Next week will mark my sixth week working from home. Working from home is one of those perks almost everyone covets if they’re coming up in business today. I’m lucky enough to work for a company that already allowed some work from home days prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, so I’ve been adjusting a little better than others. Like most homeowners that have recently bought a home, S and I haven’t quite finished setting up our office space yet. During the day I bounce from the couch to the dining room table and am able to be very productive.
I tend to favor the dining room table because it feels more like a workspace. I can whip out my wireless mouse and mousepad, have a cup of bold, black coffee nearby, my favorite pen in front of me, placed on top of my notebook. This setting gives me that “okay, it’s time to dig in” feeling, whereas flying through emails on my couch, in front of Netflix, feels significantly more casual.
I realize there are a number of you who are working remotely for the first time ever. I also realize there are plenty of you who may have been working remotely long before the Coronavirus was a thing. Regardless of where you are on the working remotely spectrum, we all will adjust and function differently throughout our workdays. I’d like to dive into some work from home (WFM) tips that I find keep me focused, calm, and productive during the workday.
Note: These will be lil nuggets that any of you can put into practice.
Environment is key.
Set the tone for your day by setting up a workspace that best helps your flow and productivity. I touched on it briefly above, but let’s dig a little deeper into how I curate my setting. I’ve learned a few things about myself in my student life and professional life. 1) I can only read or study with instrumental music. 2) I have to be comfortable. 3) I need activity breaks to keep my performance at a high level. I don’t have a home office space set up, so when I’m working remotely, I do my best to carve out a space that is relaxed and ready for business.
At the dining room table, my posture is better, and I can have more tools readily available. I have my mouse, I have my coffee, I have my notebook, I have a couple plants and some sage to feed the ambiance, I have a space I can dig deep and produce good work. My dining room table, at the moment, is what makes me feel most at my office. At work I have a standing desk, so at home I’m up and down and have even worked standing up in my kitchen. I’ve never been a sit-in-on-place type of person. When I find myself in more casual places at home to work, like the couch or my back porch, I’m usually only checking emails; no intense tasks.
(I like to work wherever there are windows. Natural light makes me happy.)
I’m not a person who can work in complete silence. Silence bothers me; it always has. If I’m working on anything – personal projects or work – I must have background noise. If I’m reading? I can only listen to instrumental music. Something lo-fi with a sweet hip-hop tinge. If I’m moving through regular tasks for work or planning for the blog or podcast, I turn on whatever album I’m addicted to at the moment. My favorite right now is Future Nostalgia by Dua Lipa. Set your vibe and be comfortable. Most of the time, I’m working in track pants and comfy hoodie. I only have Netflix or Hulu on when I don’t need to focus very hard. Curate your space. Make it a place you look forward to going. You’ll be surprised how your productivity grows.
Manage your stress.
If you’re anything like me, you tend to work more when you’re working from home. Think about it – you’re more comfortable, feel more in control of your calendar, despite your setting, so you fly through tasks because you can. Maybe that’s just me. Maybe I’m a weirdo in that sense. It’s not that I feel I owe my company extra time because I have the privilege of working from home, it’s because I’m in my element and I thrive when I’m in my space.
Part of thriving is managing your stress. I bring up the example of tending to work more when I’m remote, because it’s so important to set boundaries and manage your stress throughout the day. Working more isn’t always a good thing if you’re worn out mentally. My day starts at 7:00AM and ends at 4:00PM. I’ve been better here recently about logging off right at 4 o’clock. Depending on your field, you may have an easier time or tougher time learning to log off. By the time you get the hang of it, you will have gained a strong dose of personal power.
Managing your mood is of the utmost importance. It’s much easier to scream at the laptop screen or pretend Becky from Office Operations is receiving the read of her life when you’re alone. Is that just me? I tell you – some days? An email or someone I find particularly annoying that day sets me off. The flood of annoyance I experience some days is real. Take a walk! Do some push-ups! Do a breathing exercise. I’ve learned to sit the laptop down, walk away, and refresh if I can’t figure out a problem or have a difficult customer blowing up my inbox. There are plenty of times, as well, where I just need some extra motivation to tackle that one task I’ve been putting off for what feels like corporate eternity.
In the age of the Coronavirus, we’ve been enjoying short walks around the block with our dog, early bike rides on the trail behind our house, and digging into old hobbies. Even during work hours, I’ll take ten minutes to play a video game, do some yoga, or catch up on Words with Friends 2. It’s important to have those little things to make the quality of your workday better. A lot of us are working from home now until further notice. Break up your time. Work hours are work hours. Personal time is personal time.
People all over the internet and social media have been flooding our feeds with all sorts of Insta-Tok challenges, dance videos, and definitely seem to be getting a little stir-crazy. Remember to reach out and say hello to your people. We’re all quarantined, alone together, with not a whole lot to do. It’s going to be a minute before you see me on anyone’s TikTok doing a lil dance or holding Wendy-sized Insta-lives, but I have been enjoying friends and family via FaceTime. Zoom anyone? (laughs out loud)
Even before Corona, I wasn’t big on jumping on FaceTime or Google Hangouts with anyone unless you were one of my favorites. That may sound a little shady, but hey, I’ve never been a phone person, and it’s a trait I’m working to improve. Email me, text me, don’t leave a voicemail, just text… That’s not the Jamal I’m trying to be anymore. I welcome a call now! It’s been fun to connect with friends and family during downtime, and it’s been so lovely connecting via virtual happy hour with other podcasters. I’ve been getting the hang of the Houseparty app recently, and it’s a pretty fun platform!
Love it or Hate it.
Working remotely is something I wouldn’t mind doing full-time. At the end of the day, I really don’t mind it at all. I’m really lucky to be part of an awesome team and company, and I do miss the day-to-day interactions at the office. We’ve all been pretty good about checking in on each other outside of tasks, so that’s been helping.
With all of this being shared, of course, I understand working remotely isn’t for everyone. Do your best to really tune into how you’re doing individually, on a daily or weekly basis, and do whatever you need to help manage any cabin fever you may be experiencing. As long as COVID-19 is wild and free, we should all be staying inside and being responsible human beings. Essential trips only, people!
Take a moment, survey what tools you need during your remote workday, and try to put some of these tips into practice. If you set yourself up for a satisfying day, well, satisfying is what you’ll get. Set a vibe, log off when you need a break, and have some virtual fun with friends. Who knows how long we’ll all be quarantined. Just stay safe and try to keep sane during this wild time.
Thanks for reading,