Now more than ever, professionals around the world who’re able to work from home are doing so. For some, this isn’t all that unfamiliar. Afterall, 43 percent of Americans ‘occasionally’ worked from home in 2019—up from 39 percent in 2012—according to Gallup. Yet despite a significant portion of America’s workforce being familiar with teleworking, less than 6 percent indicated that they completely work from home.
This is to say that while many modern professionals find themselves periodically working remotely, the vast majority are not accustomed to continuously doing so and can lean on the consistency of good habits habituated by a traditional office environment.
For those unfamiliar—or less familiar—with working across the hall from where you sleep, here’s four tips to keep focused, productive and smiling while working from home:
1. Structure your day and maintain a routine.
This is number one on our list for a reason. Crafting a practical and sustainable schedule for your workday is an artform that should take multiple factors into account. One of these factors: recognizing when you’re at your prime and scheduling accordingly. Try to reserve creative or other processes that rely on prime cognitive functioning for when you’re at your best. For example, if you’re not a morning person, don’t schedule time for a creative brainstorming session at 8:30 a.m. Instead, try knocking out more routine or pragmatic tasks you’re familiar with.
Another factor to consider is setting a start and hard stop time. If you can, certainly align these times with when you’re at your best, but more important than when you start/stop is actually DOING it. When professionals begin working at home, they often fail to set healthy work/life boundaries. This can be especially tempting in the era of COVID-19 as social functions and even leaving your home can be, in a word, complicated. Nevertheless, working at will with no rhyme or reason to when you begin and end quickly leads to long nights and burnout.
2. Share your schedule with roommates, partners, family, and others living with you.
No matter when you decide to start and stop your day along with how to structure it, make a point to share your work schedule and expectations with those you live with. What do we mean by ‘expectations?’ The considerations and other things you may need from others during your workday. By sharing your work schedule and the considerations you would appreciate others observing during those hours, unfortunate clashes can be avoided later on. Unless, of course, you find your roommate’s drum practice or the volume of your child’s Zoom classroom on blast to be conducive to your productivity.
3. Designate your workspace.
Sharing space with others can make telecommuting tricky, making a designated workspace at home even more imperative! This makes quarantining yourself—no pun intended—all the easier.
While dedicating space for work likely diminishes disruptions, the greatest benefit is creating a physical (and subliminal) boundary between work and home. After some time, your brain begins to notice the familiar surroundings you’re working in and begins to automatically code switch accordingly.
In addition to designating a space, make sure you give it some love! Adjust the lighting, put up some artwork, or whatever you find attributes to your work vibe.
4. Take breaks (and a lunch!)
It’s so important to take breaks regularly when you’re working from home. Breaks starve off fatigue and burnout, two very real concerns among professionals who consistently telework.
It may seem as if working from home would make it easier to step away from your laptop from time to time, but in reality, those working from home report taking far less time for breaks and lunches than those working in an office setting. Much of the reason for this is that there are less distractions—friends asking to have lunch or stopping by your desk to chat—to break up your day, and while less distractions is helpful for productivity, it can make it harder to take a pause.
Set timers on your phone or even use naturally occurring ones like when the laundry is done to stretch and engage elsewhere for a short while.