These are extraordinary times.In addition to the health concerns of Covid-19, the virus has brought on lifestyle changes that we’ve never dreamed could occur.One of those unexpected lifestyle changes may be working remotely, which in virtually every case now means working from home.
As someone who has worked from a home office for nearly 8 years, I found Kim Lyons article, How to Work From Home, to be remarkably accurate and informative.While there is no one size fits all when it comes to working remotely, Ms. Lyons offers several time tested recommendations that you should be considering if working remotely is in your future.
Have a separate workspace
There is something psychological about having a dedicated workspace.When you’re in it, your mind sends you a signal that says, “I’m ready to work.”So, it’s entirely fitting that establishing your workspace is where Lyons starts.“A separate workspace doesn’t have to be a dedicated office with a door that closes (which is often not an option in smaller living spaces). It should be an area that mentally prepares you for work mode, whether it’s a separate room, a small desk set up in a corner of the living room, or a laptop at the end of the kitchen table. Ideally, it would be a place you don’t go to relax, like your bedroom or your sofa, and a place that other members of your household know is designated for work.
If you find you’re most productive with a laptop on the sofa, then by all means, set up shop there. It may take a bit of trial and error to figure out what area of your home is most conducive to getting work done.”
Establish a routine, including non-work hours
Lyons was spot on when she remarks, “One of the hardest things to adapt to when you start working from home is the lack of a structured start and stop time for your day.With devices that allow bosses and clients to reach us constantly, you can end up working 24/7. Try to start work around the same time every day if you can, and schedule breaks (including meals) around the same time if possible. I would also advise not eating in your work area.
Ideally, you should try to get some outdoor time once a day, to get coffee or walk the dog, so you don’t go too stir crazy.”
Many people find the lack of socialization to be one of the more challenging changes when they’re no longer working in an office or shop with colleagues around them.“Working remotely can feel isolating at times, so as part of your routine, try to interact with your co-workers regularly. Chatting over messaging apps like Slack (even just saying “Hello!” when you sign on in the morning) and holding meetings over Zoom or another video app are two quick and easy ways to stay in the loop. However you connect, don’t let email be the only way you interact with colleagues,” say’s Lyons.
“Finally, try to end work at the same time every day. Obviously, there will be times when a late deadline or project needs after-hours attention. But in most situations, a 10PM work email can wait until the following morning for a response.”
Dress the part
One of the biggest selling points of working from home is that you can wear what you want.My office-bound friends often ask me what time I get out of my pajamas and whether I actually ever get “fully dressed.” Lyons suggests, “ To keep a sense of routine, try to get dressed and do it around the same time every day. This might sound a little odd, but in addition to jeans and a comfortable shirt, wearing shoes (instead of slippers or just socks) helps keep that sense of work vs. relaxation. I’m not talking about the most expensive shoes in your closet; sneakers, flip flops, or other comfortable footwear are just fine.”
Know your body
Lyons describes how she “splurged on a good desk chair when I first started working from home, and you may find that’s a worthwhile expense; it’s hard to work if your back is bothering you or you’re not comfortable. Definitely make time to get up and walk away from your desk at regular intervals to stretch your legs.”I too found that a good comfortable chair can make a huge difference.
I also found that I needed to set the alarm on my smartphone to make sure I took a break every 45 minutes or so of working. Setting my alarm served two purposes.First, I found that establishing 45 minute periods of focused work enabled me to be incredibly productive.Second, if I didn’t set the alarm I found myself working non-stop for hours at a time without ever leaving my chair. Sitting that long is not healthy.You need to get up and walk around for your physical health, as well as your mental health.Unless you include some “walking around time” in your day, working from will be more sedentary than you’re used to.
Lyons also reminds us to make sure your work area is well-lit so you don’t strain your eyes. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes look away from your screen and focus your eyes on something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
Many of us may have little ones thinking that mommy or daddy is home to play with us. That may be especially true with many schools temporarily closed to reduce contagion.Lyons reminds us, to “make sure everyone in your family (kids, parents, spouses, and anyone else with a key to the premises) knows that when you’re working you’re not available to help settle minor juice-box-related spats or engage in idle chitchat. Shared living spaces can get noisy, so if your workspace isn’t isolated from common areas, I strongly recommend getting some noise-canceling headphones to signal to others that you’re not to be disturbed and to avoid getting drawn into conversations that are going to distract you from an important deadline.”
You’re probably going to try to get some chores done when you’re working from home.That’s okay.“Be realistic about what you can get done. Taking out the garbage or checking the mail are two ways to get away from your desk for a quick break, but it’s probably not practical to try to conquer that mountain of laundry all at once while you’re on the clock.”
“Another suggestion: don’t offer to be the on-call person for friends and neighbors. Of course you should help in emergencies, but if you’re always the go-to for package deliveries or to feed people’s pets “because you’re home anyway,” this can quickly become more time-consuming than is fair. Establish — and stick to — clear boundaries about when you are and aren’t available.”
Get the tools you need
“You’ll get a lot of advice about investing in various work tools, such as a standing desk or a separate work computer,” says Lyons. “If you have the resources to do this and think it will help you (and better still, if your company will reimburse you for these expenses), go for it. If your company is requiring you to work from home, find out what tools they’ll provide and what they’ll pay for.”
“In addition to the noise-canceling headphones, the only must-haves for my own work-from-home setup are a decent Wi-Fi connection, a computer that meets my needs (this will vary greatly depending on your job), and a reliable cellphone. But if you end up working from home long term, you’ll figure out what you need and what you can afford.”
Working remotely is not for everyone. Doing it well requires the right work environment, the right type of job and the right mindset. However, if all those factors are present, you may find working remotely offers a sense of freedom and flexibility that you’ve never had in your work.
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