As of late, we are all working from home! And for some it’s paradise, while for others it can pose concentration and productivity challenges. I am in the pre-global pandemic work from home camp. I started working from home in 2018 — and have never looked back. So, before we dive in I wanted to clarify WHY I decided to dabble in working from home. Before “going remote” I held a number of positions throughout various industries. From a tech start-up to non-profits, I’ve had my fair share of traditional office jobs. There are aspects of working in an office that you can’t replicate at home such as: co-worker interactions, in-person client meetings and simply learning from how others work. Those aspects, I DO miss every once and awhile. But for me, the flexible schedule is my driving factor in working from home. Something I don’t share about all that often is that my husband also serves in the military. With that comes a very inconsistent schedule — that I simply need flexibility to best serve our family. So with that said, here are 10 tips that I want to offer to work from home and do so productively!
I spend the majority of my day in a space that probably totals 20 square feet. My desk nook is one of my favorite places to be however! Your work space doesn’t have to be big but it needs to be more than your kitchen table. Having a designated work space (coined my “desk nook”) enables me to effectively start and end my workday easily. I shut my computer down and remove myself from my desk when I am done for the day. The space also keeps me organized and removes all distractions as its purpose is cut and dry — it’s meant for work only.
I try to start and end my workday at the same time every day. I am usually pretty good at starting around 7:45am, taking an hour lunch (& quick walk with the dogs), hopping off by 5:30m pm or so. I try to keep it as normal as possible. But if I am done with my work, I never restrict myself to sit at my desk when I don’t need to. Sometimes I have to remind myself that the reason I work from home is to be able to run the dogs to the groomer during the week so I don’t have to do it on the weekend. Flexibility when working from home is a huge PLUS. And I use it wisely and if my to-do is done, I run out and take care of my errands so I can enjoy my weekends more.
Setting clear work hours will structure the work day and help you separate your work hours from play hours. Since there’s no real separation (such as a commute), you have to manually build in that essential separation to remain productive.
Since client relationships are totally virtual, I never want them to wonder where I am! Instead I remain in consistent communication and/or follow up, daily. This can be a simple as circling back around on emails from the previous day or sending a checklist of what I am working on so they know I am on track. Also, I don’t wait for them to email me. Rather, I continue to work on my list but check in as I go. I know they’ll get back to me when they can. But when that time comes, I make sure my part is complete so I just wait on tweaks or updates to gain approval.
Because your boss (or clients) can’t see you working, it’s essential to ensure them that you are! You want to be out of sight but never out of mind.
As mentioned, I take a lunch every single day. This usually entails me minimizing my browser, making lunch, and sitting outside on our back patio. I let the dogs out with me, leave my phone inside and mentally recharge before finishing out the afternoon. This mini-break, usually about 30 minutes to an hour — is one of my favorite parts of the day.
For you, this may look like running to Starbucks, meeting a friend from small group or simply going for a 15-minute stroll outdoors. No matter what, I recommend getting up from your workspace to recharge. It helps me significantly throughout the day as I no longer have co-worker conversations to break up my workday.
Music powers my day, literally. I have Spotify going all. day. long. It keeps me energized and motivated. I personally love music so it’s such a treat to play my own music all day. I highly recommend curating a workflow playlist that encourages creativity and productivity for you! It will keep your mind keyed into your work and helps drown out distracting sounds (for me that’s usually Tiger, my yorkie, barking).
Keep a notebook to create to-do lists, a planner to keep deadlines organized and scheduling tools (see more on that below) to maintain functionality day in and day out. I’ve always been a list maker and planner person but this may look different for you! However you stay organized, or did in an office setting, should be reflected in your work from home set up.
There are countless tech tools to help keep files organized online. I personally utilize Gmail, Google Drive, Slack, Asana, Dubsado, and Planoly to stay on track. In the past, I’ve used Trello and Dropbox as well. They’re all great tools that offer an array of perks! The type of work you’re doing from home will determine what tools you need to focus on.
Side note, I wear these blue light blocking glasses during the day since I stare at a computer screen all. day. I love them! I joked with my mom that they’re the best $20 I’ve spent. I don’t wear prescription glasses but I feel like my eyes get tired staring into a fluorescent screen all day. They have some higher end options for these glasses but I snagged a pair off of Amazon and they work just fine if you want to try a pair!
In an attempt to get out of the house every once and awhile, I will attend a networking event. There is a Young Professional group in our community and me and my friend Jamie (of JamieKamber.com) will usually attend together. She also works from home full-time so we like to connect in this way with other young professionals in our community.
More than likely, there is a networking group similar to this in your area as well. These types of events are helpful as they’re a way to learn, meet new people and simply break up the daily work from home grind.
As I mentioned, a flexible schedule was the #1 driving factor for me seeking out a work from home opportunity. Although I’ve always been highly self-motivated, this flexible work environment has allowed me to enjoy the sometimes random off days, throw in a load of laundry mid-day, or cook a quick dinner — and that always makes me so happy (it’s the little things)! It takes discipline to complete your work outside of a traditional work environment, but once figured out, it’s truly a gift. And while we are all sure this pandemic has given us a touch time, I think the adaptation to working from home is something we will all look back be extremely grateful for.
There you have it! My 10 tips to working from home and remaining productive during COVID, and post-COVID, too! If you have any questions about my experience or how to find work from home opportunities if you’ve been recently furloughed or laid off, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d be happy to help!