Working from home comes with its pros and cons. It's certainly convenient not having to drive to an office (saves gas, too!), you can sleep in a little later in the morning and work in a more relaxed environment. On the flip side, the lack of face-to-face social interaction with the outside world is challenging.
Those of you who were suddenly thrust into a home office situation due to the social distancing of COVID-19 may feel a little nerve-wracked, especially when trying to juggle work and kids at home. Here are a few suggestions I found helpful when I began my journey into a full-time work-from-home life last fall.
DESIGNATE A SPECIFIC WORKSPACE OR HOME OFFICE
It's vital that you separate home space from work space as much as possible. If you're lucky enough to have a spare room in your house, make use of it and set up a home office with a desk, computer, office supplies, etc. Get a chair that you're comfortable sitting in eight hours a day. If you don't have a spare room, find a spot that feels as separate from the rest of your home as possible.
KEEP CLEARLY DEFINED WORKING HOURS
Since you don't have to drive off to an office, you can enjoy sleeping a little later in the mornings, just don't overdo it. You'll find yourself more productive by keeping regular business hours in your work-at-home environment — and it will be beneficial to you in transitioning back to the office if you keep regular hours.
“The biggest difference between working from home and working in the office is that you are in charge of your environment and have to treat yourself like an employee,” says Heather Yurovsky, Muse career coach and founder of Shatter & Shine.
While it may be tempting to work well into the evening, don't. Keep your work hours set, and at the end of your work day, shut everything down and close the door on your home office (or put your work materials away if you don't have home office space). Again, it's critical to separate work from home. Communicate with your family members to establish appropriate boundaries in order to minimize distractions during your work day, then give them your full attention after work.
SHOWER AND DRESS — NO PAJAMA DAYS
Avoid the pitfall of staying in your PJs all day. It winds up being counterproductive. When the alarm rings, get up, brush your teeth, shower and get dressed as if you are going to an office environment — including socks and shoes. While you don't need to dress as formally as you might in a corporate environment, you'll find yourself being a lot more productive, alert and energetic.
“Don’t underestimate the power of putting on clothes suitable for public viewing. It makes you feel human and confident, and it helps draw the line between being at work and being at home,” says Yurovsky.
ESTABLISH TIME TO VIDEO CHAT WITH COLLEAGUES
The lack of socialization during the day is perhaps one of the biggest challenges when it comes to working from home. Set up times throughout the week, if not daily, to have some facetime with your co-workers whether you use Skype, Zoom, Google Chat, etc. Catching up with each other will prevent the hamster-wheel feeling. One great idea is to set up a video chat time during lunch. In addition, having a whole-team morning video call allows for getting-into-work small talk as well as an overview of tasks at hand for the day.
GET OUT OF THE HOUSE
Don't stay cooped up too much in the house. Carve out at least a little bit of time to get outside. Gather the kids and head out for a walk around the block in your neighborhood — practicing social distancing, of course, if you encounter others also out for some exercise. Or, spend a little time with the kids on a gardening project in the backyard. Whether you do it first thing in the morning, midday or in the evening, the fresh air and sunshine will do you a world of good.
KEEP THE KIDS OCCUPIED
You need to be flexible with how much work you might be able to get done if you're balancing child care with kids at home. Come up with a plan for their education and entertainment. Load them up with books, puzzles and games. During this time, allow them extra time to enjoy streaming services during the day. Also consider letting your kids have virtual play dates using video chat. Platforms like Roblox let kids chat with each other while playing video games together. Assemble a "Boredom Box" filled with all sorts of craft supplies. Give your kids a topic and let them get creative while you chip away at work.
Take a few 10- to 15-minute breaks throughout the day to hang out with your kids, whether you help them with tasks or break out together in a festive dance party to get the wiggles out and energize you.
If you're a parent of a baby or toddler, you'll need to navigate around their schedules. That means getting as much done when they aren't awake. Plan to get up a couple of hours before they do so you can tackle your most important work project of the day with the distraction. Give your toddler the attention he needs once he's awake, and provide plenty of toys and perhaps age-appropriate video programming to capture his attention nearby while you work. Stay flexible and take advantage of your child's naptime to get back into crank-mode.