Transitioning to the work from home lifestyle can feel like a daunting task, especially when working from home isrequired of you without much notice. Overnight, your commute has shortened immensely and the view from your office window looks a whole lot like your driveway. Maybe you even have a new coworker who calls you "Mom" and doesn't understand video calls.
However, one thing that hasn't changed is your responsibility to your job and your teammates. To stay on top of your work obligations, it can be helpful to write and maintain a daily schedule for yourself that adds some normalcy to your day and takes advantage of your new office location. Get started on your personalized work from home schedule and create some work-life balance by following these steps.
Whether you're shuffling from your bed to your dining room table or walking up the stairs to your home office, just because you're working from home doesn't mean you aren't still commuting to your office. If you used to spend your commute reading a chapter of the novel in your backpack on the subway, take a pitstop on your couch after changing from your sleep sweatpants to your work sweatpants to crack open your book. Just be careful not to get too comfortable, this couch is your pseudo-subway seat after all.
If you always listen to the most recent episode of your favorite podcast during your morning drive to the office, click play and take your dog for a walk around the block before sitting at your desk for the day. We are creatures of habit, and you don't need to lose the rhythm of your day just because your office is now under the same roof as your bed.
You don't need a secluded cubicle or personal office in your house to be productive at home. Instead, just be sure to confine your workspace to a designated area — the dining room table, living room couch, kitchen counter, picnic table in your backyard — that you can work at every day. Find an area of your house that is stress-free and provides enough solitude for you to be able to concentrate without constant distractions. This may involve getting creative. Slide your desk into the mudroom or rearrange a corner of your living room so you can face a corner instead of the distracting television. Routinely working from the same place every day will help you concentrate and increase productivity.
In addition to setting strict physical boundaries, establish mental boundaries for yourself as well. Just because you're spending all day at home doesn't mean you should be pausing your work-brain to vacuum the living room or throw in a load of laundry.
During this global work from home experiment, there is a good chance you're not the only one adapting to the remote work lifestyle under your roof. Just as your partner wouldn't barge into your team meeting to ask what's for lunch if you were at the office, set and hold work from home boundaries with those you live with that benefit everyone. There's nothing more frustrating than being interrupted when you're in the middle of a project, designate certain areas of your home or hours of the day as "Do Not Disturb" for ultimate productivity.
Get creative by using the "basement conference room" or "guest room conference room" and letting your household know when you'll be using which room. Remember there's also time during your workday for more casual discussions. Just as you'd pop your head into a coworkers office to ask how their daughter's birthday party was last weekend, be occasionally available for interruption by your roommate.
Just because you're spending more time than usual in your house, doesn't mean you need to change or extend your working hours. Your work hours should be similar to the hours you would log at your desk in your office. These work hours must be protected, but also clearly defined so they do not bleed into your personal or family time.
Unless otherwise notified, you're safe to assume that your other coworkers are maintaining their usual hours. To make sure you're available to your team as much as usual and not caught organizing your sock drawer when everyone else in your department is active on a Slack channel, maintain a similar work schedule to what you had when you were working on-site.
Communication is the key to success as a remote worker. Touch base with your manager and colleagues to let them know if you have to hop offline. Use tools like a Slack away message or Google Hangouts status to indicate your working vs. non-working hours. This can help prevent future team conflicts by setting expectations upfront.
What was your favorite lunch break ritual when you worked at the office? Your daily movie recommendation session with the sales team? The walk you would take through the park across from your office building? Whatever it was, you can reimagine your lunch break routine from the comfort of your own home.
Start a virtual watercooler session with the work pals you haven't interacted with recently. Or, coordinate your lunch break with your other WFH friends and FaceTime them while you eat. Since you're spending your lunch break at home and have access to ingredients you wouldn't in the office, cook yourself an elaborate, picture-perfect meal like the one you scrolled past on Instagram last week.
If you normally hit the gym for a class during your lunch hour, roll out your yoga mat or kettlebell, and click on a home workout video to get in your reps without leaving the house. Take your work from home lunch break as an opportunity to disconnect and focus on an activity that brings you joy.
Now that you're isolated from your coworkers, employ your virtual communication tools however you feel necessary — not just when you're required to be on a conference call. If you find yourself feeling more lonely than usual, set up a virtual support group with your favorite coworkers and friends where you can all share freely about your work from home experiences. Set up a Zoom call just to share your work from home struggles and successes with one another. The chances are that your remote coworkers can share your struggles, and would love to celebrate your successes with you.
Pro tip: set up a remote happy hour on Friday afternoon that doesn't require any shop talk. Have everyone crack open a local brew and chat about weekend plans.
After finishing another full day's work, clock out of your home office by stowing all of your work tools away for the night. Just as you would leave your work computer on your desk and say goodnight to your officemates, send that last email and sign off at your usual time. By keeping work reminders out of sight, you're holding a necessary boundary between your work and home life, even when it is all now taking place in the same room. Just as you rewind after a long day at the office, you deserve to relax at home and enjoy your after-work hours regardless of where you spent your day being productive.
Just because you're spending your working day at home, doesn't mean you should stray too far from your classic work schedule. Remember to give yourself grace during this remote work adaption. Your new normal may have a learning curve, but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy the ride.