Twenty years ago, when I founded Calypso Communications, I established my “office” at a desk in the corner of our bedroom. Eventually I moved into a spare room in our home and, for the past 18 years, ran the operation from there. While much of these last two decades I have been at client sites for face-to-face training and advising, a lot of my work has been accomplished from my home office. It seems surreal to me that people are just now talking about “remote” work as if it’s a new thing.
It is unfortunate that some large companies are just now embracing “work from home.” The transition may be a challenge for employees who have never done it before, and managers are seeing their staff disappear from the office en masse without the technology, experience or skillset necessary to be productive.
If you are new to working from home, here are a few tips to help you succeed. This is not an article about the bounty of technologies that enable your success. Rather, I will focus on mindset.
Define a workspace
Search for a stock image with the phrase “work from home,” and you get photos showing people working at the beach, or in a park, or next to the pool. That’s not the reality. Granted, you can get some things done while working in a cafe, but in my experience that is less-than-productive — not to mention the cafe’s free wi-fi is likely insecure and your information is vulnerable.
Work from home means exactly that. It is important to maintain as professional an environment, and attitude, about working from home as you do working from an office.
Working from home can feel invasive if you’re not mindful of how you do it. Home is still your sanctuary and should be protected as a place for renewal and rest.
Designate a specific spot — a desk in the corner, a spare room — as a work zone to help you continue the separation of work from personal home life.
Set regular hours
Our tendency toward “always on” work styles is unhealthy. Although many of us work across multiple time zones, with colleagues and clients around the world, it is critical for your mental health to set some parameters on your availability.
For 20 years, I have “come to work” at a set time, and worked until a set time. Yes, on certain projects I have found myself working at 3:00 am in order to serve a client. But that’s the exception, not the rule.
Having a regular routine and schedule helps you to focus and sets some healthy boundaries.
Dress for work
Forget working in your pajamas or your underwear. Today’s work-from-home scenario means that you could be asked to jump on an impromptu video call. Shower. Get dressed. Comb your hair. More than being ready for virtual “visits”, it also sets a certain tone of decorum and prepares your mind to work.
Being able to create rituals that signal the start and end of your workday can help. If you always get a cup of coffee and drink it at your desk at work while going through email, do that at home. Likewise, at the end of the day, you can tidy up your desk, even change clothes, to mark the end of work and the transition to home.
Schedule social time
Social distancing aside, it is important to continue the rapport you have with your colleagues when you’re in the office. Many of us miss the camaraderie of the workplace. Even if you can’t see your co-workers in person, schedule video lunch dates or even a virtual coffee break. It’s not the same as face-to-face, but it’s something. It also helps you to share this experience with others and can help mitigate the feeling of isolation.
Take advantage of the extra time
One of the best aspects of working from home is the time saved when you don’t have to commute to and from your workplace during rush hour. You could have up to an extra hour (or two, if you live in California) of your daily life back. Use this time wisely to exercise, do yoga, or even daydream. In fact, there is a strong correlation between daydreaming and your ability to remember things.
It’s impossible to predict whether this massive tectonic shift toward remote working will have long term implications. Some companies and employees are anxious to get back to “business as usual” and have everyone return to the office. Others may realize some of the benefits of flexible work. Whether this is a short-term or long-term experience for you, we hope these tips will help in this transition.