Get Up At Your Usual Time
Working from home is not synonymous with “sleep in.” It’s important to keep your body’s regular cadence while working from home. For one thing, it’ll be all the harder to wake up earlier when it’s time to go back to the office. And for another, you’re already used to waking up at a certain time. Why not use the time you’d usually spend commuting doing something productive? Working out, meditating, yoga, chores, anything self-care focused that makes you feel accomplished will start your work-from-home day off on the right foot. (We can totally still sleep in on weekends though. Well… you can, Colette has other plans for me.)
Get Dressed For The Day
I’m sorry, but you’ve gotta get out of those PJs. It’s very important to get fully dressed and “ready” for your day, even if you’ll be spending the entire day at home. From a logistics standpoint, it means you’ll look professional for Zoom video meetings and the like. And you’ll also be dressed and ready for a daily walk (more on that below). Also, this helps prepare you mentally to be in “work mode,” even though you’re still at home. Mentally staying present with work can be tough at home. And you’ll be amazed by how much putting on presentable clothing can help. It’s fine if you’re a bit more casual than usual, but pajamas have to go.
Designate A Workspace
Even if you live in a small space, it’s important to designate a space, even if it’s just half of a kitchen table, for work and only work. Working from home does not mean working from anywhere around the house. Force yourself to get off the couch and get out of your bed! Part of why working from home doesn’t work for everyone is the assumed freeform nature of it. Working from home is as professional as you structure it to be. If you set aside space that is only for accomplishing work, you’re again mentally structuring your work-from-home day in a productive manner.
You will also stress less about working from home, because you know where you’ll be sitting, and get into a routine. Your “commute” might only be from the coffee pot to the desk in your bedroom, but it’s an important shift. Pro tip: once your workday is over, avoid that designated work space. This will ensure you start building up productive boundaries, too. Lastly, make sure your workspace is well-lit so your brain fully-engages in work mode and fully-abandons “chill” mode.
Work from home grazing is a productivity (and nutrition) killer. It’s also really easy to just eat anything in your house when it’s technically all there and available for you. Treat your work from home day the same way you treat any workday. Meals happen at mealtimes, and that’s it. Meal planning, and meal prepping, are your secrets to avoiding snack distractions throughout the day. You can even plan your snacks too in order to ensure portion control! I love a good “bowl” or salad with individual components that can be prepped in advance and tossed together for lunch, and keeping a few reusable containers filled with snacks for designated times will keep you from aimlessly wandering into the kitchen and away from your inbox.
Back Support & Comfort
If it hurts (literally) to work from home, you’ll hate working from home. It’s really pretty simple. You want to keep your back supported with a sturdy chair and maybe a pillow behind your lower back, and if you’re able to elevate your laptop or plug into an external screen that you can elevate, do so. You want to keep your eyes level, and your back supported. If you get what I charmingly call “WFH tush,” with sciatic pain going down your thighs, there are some great seat cushions available on Amazon that can help alleviate it. Or just get the same kind of office chair you have at the office, if you’re able to. They’re ugly, but well-engineered. I have a large balance ball that I sit on for a period of time everyday which helps me be mindful of my posture.
Keep A Schedule & Block Your Time
Working from home days need structure and boundaries! It’s very easy to take a lackadaisical approach to working from home, operating as though you can kind of work “whenever,” but that is actually counterproductive on two levels: one, you won’t get enough done during the day, and two, you’re also really likely to just start working all the time (i.e. into the evenings and weekends), as opposed to maintaining a regular workday. In both cases, you’re never fully present in either your work or your downtime. Block your schedule into tasks, stick to that schedule, and cut yourself off from work at the end of the day. Boundarize (that’s a word now) your workday!
Communication Is Key
Especially for those working remotely for the first time, establishing a good communications structure is the key to helping everyone feel connected, despite not working in the same office. No one wants to feel like they suddenly don’t have a team or don’t have support. So whether it’s regular check ins, a Slack channel, and/or video conferences, set a plan and stick to it, so that everyone knows it’s still very much business as usual, despite the fact that you’re so spread out. You’d be surprised how effective a regular schedule of quick “huddles” can be!
The TV Does Not Exist Until 6pm
The faster you develop this habit, the better. Simply don’t turn on the TV. It is the ultimate distraction and serves literally no helpful purpose during the course of your workday. Start practicing the habit of ignoring it right now. If it’s too quiet in the house, use music without words for concentration, or calm music to have on in the background in between meetings. Spotify has entire sections labeled “Chill” and “Work” with plenty of options for you.
Take A Daily Walk (If Safe)
If you’re feeling well, and going stir crazy, it’s completely okay (and advisable) to go for a walk around the block. This will give you some fresh air, help you move your body around a bit, and is a great way to end or break up your workday. If you can’t get out of the house, try a quick 15 minute workout or yoga video (YouTube has endless options) to get your blood flowing and keep your head clear. Regularly stretching throughout the day will also help to alleviate any mental fog or physical stiffness that comes from the natural decrease in movement that happens when you stop commuting.
In sum, you can do this! Establishing good work-from-home habits from the very beginning will help you feel so much better about working remotely, and will result in productivity that’s uninterrupted by recent events (any more than necessary). Now, let’s get back to work!