Almost 20 years ago we decided to move from our downtown office and become a completely virtual company. The decision was fueled by the realization that we would benefit most by moving our servers and infrastructure from self-hosted to a data center with built in redundancy and a backup power contingency plan. It turned out to be a great decision.
However, I quickly discovered that all the “glamour and fun” of working from home could quickly turn against you. After twenty years and many mistakes I thought this might be a good time to share what I have learned with some others who may be new to the whole “work from home” scenario.
Do NOT work in your pajamas. EVER. As tempting as it may be to roll out of bed and stumble into the home office, don’t do it. You will quickly learn that your productivity can and will be affected by the way you are dressed. You don’t have to do your hair and put on a suit, but you should always be dressed as if you could go meet someone in public at any time.
Develop a Routine
It’s important to remain consistent when you are working from home. A routine will help you gain some sense of connection to normalcy. I am very regimented (a carry-over from the military) and like to start at the same time, take a scheduled lunch and end the day at the same time. Don’t be a slave to this since we cannot control when things pop-up or go wrong, but your routine helps your co-workers know when you are and are not available.
Suggestion: Start your day by getting outside of the home office. Go for coffee or for a walk before you sit down ready for the morning to begin.
Have a Plan
For the day, week, month, year. I like to start with the year and focus inward, figuring out what steps the big goal can be broken into in order to make it achievable and successful.
Follow a Schedule
Not just for the day but for your week. Things are going to happen which were unexpected BUT you won’t know how far off schedule you are for the day if you didn’t already have something planned out for the time that was taken by the impromptu meeting request from another worker or department. It is critical that you set a start and stop time for each day. Not doing this will cause you to either lose sight of your accountability or fail to wrap things up for the day and let work pour over into the late hours.
Suggestion: Set up your home office in a dedicated room. This should not be a shared place like a bedroom, dining room or kitchen (the later mostly for your weight and health). When you finish working for the day, turn off the light and close the door. This will help prevent you from just sneaking in a few more minutes of work during the evening.
Make sure that you are keeping track of the tasks that you have to complete and the ones which you have completed. You may ask someone to help keep you accountable. It could be with a simple wrap-up call at the end of the week or a short description of what you worked on for the day with your spouse or co-worker.
This is a lot harder than it sounds. It doesn’t mean going on YouTube and watching cat videos (the day will get away from you). But do things to help keep you connected. Use chat to check in with a co-worker. Schedule a call to brainstorm with a co-worker. Find a funny meme to share (keep it appropriate). I like to message a funny saying or meme to my business partner when I feel like I am getting too isolated.
Take a Break
Make sure that you get up from your desk once per hour just for a minute or two. You can do something simple like stand and stretch or you can get a standing desk that helps you get out of your chair. If you keep a cup of water at your desk and drink from it you will be forced to get up once per hour, either to fill it up or… well, you know.
Don't Skip Lunch
Don’t eat at your desk. As tempting as this is, it is bad for your health, both physically and mentally. Go into the kitchen, eat without distraction (no phone, no computer) and go for a walk if you are able. You can watch a few minutes of the news if it doesn’t cause you anxiety but be careful not to get sucked into a television show.
Suggestion: Set a timer for your lunch break, be sure to return to work when the timer ends.
Talk to Someone
Make sure you are speaking with someone each day. This one works in conjunction with all the others. It should be part of your routine and help you with your accountability. Run one zoom or FaceTime meeting to help you remain connected with others in your workplace.
Suggestion: Get a headset for your office phone.
That’s it for now. I am sure there are many other things that I’ve forgotten to mention so perhaps I will revisit this post once some time passes. Till then stay safe and work smart!