Working from home can be both more comfortable and more stressful at the same time, so I’ve compiled a short list of work from home tips that can make your transition a smooth one.
As governments around the world encourage both employers and employees to embrace the concept of working remotely as a measure to prevent the spread of Covid-19, many find themselves buckling in for a long day’s work on their couches, in home offices, and even from bed.
Working from home can be a really rewarding experience, and there’s nothing wrong with giving yourself a few days to figure out what works best for you. I started working from home around five years ago, and I can comfortably say that working from home for the long term isn’t for everyone–but since it needs to be for the next few weeks, here are a few work from home tips that just might make your remote time even more productive than your time in the office.
1. Make sure you know how to secure your data.
If you’re a service member that works on an official computer, you likely have a CAC card reader to connect to your laptop or home desktop to help you gain access to important data. Dependents working from home may have similar security measures in place to protect customer data while working remotely.
Make sure you discuss the security measures you’ll need to adhere to with your employer before making the switch to working from home. If there’s any special hardware (like a card reader) you’ll need for work, your employer may be able to provide it to you or help you secure one through commercial channels.
Knowing what you need before hand will really reduce the stress of setting up some office space in your home. Nothing’s worse than settling in for your first day working remote, only to find you can’t get into any of the software you need.
2. Give people the benefit of the doubt in written correspondence.
We all know that tone can be lost via text, but that becomes especially important to consider when working from home. I interact with dozens of people on a daily basis through written communications like Facebook messenger, Slack, Discord, and over e-mail. When you do that much talking-by-text, there are bound to be some mishaps in your delivery.
Others have that same problem–and that’s why it’s important that you adopt a mindset of giving others the benefit of the doubt when they seem aggravated, short, or disinterested in your written conversation. Chances are good that they have the same worries about you!
Remind yourself that this is challenging for everyone, and that most people mean well even when under stress, and you won’t have nearly as many high tempers around your digital workspace.
3. Establish some office space for yourself.
Everybody that switches to working from the office to working from home starts out with a laptop on their coffee table, and while that may seem like a comfortable choice (after all, what’s better than working from the couch?) it can actually have a few negative side effects. The first and perhaps most troublesome issue with working from the couch is what it does to your back. Even if you aren’t an old washed up Marine like me, spending eight hours haunched over your coffee table will leave you feeling stiff and uncomfortable by the end of the day.
The other big problem with working from your couch is that it can negatively effect your ability to “wind up” for work or to “wind down” after. If you’re used to having a commute to and from the office, you’re also accustomed to your work day having a distinct beginning and end. When working from home, those distinctions start to blur, and if you spend you working hours and your leisure hours on the same couch, it can be harder to get into the right mindset to work–or worse, you may start to feel like you’re at work anytime you hang out on the couch.
It’s important to have a break from work that feels like a break from work. So set aside some space for work, and save your couch for your off time.
4. Set a schedule and stick to it.
One of the most important work from home tips I have to share is the importance of scheduling and creating good schedule related habits. For a lot of people, working from home means you can sleep in some more, but don’t let the lack of commute sell you on the idea of sleeping right until it’s time to start your day.
A lot of people recommend showering and getting dressed before work, even when working from home–but I don’t necessarily buy into that approach. One thing I love about working from home is the ability to make my schedule fit my life–and I prefer showering after I work out at lunch. I also like being comfortable, so even when I’m wearing a shirt and tie from the waste up for video meetings, I’m often still wearing pajamas from the waist down. My best advice to those who like to work in your PJ pants is to be mindful of knee placement when you cross your legs. If you’re not careful, your Spongebob pajama pants will be visible despite your Brooks Brothers top half of a suit.
Establish a schedule for the start and end of your day that you stick to religiously. It will make it easier to get into the swing of things in the morning, and easier to unwind in the evenings.
5. Take a lunch break.
When working from home, you might be inclined to munch your way through the day, and as a result, taking a lunch break may not seem all that necessary. After all, if you’re quarantined in the house, it’s not like you’ll be hitting up the local restaurants for a quick mid-day meal.
But taking a lunch break has value beyond just keeping you fed–it’s also a great opportunity to destress a bit mid-way through your day. Taking a mental break can help you come back to your workspace refreshed and with new energy, whereas working straight through can often leave you feeling burned out midway through the afternoon.
Give yourself a chance to get up and walk around, go for a jog around the block (avoiding any crowds) to give your brain a chance to reset. Because you’ve cut a lot of the walking out of your day that you would have done heading into and out of your office, this bit of exercise can also help stave off some unintentional work from home weight gain.
Your location changed, not the job.
No matter how many work from home tips you may come across, what’s most important is that you already know how to do your job, you just need to find a way to keep your work output up while doing it from a new place. You’ll find some things are easier (fewer social interruptions throughout your day will help get things done) and others are harder (you don’t always know what’s going on in other departments because you’ve lost those social interruptions). Remember though that while your location has changed, the job hasn’t, and no one is better prepared to figure out how best to do your job from home than you.
Trust yourself and listen to your body. If your back hurts, switch chairs. If you’re having trouble getting yourself to work in the morning, start your day with a short walk to get the blood pumping again. Keep experimenting with things until you have an approach to working from home that you’re comfortable with and that you can sustain.
Who knows, you might even become a working from home convert like me!