A Beginners Action Guide to Surviving Work-From-Home
WFH will be around for a while. If you’re still struggling, here are some actionable tips for staying sane and productive.
Seemingly without warning, thousands upon thousands of individuals found themselves working from home. A long-standing culture of office work turned upside down almost overnight.
Turns out, this might not be a temporary situation. Microsoft employees will be working from home until at least October. Google and Facebook employees may be working from home well into 2021. Twitter and Square employees have already been informed that working from home will be a more-or-less permanent thing.
And these aren’t the only companies reassessing work-from-home policies which means many people should get used to this new normal.
Many remote workers are adapting well. Some are still struggling.
Don’t worry. It’s going to be okay. It’s actually going to do a lot for your well being and productivity — once you get the hang of it. The productivity advice I present here are tips not typically included but are perfect for beginners to consider when getting used to work-from-home life.
Have More Than a Morning Routine
Productivity gurus love to talk about morning routines, whether they involve meditations, listening to podcasts, taking a walk, or whatever helps get them ready for the workday. While routines help boost productivity and make the workday more manageable, it’s not a bad idea to bolster that morning routine with an evening one as well.
Recommendations for an evening routine include:
- Have a regular, set bedtime
- Spend at least an hour before bed doing anything but work
- Consider keeping a journal in which you can write about your day, things you liked and didn’t like, and what your goals might be — both long and short-term.
- Avoid drinking alcohol or caffeine near the end of your day.
If an evening routine doesn’t work for you, try setting a routine before or after dinner that includes some of the above suggestions. This is in addition to your morning routine.
Prioritize (Bite the Bullet)
I understand if this trips you up the most. It’s a tough habit to cultivate. No one likes taking on unpleasant or tedious tasks, but they aren’t going to go away, either. And if they do, then you’re probably going to have some bigger problems taking their place.
This is your moment to shine. You don’t need some supervisor cracking the metaphorical whip over your head to get that unpleasant task done. Do it yourself, be that self-starter you claimed to be on your resume, and get the most dreaded jobs done first.
Everything after that will be a piece of cake.
Get Up and Dance
Or whatever. The point is to remember to get in some exercise and some recreation. A lot of newcomers to the work-from-home lifestyle have trouble balancing work and real life. One reason is that they’re unsure what levels of productivity they’re expected to achieve while working from home and tend to overdo it.
Look, finish the TP report. Reply to that email. Make one more sales call. But when your workday is done, it’s done. Go out for a run or a walk. Take a dip in the pool if that’s an option. Figure out where your children are and break out the D&D gamebooks.
Or dance. Select the streaming service of your choice, pick the Devo’s Greatest Hits, and get down to some serious boogie.
Don’t Cut All Distractions, Moderate Them
No one expects you to sit in absolute silence while working from home. Your old office wasn’t silent as a tomb, was it? The good news is that instead of listening to Fred drone on and on about his kid’s baseball team or that awful right-wing radio your office mate listens to through earphones that don’t work as well as he thinks and you can hear every idiotic word coming out of Rush’s mouth despite repeated pleas to turn it down…Kevin!
Wait…where was I?
Oh, yeah. Working from home, you control your environment. Want to play an oldies station on the radio? Maybe country? Go for it. There are also thousands of great podcasts you can listen to while working. Try to find ones you don’t need to pay close attention to. Your mission is to create some pleasant background noise.
I’d avoid listening to a lot of news. Keep that limited to ten minutes in the morning and in the afternoon. If aliens are attacking, someone will send you an email.
Likewise, limit your social media. Turn off automatic notifications on your phone and computer. The alert that Aunt Gladys liked your vacation picture will still be there after your workday is done.
If you simply can’t stay away from checking on your social media accounts, treat them like rewards. Five minutes of Facebook for every significant task completed. Be strict with yourself.
That should hold you and give you a further incentive.
Make a Checklist For Household Maintenance
Near the top of each of my day’s To-Do list is an item in all-caps that reads CHORES (See Google Keep).
Separate from my work schedule — but inserted into my work schedule, so I don’t forget — is a reminder to take care of the daily household chores: Dishes, pickup living room, straighten the kitchen, clean bathroom, trash/recycling, prepare lunches, etc.
All of these can be easy to forget when you get super-focused on work, and you may be surprised how quickly dishes and trash pile up when you’re not paying attention. Messy and chaotic environments get in the way of productivity. I can generally run through most of my chores in an hour because remembering to do so each day makes each individual task easier. If I let things slide, catching up takes longer, and work suffers.
I keep my daily chore list on Google Keep to quickly check off the boxes from my phone. You could use a notebook or other digital option. Whatever works best for you.
Get an “Accountabilibuddy” (Or Hire One)
Some people have their spouses working alongside to help keep them working. Some have roommates. But what if you live and work from home alone? Are you worried about maintaining the discipline to succeed at working from home?
Not a problem. Phone or instant message a friend. Or videoconference with them. Chat about your respective tasks or goals and then follow up with each other later in the day.
Be each other’s coaches.
If you don’t feel that will be enough, consider hiring a personal coach to talk with every day or two. Not only do you have an accountabilibuddy you can count on (because you’re paying them), you also have one trained in motivating and advising people in your situation. You’re also more likely to keep up with a professional coach because… y’know…you’re paying for it.
Teleconferencing Doesn’t Have To Be About Work
Consider this optional. Some people working from home have to deal with a lot of videoconferencing, and the idea of taking part in more for fun might seem a step too far.
That said, whether you’re still under shelter-in guidelines, or just need to socialize, but can’t get out… don’t forget that teleconferencing doesn’t have to be about work. These past months, a monthly Chinese restaurant gathering my friends and I have been doing for years has recently moved online for the time being. Some of us get Chinese food delivered. Others opt for pizza. But we all get together on Zoom for 2 hours and catch up and enjoy each other’s company.
Every Wednesday night, I play Dungeons and Dragons via Google Hangouts with local friends.
In both examples, we’ve been able to include friends who had moved away for one reason or another. Distance isn’t really a factor when it comes to finding gathering places online.
Be Good To Yourself
Working from home can be a real benefit for everyone all around. Businesses will realize they’re going to save money on office space and utilities, and you’re going to enjoy having more control over your workspace and schedule.
So long as the work gets done — and gets done well — everyone will be happy.
Take advantage of the opportunity. Remember these easily enactable tips if you have trouble getting into the groove or keeping up with the new work culture.
They’ll pay off big time.