Zen & The Art of Working from Home
Since I moved to the Netherlands about 3 years ago, I have been working almost entirely from home. The first few weeks (months?) of working from home took some adjustment, and I have figured out some things that work well for me to stay productive, find a good balance between my work and my home life, and to stay healthy.
With the collective efforts to #FlattenTheCurve & manage the spread of the coronavirus, this is the first time that many people have really had to work from home for an extended period of time. I thought I'd share what works for me in hopes that it helps some of you.
Wake up and get ready for work
Act as if you’re going into the office. The first thing most people do when they start working from home is wake up and just open their laptop in their PJs - no shower, no breakfast.
Instead, get up, take a shower, and do your whole routine as if you’re going outside. Put on your work shoes and get dressed up for work.
If you have a sunny area of your house, a backyard, a balcony, or a window that gets a lot of morning light, this is a good time to sit in that area and enjoy your coffee/tea/breakfast. Get yourself some much-needed vitamin D to start the day. No work emails, no work messages, just enjoy the morning.
These little self-care rituals do a lot for our mood, our health, and to help us stay focused. It also helps create a separation between work and home.
Find a comfortable, dedicated place to work
If it’s at all possible, get yourself a desk, office chair, and monitor. Invest a little bit in making your workspace ergonomic and pleasant. Try to make this a dedicated area that you only go to when you are working. Although your bed is comfortable, it isn’t a dedicated area for working.
Start the day by making a to-do list
Identify all the things you need to get done that day. Create a schedule for yourself.
Set a timer for dedicated focused, working times
You know for yourself how long you can focus on one thing without a break. For me, 1-3 hours is usually good, depending on how I’m feeling and what I need to work on. Parents of young children might need to set smaller time intervals. Set a timer and get in the zone. Close the door, put on music if that helps, and, if you have kids, duct tape them to the floor (joking - VI Technologies does not condone child abuse).
I don't have kids, but my coworkers who do tell me that it helps to create a schedule for the kids and stick to it. Schedule time to do something together with them like go for a walk (if it is safe/allowed to leave the house) or play a game. The schedule will help them know when you will have time for them.
Go to the “break room” and get a little social interaction
Leave your workspace. Now is not working time, it’s break time. Get up and leave the physical space you work in. Go to the kitchen and make yourself some tea and/or a healthy snack. Call your friends. Message your co-workers. Bonus points if you can do this in a sunny spot.
Use your breaks to stretch
Even if it’s just spending 20 seconds stretching up to the ceiling.
Try to get a little bit of exercise and sunshine at lunch
I hesitate to say go for a walk, because it isn’t necessarily safe for everyone to leave the house right now, but If you have a backyard you can walk around, or hit the home gym, or do a yoga YouTube video from your balcony or a sunny window, lunch is a great time to do that.
Be disciplined about avoiding distractions & time black holes
That means avoiding the TV, Netflix, video games, etc. I have a rule where I don’t even go to the living room during my workday.
But also, be forgiving
Don’t beat yourself up if you are having trouble focusing the way you normally can. These are stressful times, and you might have a lot on your mind - worrying about your health or that of your loved ones, or about the economy or your business’s financial health. That’s perfectly understandable, normal, and OK.
Create dedicated times to look at the news and/or to worry
If you find yourself spending a lot of time worrying about things or looking at the news and it’s distracting you, give yourself a specific time to do that. Take 30 minutes in the evening where you can look at the news and you can worry about whatever it is that is stressing you out. When those thoughts creep into your mind outside that 30-minute time slot, remind yourself that you will have plenty of time to think about that this evening and then let the thought go. Knowing that you will have time to worry about it later will enable you to focus better when it isn’t worrying time.
Use Slack/Teams/etc to stay connected with your coworkers
These apps are really useful to keep the team communicating about what they are working on and to maintain the personal relationships while you can’t see each other.
But don’t let helping your coworkers keep you from doing your work
If you are finding yourself losing productivity because you are responding to your coworkers all day long or helping them with what they’re doing, block off your dedicated working time in your calendar and don’t respond to messages during that time. They will be OK without you for a couple of hours, I promise.
When your 8-hour workday is done, it is done
Leave the workspace. Turn off your work laptop. No work email notifications on your phone. You are done working. Go to another room and do you!
I hope you found these tips helpful, and that you and your loved ones are staying safe and healthy during all of this. If you have any tips or things you have found helpful, please comment below. I’d love to see what you all are doing right now to stay healthy and keep the work-life balance!