14 Tips for Working from Home

17 Mar

With many people working from home for the first time due to Covid-19, I thought I would share my tips as a veteran work-from-homer. I love working from home and have been doing it for almost 10 years. I am, perhaps, uniquely suited to it, so what works for me might not work for you. I actually prefer not to have much interaction with other human beings during the day, don’t have a huge problem managing my time or staying on task, and work as a freelance editor, so I don’t have a large team to communicate with. However, I’ve had some challenges over the years and have figured out what works best to keep me happy and on task.

Here are my tips:

1) Have a room in your house with a door that closes to be just your office if you can. I know this isn’t possible for a lot of people, but it’s so nice to be away from the kitchen, tv, and bed to avoid snack/entertainment/nap distractions.

2) If you can’t have a room with a door that closes, designate ONE spot for work. I did this for a year or so. Don’t work elsewhere, and don’t sit and watch TV on your computer at your spot. When I did this, I had a desk set up in the bedroom. I found it was hard to fall asleep so close to my messy workspace, so I’d err toward setting up a desk in a non-bedroom space if you can.

3) Do NOT let yourself watch TV or read a book in the middle of the day. You will NOT read just one chapter or watch just one episode and suddenly your whole afternoon will be gone. Now, I do have to admit that during my laundry/walk breaks I sometimes listen to an audiobook. But that is easier to pull away from than an addictive Netflix show.

4) Realize that sometimes naps are inevitable and they will help you be more productive later. If it happens, it happens. Beating yourself up about it won’t help. But you can also try to keep your same coffee schedule from work. Also, if you eat a heavy lunch with lots of carbs, that will make you sleepier, so stick to veggies and meat.

5) Take a brief walk outside or do a quick set of planks/calisthenics/yoga if you’re stuck indoors. This can help you wake up instead of napping.

6. Take breaks to stretch, exercise, and walk. Personally I have back problems and have exercises from my physical therapist to help me. Set an alarm to make you get up every hour if you need to. You won’t realize how much more you’re sitting without meetings to get up and walk to.

7. Set up your workspace ergonomically. Don’t slump over your computer on the couch. Your body will hurt if you do that.

8. Wear pajamas if you want. Lots of people are saying to get dressed like you normally would to work from home. If you need to do that to make you feel like you’re working, feel free. But boy, I don’t! Plus, less laundry!

9. Don’t stress if your “asniffstant” or child interrupts your conference call or video chat. We’re all in the same boat and can use the laugh.

My asniffstant, Beau (photo by Nancy Slattery)
My asniffstant, Beau (photo by Nancy Slattery)

10. Use laundry and chores as breaks. It’s inevitable that you’re going to do them while you’re home, but I’d recommend working for a while, and then diving into chores. Let the dishes and laundry pile up in the morning. Return to them when you’re bored of sitting in front of your computer and need to move your body.

11. Use social media for breaks, too. You’d normally be taking breaks to talk with coworkers throughout the day so don’t beat yourself up for popping on Twitter or Facebook. Sometimes I set up work “sprints” with friends in which we work for 45 minutes, then check in. You can do this with coworkers, friends, or on your own. This helps keep social media to a “break” rather than something that will take over your whole workday.

12. Cook massive meals so you have leftovers for breakfast/lunch/dinner and don’t spend your workday cooking. You can cook a huge meal for lunch and have leftovers for dinner and lunch the next day if you want. It depends on your schedule for the day. Crockpot meals will smell amazing all day!

13. Set measurable goals for your day. I map out how many pages I need to edit per day to meet my deadlines, and let myself do less urgent/important tasks when I’ve reached that goal (except oops, I am writing this post without hitting my goal). This shouldn’t really be much different from how you manage your time at work.

14. If you’re home with a small child and have childcare at home, too, hide from your child. I’m not joking. We have an au pair who takes care of our toddler at home while I work. I stay in my office with the door closed all day and try not to go down to the kitchen unless I’m sure the toddler won’t see me. Otherwise, she gets really sad that she’s not hanging out with me and it creates a meltdown situation. I also try to let our au pair know when I have a phone call so she can make sure the baby is downstairs or take her for a walk so she won’t hear me. Now that my husband is home too, with phone calls all day long, this is proving to be more challenging. We’ll see how it goes. If you are home trying to work with children and without childcare, whew. Good luck to you. I have friends who make this work, but I don’t know how they do it!

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