Maybe there was a time you daydreamed about working from home, clad in cozy pajamas without a boss looking over your shoulder. For many office warriors and cubicle dwellers, work-from-home has now become a reality — and may be for the foreseeable future.
Transitioning from an office populated by co-workers and coffee makers isn’t always smooth-going. And after a few days, you may begin to miss some of the perks of the office: the sense of community, the water-cooler gossip, the free doughnuts courtesy of Karen from Accounting. Switching from home- to work-mode can be a challenge. Maybe we can help.
The Copy & Design team is comprised of independent creatives who have been successfully collaborating together for over a decade from separate home offices. Now we’d like the share some of what we’ve learned about staying productive, focused, and sane while working from home.
Don’t Toss the Alarm Clock
We know what you might be thinking: Woo-hoo, I finally get to sleep in! Sure, give yourself a week or so catch up on some sleep. But then get back to setting that alarm. Since your commute now consists of a few steps to your home office, you don’t have to get up at the crack of dawn. But we do recommend rising at a decently early hour, and starting work around the same time you normally would. This signals to your brain that it’s productivity — not HGTV — time.
As tempting as it may be to stay in your bathrobe and bunny slippers all day, don’t. Trust us. After a few days of round-the-clock sleepwear, what we call “the glumps” start to kick in. When not dressed for work, it’s hard to feel like doing work. We’re not saying to don your three-piece suit. But our personal experience has shown us that showering, maintaining basic hygiene, and getting dressed in something other than the flannel shirt you’ve been wearing for weeks does wonders for your work-at-home mindset. And your mood.
Claim Your Space
It’s going to be hard to stay productive working on a laptop from your couch, with the cat in your face and the TV so temptingly close. We suggest establishing and setting up a dedicated work space that’s as separate as possible from the living, eating, and sleeping areas in your home. Get all the supplies you need to recreate your office, including a good desk and comfortable office chair. Create boundaries and let kids/roomies know that your work area is a no-go zone. Make it official: when you’re in this space, you’re at work.
You’re Working, Darn It
Be warned, you may encounter people (including children, spouses/life partners, and parents) who think that because you’re working from home, you’re not really working. Which means you may get the occasional interruption from loved ones asking you to referee a fight, make a PB&J, find a pair of missing sunglasses, fix their email issues, etc. Politely but firmly remind the folks in your life that you’re not on vacation, but are actually working. When they respect your work hours, you’re more likely to as well.
Laundry Can Wait
It’s going to be very tempting to toss in that load of laundry, clean out the refrigerator, organize your closets, alphabetize your spices — or do anythingbesides sit in front of your computer and get to work. Seemingly “productive” tasks around the home are just a guise for procrastination. So don’t let yourself get distracted by housework. The laundry, dust bunnies, and expired milk can wait until after business hours.
You’re the Boss of You
For some people, self-managing when working from home can be challenging. It takes time to learn to be your own boss, with no one there to check on your work and nudge you to meet deadlines. Here are a few tips that may help.
- Make a daily list of the work tasks you need to get done and deadlines to meet, and check them off when you complete them.
- Use a calendaring app (we like iCal) to schedule your work day and assign chunks of time to each task.
- Use apps to remind you of stuff you need to do (we like Reminders and Notes).
- Team up with a colleague who’s working from home as well to check in and keep each other accountable for completing tasks.
While working from our individual home offices, Copy & Design team members collaborate continuously. Though in-person meetings are rare (especially these days), we email, call, text, and video conference multiple times a week. So just because you’re isolating at home, you don’t have to feel isolated. Collaborative tools like Microsoft Teams and Join Me are great ways to stay connected with your co-workers and see other faces besides your own reflected in your screen.
Our first month working from home turned into an eat-everything-you-want smorgasbord. We’re talking cookie dough, peanut butter straight from the jar, cold left-over pizza, entire bags of Doritos. You name it, we put it in our pie holes. And started feeling very crappy because of it. Sugar and carb highs and lows can be murder on your productivity as well as mental health. So stock up on healthy snacks — avocados, hard-boiled eggs, beef jerky, apples, cheese sticks. Your energy levels will stay up, and your self-loathing levels low.
These are stressful times. And working from home is a big change. Give yourself permission to acknowledge this and the anxiety that can come with it. And know you’re not alone, even if sitting in your home office makes you feel like it. While you’re getting the hang of creating and sticking to your work schedule, make sure to take some time for selfcare.
Set a timer reminding you to stand and stretch every hour. Give yourself 15 minutes before you start your work day to meditate. Take an honest-to-goodness 30-minute lunch break, and unplug from devices while you enjoy your meal. Go outside a few times during the day to breathe fresh air and get some vitamin D. Work exercise into your daily routine. Lock yourself out of social media during work hours to minimize stress. Get a good night’s sleep, and take your weekends off.
After 20-plus years working from home, we can honestly say you’d have to drag us kicking and screaming back to an office environment. There’s just so much we enjoy about remote work: the autonomy, the lack of distractions, the boss-less freedom, the increased productivity, and the collaboration with other homebound independent creative professionals. If you’re not sure about this working-from-home thing, give it a month. And give yourself time to adjust. Hopefully, you’ll find these tips helpful. And on behalf of Copy & Design, welcome to the remote worker community! We’re a pretty awesome bunch, if we do say so ourselves.