Many companies have instituted a work-from-home policy in the wake of the Corona Virus (COVID-19) pandemic. Working from home is not for everyone – some treat it more like a “snow day” and get very little, if anything, done. I’ve been working from home for over 12 years. In a meeting the other day, somebody made the comment that they thought my agency was far bigger than it is. There are 2 of us on staff. Both of us working from home in different towns. This post is about helping you create a work space where you can be comfortable and super productive.
In the spirit of looking on the bright side, try approaching this as an opportunity. If you use some of the suggestions below, I am confident you will enjoy working from home. And who knows… this could be the way of the future.
What time do you get up for work every morning?
If my Wife and kids could ever learn to wake themselves up in time for work and school, I would get so much more beauty sleep. I have to set an alarm for 7:00AM and begin the slow, painful process of waking each of them up in a specific, carefully timed order so that showers are staggered and there isn’t a line-up/costco-esque fight over the toaster. I don’t need to be up that early! As long as I can pull myself together by 8:59, I can get to my desk by 9:00 and start my day. No train. No subway. No parking. Alas, I will never get that opportunity. If I ever release a Rap album, I will title it 8:59AM.
You now have a rare chance to re-shape your work week habits. Instead of the commute, you could:
- Sleep in (Yes, I’m envious. Stop it.)
- Use a treadmill or elliptical (if you have one)
- Go for a walk
- Relax / meditate
- Work on that side-hustle you’ve been thinking about
- Learn something new (on YouTube)
- Have a leisurely breakfast
- Enjoy some quality family time
- Change that light bulb that has been out for over a year
- Start work early so you can finish early
- Tidy up your office
- Prepare for any calls you might have that day
- Pick up that dusty guitar and play it
- Learn to rap
Then, when it’s 9:00, be at your desk and ready to go. Set an alarm if you have to. Or, I can call you – whatever works. Maximize your efficiency so that you can use your “commute time” to do all of the other things you need/want to do.
Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your home office:
Mark your territory
Find a room in the house that you can use for an office (if you haven’t already). Even if you have a home office, take another look around – is there a better space? Pick a room that has lots of natural light. Face your monitors away from them to avoid glare. Create a comfortable, but not distracting work area ideally with a door. If there are other people in the house making noise, close the door and if necessary, put on some noise cancelling headphones.
Create your ideal work space
Match your home office as closely as possible to your work setup (assuming that it’s efficient). And by that I mean all of the things you need in your office – the number of monitors, a printer, the chair, etc. Use the opportunity to improve upon it now that there are no HR guidelines standing in your way. If your work office is messy or disorganized, feel free to leave that part out. If you want some great inspiration on re-designing your home office, check this out.
Be ready for anything
Prepare for the worst – have a backup internet connection ready to go when your internet service blows out minutes before an important call (Example: tether to your smartphone). Download, install and test Skype and Zoom (or any other communication apps your company uses). It’s 100% guaranteed that your connection will get knocked out when you need it if you don’t have an alternate way to get online quickly. The internet Gods are funny that way.
Do what the gamers do
I highly recommend adding a large screen if you don’t have one already. For years, I had a closed laptop connected to a 27” display. Then, I finally realized that I could open the laptop and instantly add a 2nd monitor. I have my email, calendar and work chat (Google Hangouts) open on that screen. Go crazy and add a 3rd screen. I picked up a 27” Samsung curved display and now I can put reference documents and other things over on that screen so that everything is neatly organized.
Quiet on the set
Turn off all radios/TVs that are not in use. I like it as quiet as possible. If you like/need to have sound in the background, put a bluetooth speaker or a radio in your office. Classical music has shown to help with productivity. If I have music playing, it’s usually guitar oriented without singing (ie. Joe Satriani style). iHeart Radio has a free app with tons of great music to inspire you.
Pretend you’re at work
Keep regular office hours – including lunch and breaks. If you stop for a moment and realize you’re at home, you’re going to start puttering around the house. Don’t be distracted by errands or TV (or cat videos). From the moment I started my company (without any clients) I acted as if I was in an office and started every day at 9:00AM sharp.
Dress for comfort
One of the best parts about working from home… comfy pants. Oh, I can hear you laughing. Try it. I am now at the point where… okay, this is verging on overshare. Just trust me – be comfortable. Pants are a prison.
Focus like a tomato
Take breaks – use the pomodoro system for focus. 25 minutes of focused, uninterrupted work, followed by 5 minute mini-breaks. There is a free app that you can get to use as a timer. I use the Focus Keeper.
CAUTION: These tips may actually make you more productive when things return to normal. You might even find that you love working from home. I know I do. I can’t even imagine the thought of commuting to an office every day. I hope this post helps you create a comfortable, productive work space at home so that you can keep on top of things while the World puts itself in quarantine. Let’s get through this thing together. If we stay positive, things are going to be so much better once this era is behind us. Please stay safe.
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