Due to the COVID-19 outbreak in March 2020, most people (whose job allows) have been ordered to work from home. WFH (as it becomes known if you have to type it a lot) can be an adjustment for anyone who is used to working in an office.
I worked from home for about five years as a freelance writer and, then, full-time editor. I know WFH is not always the fantasy where you escape to fancy cafes, people watch, and order latte art while you stare at a blinking cursor all day. Sometimes, due to many different circumstances (the novel coronavirus included), WFH literally means working from your home.
But it doesn’t have to mean discomfort. Here are a few tips and tricks I learned over my half a decade while working from home.
- The best advice I ever got was to make yourself a “work zone” in your home, so you can mentally create a spot that you associate with “work” rather than “home.” (Ahem, this is also useful for tax purposes 🙂 )
- As tempting as it is, don’t work from your bed. It’ll start to mess with your sleep cycle.
- Set boundaries in general, but especially when it comes to your time. Don’t report earlier than you need to and don’t stay late—and don’t let your superiors talk you into it, just because you happen to work remotely.
- If you are lucky enough to receive your own laptop for work, make sure to use it. It’s a technological way of drawing a boundary. You’ll mentally associate that laptop with work. Don’t use it after hours personal stuff. This way, when you close it at the end of the day, it will signify you’re done with work and feel so good.
- If you don’t have a separate laptop, make sure to close all work-related tabs when you’re done with your day! If it helps, you can also try using a separate Chrome window so you have a a personal window and a work window.
- Take a break! Pet a cat. Go for a walk. Get some coffee. Close the laptop and get some air outside.
- Cook, if you can. It’s a nice way to step away from the job for a second and you get homecooked food out of it, so win-win.
- Open the blinds, even if it’s raining. Just because you might be handcuffed to your laptop doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a view of the outside world.
- Family/neighbors/friends may start to ask you to do favors for them, because you’re home. Remind them that you are still working and remind yourself that you can say no.
- Be liberal in your use of Slack emojis. When you work remotely, everything is written and tone can be easily misconstrued, but emojis can help other people get what you mean.
- If you encounter a situation that’s too complex for Slack, ask to schedule a check-in call or a one-on-one with your supervisor to talk it out. Just because you work from home doesn’t mean you’re an island, off on your own. But you’ll need to be more proactive about reaching out to be heard, though.
- Do you like distractions and multitasking? Listen to music, podcasts, watch TV—go for it. If you’re easy distracted or you really need to focus, you can keep it off. You don’t have to do any of that, just because it exists in your home.
- When you can, clean up both your work area and (if you can) its surroundings. How you feel about where you are will be reflected in your work.
- A lot of people wonder if you can build friendships with your colleagues while you work from home. It’s very much possible! Not everyone is receptive, but you’ll find your people.
- Make your own routine! Go to the gym. Go running. Take showers/bathe! (Please) You can read all the tips and tricks in the world, but ultimately, it’s all up to you. Find what works for your life.
- You can absolutely work in your pajamas, if you want. 🙂
- A caveat to that last point: Make sure you read all calendar invites carefully and see if they say it’s a call or a Google Hangout/Zoom/Video call. Uh, because if it’s the latter, you will need to get dressed, look presentable, and, well, clean!