The reality of working from home. For a lot of people this used to be the dream, now it’s the reality for just about everybody. We’re all trying to figure out ways to make this new situation productive and having to figure it out on the fly. Creating a designated workspace within our home, setting our hours, staying sane while a million other things are going on around us, it’s all a lot to juggle!

A few recent articles offered some helpful tips to help navigate our new work from home offices. Like with any new job, it takes time to settle in, get comfortable, and create routines to help make the work day more productive.

Get Dressed

Tips like get dressed for work every day might seem a little silly. I’m at home, why should I have to get dressed for work? But it’s one way to differentiate the time of getting ready for work from just another morning at home. I’ve personally been wearing business clothes every day if for nothing else than to keep my dry cleaner in business. I recently did a Zoom call with a group I regularly meet with for in-person networking. Everyone was initially surprised of the requirement to dress up for the meeting as if it was an in-person meeting. But it makes sense, it’s a way to hold ourselves accountable to the same kinds of standards we’re used to. Plus we all have our work clothes in our closets, so they may as well get some use especially on days when we know we’ll have videoconferencing.

A career coach quoted in an article I just read says “Don’t underestimate the power of putting on clothes suitable for public viewing. It makes you feel human [and] confident ….” By now a lot of us have mastered the hair and makeup touchup, plus wardrobe refresh needed to be presentable for a video call. And not many of us thought we would suddenly have to consider good lighting or camerawork!

“One of the big challenges when it comes to working remotely is keeping your work and home lives separate. ‘For some people it becomes very blurry,” says Muse career coach Lynn Berger, who specializes in helping people navigate career transitions. If you never fully disconnect from work, your work productivity will suffer and your home life can take a hit as well’.”

Work Environment

Another thing to consider is your work environment, which used to be setting up our desk at the office. An issue now is space, obviously, both physical and head space to do what we need to do. Carving that out, in our heads and in our homes, is crucial. The article pointed out some of the challenges depending on your living situation. People generally fall into 1 of 2 groups, either they’re now isolated because they live alone and face that challenge. Or they’re in a different situation, maybe in a house full of other people doing their own work or schoolwork.

“If you live with other people, this separation is even more critical. Communicate with the people you live with to establish boundaries so you can cut down on distractions during the workday—and then disconnect and give the people you care about your full attention. Having a separate time and space to work will allow you to be more present in your home life.”

Create Structure

Coming up with plans to create some structure for your new daily life can really help. Establishing routines, setting aside designated times to take a coffee break, have lunch, or get some exercise can really help the days feel more normal. A lot of people are coming up with a daily timetable and really try to stick with it. For example, 8:00 breakfast, 8:30 check emails, 9:00 return phone calls, 10:00 work on projects, 12:30 lunch…. You get the idea.

Things may not go smoothly, and real life is likely to present challenges to the best laid plans for working from home. It’s important to not just recognize the problems, but to share ideas on dealing with them.
The article suggests that “the key to steering through these bumps is communication—especially with your manager and direct reports. Either before you make the switch or as soon as you know it’s happening, come up with a plan that lays out expectations for how often you should check in and how you’ll convey any changes or new assignments to one another. Do the same with anyone you usually work collaboratively with throughout the day. This plan is likely to change as you go. And that’s OK.”

Flexibility and patience are going to help all of us manage things better, whether dealing with co-workers or family. It’s important to go easy on ourselves and also be kind to each other. (A helpful skill when someone at home starts making a racket during your work call!) We all just have to hang in there. The reality of working from home is here.

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