Thanks to technological advancements, working remotely has become more normalized in recent years by companies around the globe. Whether due to bad weather, a sick child, office power outage, or other circumstances, many of us have experienced the flexibility of working from our homes. Although working remotely may not be a totally new concept for some, nothing could have prepared most of the world for a sudden mandatory work from home policy for non-essential employees. For those of us who are used to going into the office five days a week, working from home for an extended period of time is a significant adjustment (and not exactly everyone’s cup of tea). We’re suddenly finding ourselves trading in our double monitors for the family laptop that revs like an engine when you open too many browser tabs. Our colleagues have been replaced by our pets, spouses, kids, or all of the above. That spacious office desk we took for granted is now the kitchen counter, living room coffee table, or even our laps. Although our new makeshift workspace may not be ideal, the majority of the world is in the same boat, and luckily, many WFH (work from home) veterans are sharing their tips and advice to help us rookies adjust to this new normal. Here at Madison Avenue, we rounded up some of the tips that have been helping our employees transition smoothly and thought we’d share. Here are six best practices when it comes to working from home.1. Establish a Dedicated Work Area
2. Get Ready
3. Maintain Regular Hours
4. Take Breaks
6. Don't Be Too Hard on Yourself
1. Establish a Dedicated Work Area
Unless you’re a freelancer or seasoned remote worker, you probably do not have a home office, studio, or designated workspace. Instead, you’ve turned your kitchen, bedroom, living room, or other common areas into a makeshift office. Depending on the day (or hour), you may even be jumping from room to room to test out your options. When it comes to working productively from home, it’s important to find a space that provides privacy, natural light, and comfort. By comfort, we don’t mean your couch or bed. Although it’s definitely tempting to stay in bed or become one with your sofa, your back and shoulders won’t be thanking you later. Not only could you end up doing a number on your back, our brains actually associate these areas with sleep and relaxation. Sleep experts say working from bed could mess with one’s sleep and hurt productivity. Instead, try to emulate your in-office work environment as closely as possible. This could include office supplies, high-speed internet, standard height desk or table, and your comfiest chair. Incorporate a scented candle or essential oil diffuser, music, and desk lamp for added comfort. If you have roommates, a spouse, or kids that make finding privacy difficult, try to establish cues for when you need quietness to focus. This can be as simple as putting on headphones or placing a household item on the doorknob or desk to signal to others that you are busy.
2. Get Ready
One of the perks of working from home is cashing in your commute time for extra sleep. However, you shouldn’t be setting your alarm for 8:59 am when work starts at 9:00 am. Your typical morning routine before heading to the office shouldn’t differ too much from your WFH morning routine. Now that doesn’t mean you need to be wearing dress shoes to the living room. Rather, simplify your morning routine but still continue to incorporate your pre-work habits that help indicate your about to begin the workday. These habits might consist of making your bed, drinking a cup of coffee, going for a run, sitting down to eat breakfast, washing your face, and so on. Keeping a routine and giving yourself time to prepare for a day of work will help to put you in the proper mindset to take on the day (while still getting in some extra ZZZs). Plus, you’ll be thanking yourself for making it easier to get back into the swing of things when it’s safe to go back to the office.
3. Maintain Regular Hours
With working from home comes flexibility. While the flexibility to work when you want is a major benefit for many, if taken advantage of, one might find themself adopting the ‘I can do this later’ mindset. More times than not, later gets pushed back further and further, and you find yourself in a constant cycle of scrambling to complete abandoned projects at unthinkable hours of the night. To avoid building up lingering projects and even potentially failing to meet deadlines, it’s important to set scheduled hours for work and stick to them. If your typical office working hours are 9am-5pm, it’s best practice to stick to this schedule as best as you can at home as well. This will help you stay on track, maintain structure, and make it overall easier for your team to communicate with one another. Keeping dedicated hours for work will also make it easier to relax in your downtime and maintain a healthy work-life balance.
4. Take Breaks
When working at home, it’s not uncommon to lose track of time and find yourself forgetting to take breaks. At the office, it’s easy to stop and chat with a co-worker or head to the breakroom to get yourself a cup of coffee. These intermittent moments are necessary as they allow us to disconnect and refresh our minds. Studies show that taking breaks actually allows us to be more productive, so it’s important for our mental health to fully utilize the allocated time offered by our employer. Not only is stepping away from our work good for us mentally, but taking breaks also helps to eliminate physical strain on our eyes, backs, hands, wrists, and other areas. Being that taking breaks typically require more of a conscious effort when at home, it may be beneficial to set reminders on your calendar or apps like RescueTime. Avoid using your breaks to read news headlines or dive into your phone. Instead, use this time to connect with colleagues, friends, or family members, go outside, take a walk, do physical activity such as stretching, yoga, working out, or get chores done around the house. It’s important also to make time to eat proper meals and drink water regularly.
Quite possibly, the most important piece of advice when it comes to working from home is to communicate, communicate, communicate. When we’re not physically in the office interacting with our department, managers, or employees, ‘out of sight, out of mind’ can become a harsh reality. The phrase “communication is the key to success” should not be excluded when working from home; communication is actually even more crucial for remote workers. With that being said, it’s important to set clear expectations upfront. These can be as simple as making sure your team knows the best way to reach you, responding to emails, chats, and calls promptly, prioritizing audio or video calling over emailing or instant messaging and letting your team know when you take breaks (even if you’re just taking your dog for a walk). Aside from work, we’re human, and we need social interaction. Make a conscious effort to socialize with family, friends, and colleagues to combat the feelings of isolation that can come with working from home.
To make WFH communication easier, consider introducing a collaboration software tool or conference call service. Checkout our latest blogs: 10 Best Online Collaboration Tools of 2020 and 10 Best Conference Call Services for 2020.
6. Don't Be Too Hard on Yourself
Last but certainly not least, don’t be too hard on yourself. For many of us, working from home is a completely new and foreign concept. Like anything that is new to us, working from home is not going to come naturally at first and might take some time to get used to. When learning how to ski for the first time, the last thing you want to do is ski a black diamond slope. So, be realistic about what you can achieve, don’t be afraid to reach out for help, and give yourself credit - you’ve got this!
It can be difficult to work from home. Especially when forced to do so with little to no preparation during a pandemic. Working from home also doesn’t work the same for everyone. What works for some may not work for you and vice versa. It may take some trial and error to find what works best for you. Remember, this is a stressful time for everyone, so try your best to focus on what is important and enjoy the extra quality time with loved ones.