Well, this is a blog post I never thought I’d have to write.
Every morning I wake up to the same realization – we’re in the middle of a pandemic.
How surreal is it to say that out loud?
We’re living through a major historical event as it unfolds.
But this virus is scary shit – there’s no two ways about it.
So scary that many businesses have encouraged employees to work from home.
Working from home every Friday or Monday is a treat most of you enjoyed because it made the working week feel shorter.
There’s nothing better than getting up, commuting from the bedroom to the kitchen table “office” and logging in over VPN.
Then maybe login to Netflix to catch up on binges while checking your email.
Relax – we’ve all done that.
Every boss knows it happens…because your boss did it too.
But for many of you, this is your first time having to lock yourself inside your home while simultaneously trying to turn it into an actual office.
This makes the “treat” of working remotely a nightmarish chore.
So, I thought it might be helpful to put together a quick guide for anyone who is struggling to get this whole “Work from home” thing working for them.
Use a dedicated space
As tempting as it might be to balance your laptop on your knees while sitting on your favorite chair, I’d advise against it.
It’s a nice idea but really, really impractical.
You need to carve out a tiny corner of your house or apartment as a dedicated “office space”.
That might seem like me trying to take the joy out of working from wherever you feel like, but you’ll feel more centered if you can simply walk up to your desk, sit down and get to work.
Otherwise you’re going to spend the first 30 minutes of each day dithering about where to set up, and then God help you if your partner/housemate chooses the same location.
Create a routine
Your first few days of working remotely will probably be a little bit free-form, especially if your employer offers flexible hours.
But do yourself a massive favour by creating a routine/schedule for your day.
Your routine should focus on how you carve up your day for work, but more importantly, creating time where you’re not stuck at home.
Now, I know that certain countries are fully locked down, so opportunities to leave your home are limited to shopping and medical needs.
But in as much as you can find a way to get out of the house either right before you start or right after you finish work for the day.
The reason for doing this is that it allows you to build a mental barrier between work and home i.e. you “arrive in work” at the start of the day and then “leave work” at the end of it.
Just do your very best to even just walk around the block at the start of end of each day.
It does help.
It’s all too easy to lose track of an entire day when you’re busily working away at home.
That’s because you won’t have anyone emailing you to sneak out to an early lunch, or reminding you that you forgot your coffee break.
So take regular breaks during your day, and spend them away from your computer.
Sit in your back yard or on your balcony, but don’t eat where you work, especially in your own home.
You’ll grow to resent everything about working remotely very quickly if you do.
Everyone has the same basic plan when they’re told they’ll be working at home – catch up on their favorite movies or TV shows.
Two seasons behind on The Walking Dead?
Cool, you can catch up now, right?
You’ll be so distracted by the movie that you can’t focus on work, or so distracted by work that you can’t focus on the movie.
Hint: I’ve already put together a pretty exhaustive blog post on how to cut down on distractions in a home office environment.
Set a “closing time”
In a regular office environment you will receive a number of visual or audio cues that the working day is done i.e. all your colleagues heading home for the day.
You don’t have that when working in your PJ’s and that favourite tattered t-shirt of yours, and that leaves you open to experiencing Parkinson’s Law.
This law basically states, “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”
Translated into layman’s English that simply means if you say you’ll work 12 hours (but really only need 8) then you’ll find a way to fill up all twelve of those hours with “work”.
And you’ll find yourself capable of doing that every day.
Suddenly, you’re still staring at your laptop at 9pm when you should have finished your day at 6pm…but you’re not sure how you got to that point.
That’s why you need to pick a “closing time” for your office and stick to it like glue.
We have a lot of difficult days ahead of us thanks to this virus, but to those of you working remotely, cut yourself some slack too.
Nobody could have foreseen or planned for something on this scale happening so quickly.
So if you find yourself struggling to get into a routine, or get your work completed as normal, that’s fine too.
You do what you can, but if you need time to grab a coffee and just stare the sunrise or sunset, then that’s valuable too.
Hopefully some of what I shared above helps you.
If so, let me know with a comment – I do actually read them!