While many of us are used to working from home, millions of other people have to adjust to this new norm. After working from home for about 10 years, I cannot even tell you how many office-bound people have expressed their jealousy. I usually explain that it is not as easy as it seems to keep home life and office life separated.
Now, COVID-19 has made the wishes of those people come true. Before long, many of them understood what I tried to tell them all along.
Challenges when working from home
There is an endless list of distractions when working from home, and staying disciplined is just one of many challenges. Leaving home and going to work at an office or another workplace helps cut you off from household chores. However, the pile of washing that needs folding, or watering the garden might fight for your attention.
The easy access to your kitchen will make you want to brew one more cup of coffee or tea. Another distraction culprit is the TV, calling you to watch that program that you missed last night. Setting rules for yourself, and sticking to them is crucial.
Rule #1 — Designate a work-only zone
If possible, set up your workspace in a room with a door that you can close. It will help keep you in a work mode and prevent work interference with your home life after work hours. You could also set up in a corner in the garage or basement, which will be further away from distractions.
If none of those are options and you have to work in the living area, designate a specific area. Let your family know that it is a no-go zone. It is a good idea to invest in a laptop stand on wheels. If you choose an adjustable stand, you can use it while sitting, standing or even lying down.
Rule #2 — Set your work hours for working from home
For many people, this is the most challenging part, especially parents of small children. It is crucial to set boundaries to separate work from home. Scheduling your workday similarly as an office away from home will make the transition less complicated. If you stick to a routine from the start, your family might find it easier to adjust to new dynamics.
Rule #3 — Take a break for lunch
It is essential to take short recharge breaks throughout the day. Take more time to have a healthy bite to eat at lunchtime. Be warned that this will be one of the trickier rules to uphold because you will be easily distracted. Be strict with yourself, set time limits for your breaks and resist being sidetracked by household chores.
I have been a victim of that. I would decide to do a few-minute chore quickly during my 10-minute coffee break. Often I ended up losing one or two work hours. For that reason, you must be your own strict boss.
Rule #4 — Check in with your boss and stay professional
Being away from your seniors and co-workers requires frequent checking in. Even more so if you are a member of a team working on the same project. This might sound silly, but you will find it easier to stay professional while working at home. With that, I mean that just because you work at home, you can’t do it in your pajamas. Dress appropriately, and you will find it easier to remain focused and professional.
I recently saw a short video in which a woman presents a class to prepare a group of women who worked at home for some months to return to their offices. She reminded them of the do’s and don’ts, including required dress codes. She held up a bra, asking: ‘Can anyone remember what this is and how to use it?” I’m sure many of us can relate to that. LOL
Rule #5 — Beware of being used
Beware, people will think that you are available for baby or pet sitting because you work from home. Note that if you agree once, they will ask you again, and even recommend you to others. Your gesture will have you working extra hours, robbing your family of your attention. Be careful not to volunteer just because you seek interaction with others. The nature of working at home is lonely, and you might miss the contact with colleagues.
Last but equally important
Spend the last 30 minutes of your workday for planning. Make up a to-do list for the next day’s work. Use that time also to make a separate list for meal planning and household chores and errands.
Use a “DO NOT DISTURB” sign if your family is not playing the game.