For over a year now, I’ve been freelancing and ended up working from home 90% of the time. Which means going from a pretty rowdy office space full of friends to being alone all day with no one knowing what I was doing all day. After a bit of a rocky start, I’ve managed to learn a few things that help me to actually be productive during the work day, and with the sudden influx of remote workers, I wanted to share these three rules to help ease your transition. Nothing ambitious, just simple changes from the way you work from home when you’re sick.
You might be excited at the thought of wearing your pajamas to the “office” everyday, but it will throw off your mood and subtly undermine you for the whole day. It will be that much easier to convince yourself that you’re just taking a five minute break, or have Netflix playing in the background. Before you know it, you’ll be lying on the couch watching Friends with your emails open on your laptop next to you, convincing yourself you’re still working.
When you’re not leaving the house, changing into real clothes each morning will trigger a mental switch into work mode, and keep you in that headspace, as you won’t feel so eager to get back in bed. No need to go full suit and tie! Just clean clothes that you don’t sleep in. Hell, I’m wearing joggers and a My Chemical Romance tshirt right now. (RIP)
Get Out of Bed.
You’re not leaving the house for the next four weeks, so why limit yourself to an even smaller area to exist in? Find the space you spend the least time in and make that your office, whether it’s an actual home office, or just the dining table (because you eat all your meals on the couch). Again, it helps you switch INTO work mode, with the added benefit of preventing your work life from bleeding into your personal life.
Physically distance yourself from work in order to keep the balance that you’re used to. You won’t find yourself thinking about or doing work when you should be relaxing, just because you now have 24/7 access. Using a personal computer? Close down work programs at the end of the day, and keep work stuff in a separate browser session. Make your virtual office as easy to leave as your physical one.
Work When You’re Productive.
Now that you’re working from home, you’re not beholden to the 9-5 cycle, and there’s no colleagues to judge you for walking in at 10am with a coffee. Experiment with your working hours! Choose the schedule that makes it easy for you to be productive. You might only need to push your 8 hour block forward or back a bit to fit your sleep schedule, but you can also break your day up as much as you need. If you find you can’t focus at 2pm no matter what, just step away and come back to work in an hour.
However, this is not carte blanche to be lazy – you’ll only be successful if you’re honest with yourself. If you take a two hour break in the afternoon and don’t finish your tasks by 5pm, don’t just put them off “because the working day is over” – you still have to put that work in eventually. This is one I still struggle with some days, but because I have to bill my hours, I’m always aware of it. Try to be conscious of how you spend your time, and don’t let your productivity slip just because no one can see you.
Working from home could bring a lot of stress and change if you’ve never had to do it, so don’t throw another spanner in the works by trying to overhaul your working day with new tasks like meditation and “new-fangled” productivity apps. Establish some ground rules, keep yourself in check, maintain a sense of normalcy, and we might just survive this.