With the outbreak of coronavirus, many companies are encouraging, or mandating, employees to work from home. Unless you’ve had a remote job in the past or run a practice from your home, you may not be accustomed to sharing your home and your office space. Working from home might sound appealing but it’s harder than it seems. You may fantasize about working in your pajamas or all the time saved by skipping your commute, but there are many other factors that can affect your brain, body and productivity.
I found myself in the same position after leaving the traditional corporate world to start Suitably. Through working from my cozy NYC apartment over the last two years, I’ve learned different tricks to stay effective while working from home. Today I’m sharing my top 11 tips that I have learned to stay productive, keep a good mindset and stay healthy while working from home. Don't hesitate to DM me and the team @suitably or email us at email@example.com if you want to share your tips for working from home or just say hi. We'd love to hear from you!
Here is my work from home look for today. Business on top, cozy on bottom and our 24/7 Blazer on top for any video meetings. Your outfit for video conferencing is important. I'll write a dedicated blog post on this topic. Like office dress codes, there are different best practices for what you should wear depending on your industry.
- Create a morning routine
What once was a structured weekday now suddenly feels like uncharted territory. It’s too easy to wake up late, grab your computer, and start answering high priority emails from bed then push snooze on your alarm clock. You may have put your old routine on pause, but this doesn’t mean you should let bad habits start to unfold. It is important to start a new, healthy routine before snoozing the alarm and working in bed becomes the new norm.
Create a new routine that begins the moment you wake up. Set your alarm for the same time each morning and get out of bed. Figure out what makes you happy in the morning. What activities do you need to motivate yourself for the day ahead? Do you like to be active? Try going on a walk, if possible, around the block or streaming a workout from home. Do you need a caffeine boost immediately after waking up? Savor that cup of coffee while cooking breakfast or catching up on the news.
For me, each morning I’ll always play with Theodore, check my emails & DMs, get coffee, take Theodore out for a morning walk and then get right to work. Figure out what works best for you and make your routine a habit. Always remember, a productive day starts with an effective morning routine.
- Maintain regular work hours
It’s important to mimic your regular work day as much as possible. A consistent start time will help you define the start of the day as if you were arriving at the office. This seems trivial but setting a schedule will help keep you focused.
- Carve out a dedicated work space
Find a space in your apartment or house that will be your new office. At home, I go between working in our home office space which is where I have a dedicated desk and the kitchen table where I have more space, light, can spread out and sometimes have the news on in the background.
When choosing a space, first look for an area that is comfortable. Look for a space with a flat surface and a comfortable seat. This could be the dining room table or the kitchen counter or you can get creative and move a spare table to the guest bedroom. Don’t fall victim to setting up a permanent shop on the couch—yes, the couch is ultra comfortable but slouching and potentially dozing off inhibits your productivity. Other major factors to look for include lots of natural light, quiet, and limited distractions. Are you living with your family or a roommate? If so, choose a space where you can close the door and limit your interaction during work hours.
- Set daily goals
Begin each weekday by writing down your daily goals. If you don’t want to write down your goals daily, write down your goals on a weekly basis.
Outlining your tasks will keep you organized and focused on what you need to accomplish before the end of the day or week. Try to jam in as much as you can on your to do list, within reason. Having a long list of action items or a busy schedule filled with phone calls keeps you locked in and less likely to get distracted with non-work related tasks.
Now that you’re working from home, you can’t just turn around to post your boss on the status of a project or quickly run an idea by your colleague sitting next to you. Now is the time to keep everyone in the loop on what you are working on and the status of your projects. Define a clear process on how you’re going to keep your team updated. Do you need to provide a daily recap via email? Does it make sense to have a team call every Friday to debrief the week? Figure out a process that works for you and your team and stick to it.
- Make FaceTime or video meetings a priority
I can’t emphasize this one enough. The biggest change you will face working from home is limited social interaction. This can drive even the most introverted person crazy. Luckily, technology has made it easy to connect remotely. Try scheduling a video meeting instead of a call. Or start Monday with a team video conference to set expectations for the coming week.
When I worked remotely for a period of time at Groupon, I had a weekly video meeting with my direct supervisor and a second weekly meeting with the head of our division. Even though I was in New York and my colleagues were in Chicago, I felt completely in touch with my Directors.
Remember you can engage with coworkers on non-related work topics as you would at the office. Let your coworker know you finally finished that show they love and give your thoughts. Ask them how they are doing working from home and offer tips that have helped you adjust.
- Take scheduled breaks
Schedule time in your calendar to get out of your seat and move! A few 15 minute breaks throughout the day allows you to reset your mind, reduce stress, and increase your productivity when you get back to working. Get that blood flowing by stretching or going for a walk. I love taking a quick break in the middle of the day to take Theodore for a walk or taking 15 minutes to see what is new from the day in the news. I also love getting up for a snack break and coffee, iced always for me :-).
- Eat real foods & stay hydrated
Many of us have made at least one grocery run to stock up on essentials, from toilet paper to canned goods. We’ve loaded up on foods that will last weeks, even months. One critical piece of advice: don’t neglect fresh fruits and vegetables. Our bodies still need real, whole foods to fuel us through the day. This year especially, I have also been making a huge effort to stay hydrated by drinking 8 glasses of water a day. It’s easy to become so absorbed in your work that when you look at the clock, it’s already 3 pm, and you haven’t had much food or water for the day. When it comes to hydration, research indicates that productivity increases when you are hydrated and staying hydrated will keep you on top of your game.
- Keep a positive mindset
I'm an eternal optimist by nature and it's hard for the most optimistic, including me, to stay positive and calm during this coronavirus crisis. We consulted Lauren Latella, PhD and Associate Psychologist in Mood Disorders at the Child Mind Institute for her advice on the best ways to maintain a positive mindset during the coronavirus crisis. You can find her actionable tips here on how to stay positive.
- Do not multitask
It will be tempting to throw in a load of laundry, drive to the grocery store to restock your fridge, or clean the dirty dishes from last night. Do not give into these temptations! A good rule of thumb is to avoid all errands and chores that you normally wouldn't do during working hours, save them for before or after you finish. Even if you think these small chores might be quick, they break your focus and often lead to other tasks around the house you need to complete.
- Set a clear ending time
It is crucial to have a cut off point. Shut down your computer, turn off your work phone, and walk away from your designated home office space. This will signal an end to the day and prevent you from answering just one more email or spending just a little more time on that project. When you’re working from home, it’s important to have boundaries - for your sanity - so that you have some separation between what’s going on at work and in your personal life.