Many of us are new to working from home as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. And the realities of our current environment can make remote work uniquely challenging—even for those of us who have worked from home before.
Recently, a colleague joked that they feel it’s not “working from home” anymore, but rather “living at work.”
Although I had already been working from home before the COVID-19 outbreak and had found my groove, everything felt different when everyone else started working from home, too.
In the marketing sphere (and I’d imagine elsewhere as well), our teammates—and sometimes our clients—have been much more “on” than they used to be. The boundaries between leisure time and work time have become blurred.
We created this quick guide to help you redefine those boundaries and reclaim your time.
1. Separate work space from home space.
One of the most challenging parts of working at home is how easily we can blur the line between spaces meant for relaxation and spaces meant for work.
As enticing as it seems, avoid working from your bed in your pajamas. It may be fun on the first day, but associating your sleep location with work won’t serve you well long-term.
Designate a specific area to function as your home office, and don’t engage in other activities in that space. In the morning, when you go on your ‘commute’ to your office, you will leave the parts of your home you associate with family and relaxation and go to your workspace.
Make Your Workspace Work
Your workspace should be organized and inviting. If you used to have pictures of your family on your desk at the office, add them to your home workspace. Outfit your space with everything you need to be productive, including a second phone charger, a printer, and all of your workday essentials. These small touches will help your workspace feel more like the cubicle or office you were accustomed to.
Working from the kitchen table and getting up every 5 minutes to grab things you need will hurt your productivity and workflow.
2. Take vacations (even just to your back yard).
Yes, you should use your vacation time. Whether you’re traveling in the new normal or relaxing in your backyard, vacation time is key to mental health. If you’re new to staycationing, try this ultimate guide from Travel and Leisure.
No matter how you choose to spend your vacation time, be sure to block it out on your calendar, let people know you’re unavailable, and set up an out-of-office message like you usually would.
3. Define and communicate your work hours.
It’s easy to get sucked into the trap of working all the time. After all, you’re home and your computer is home—shouldn’t you be working all the time?
Set normal working hours to avoid the burnout that can happen when adapting to work from home. If your workplace is flexible, you might be able to tweak your hours to fit the times when you are most productive. If you decide to start your workday at 6 am, then you should adhere to a firm stop time. Otherwise, you’ll quickly find yourself working 12+ hours a day.
Communicate your work hours to your coworkers and stick to them!
4. Create a routine to mark the start and end of the workday.
Before working at home, you likely had some kind of transition between home and work. Maybe you stopped by Starbucks for a morning coffee on the way to work and listened to a podcast on the way home to wind down.
You should have this same transition time at home.
Maybe start your days with a masked-up trip to the Starbucks drive-through. Or invest in a good coffee setup at home (if you don’t have one already) and enjoy a cup before kicking off your day.
At the end of the day, try going for a drive with that favorite podcast to help your brain transition away from work. The transition between work and home is important, and it’s often easier if you leave the house and come back with your “home” attitude. Go outside for a run or a bike ride and leave all the work baggage at the door when you get back.
5. Make time for watercooler chats.
Socializing with your coworkers is not a waste of time. One of the hardest things with the work from home transition is losing access to the drop-by social call. These conversations help us feel connected and can support productivity.
Check in with your coworkers to see how they’re doing. Chat about the weekend, share your funniest work from home moments, and catch up on each other’s lives and families. These conversations will help you feel more normal and build important relationships with your team.
6. Remember to take a lunch break every day.
Raise your hand if you’ve sat at a computer for 10+ hours with nothing but coffee and a protein bar. Come on, you know you’ve done it.
Don’t schedule back-to-back meetings with no break. You need breaks, whether that’s a walk, a lunch break that doesn’t happen at your desk, or just some quality time with your dog.
These breaks are important to the flow of your workday. Block them out on your calendar if you need to, but do take them.
7. Create a daily routine and stick to it.
We’ve all heard how important routines are. To no one’s surprise, they’re even more important when you work from home.
These work-from-home routines are new, and some of us are still trying to get the hang of them. And to those of us with kids, routines seem like a myth (I feel you).
But I encourage you to do your best to establish a general flow to your day—the way you used to when you went to an office. This will help you feel organized and in control. Some days won’t go the way you plan, and that’s okay! Get back up, brush yourself off, and get back on track the next day.
Stay safe, take breaks, and keep at it, friends. We’re in this with you.