proper place, with all your work things set up, beautifully set up, helps tremendously. Calendars, pens and paper, computer, printer, webcam for conference calls, whatever you need to do what you do; set up a space so you can be productive, and let that be the only place in the house you work. Leave the surfing and the Netflix for another room.
Fix Your Calendars
I spend Monday morning setting deadlines and meetings for myself throughout that week. Knowing that I have to submit something or meet with someone helps me get the work done. So schedule virtual meetings and conference calls for varied dates and times on your weekly calendar. Knowing that you have a call Tues morning and a video conference on Thursday afternoon means you’re more likely to get the work done during regular work hours. Spread it out people. Lumping things into a single day never works. You’ll spend the week screwing around only to cram it all in the day before. (hello, remember college?) Your family deserves better and so do your co-workers. Intermittent deadlines are your new work wife. Speaking of work wives…
Have a Study Buddy
I have a friend who started her design business the same time as I did. We spend a good portion of our conversations discussing work. It’s been an invaluable resource for knowledge but also for accountability. If I’ve said to her that I’d do such+such by Thursday, I know that on Thursday, she’s going to ask how it went. It helps to have someone who knows the job checking in occasionally. Developing this routine with a friend from work will not only help you get the work done, and meet the deadlines, but also keep you connected; to life, to work, to that very large part of your job and identity. Talk to your co-workers regularly. Video conference happy hour on Friday. Stay connected by whatever means you can, but don’t hide. It’s easy to lose the team mentality if you never see the team.
Overall, let’s remember this: you haven’t been sent to your room as a punishment. You are still a professional and expected to perform at the same level. Think of this as a gift. Getting to spend more time with your partner. Getting to see the kids more before bedtime. Being exempted from a long and crowded commute. Enjoy the time you have at home. You’ll be back to work soon enough.
NB: My interior design service, Design In a Day, is having a sale (of sorts) on remote design services for Home Offices. I want to help you create a happy and productive work space. I’ll send you a mood board and shopping list of quick ship items to transform that joyless corner to Insta worthy work space. Email us or give us a call: E - email@example.com M - 07767 072 912
When she’s not writing, US import Beth Erskine can be found designing great homes for her clients in London and the Cotswolds. A seasoned architect and interior designer, she has introduced Design In A Day as a way of helping her fellow Expats feel more at home in the UK. Her work can be seen on her website: www.elizabetherskine.com and www.design-in-a-day.co.uk