Personally, I love working remotely. Before our working lives collectively changed as a result of COVID-19, I was working from home at least once a week and sometimes more. And I loved it. But — I’m also single, I live alone, and I’m childless (other than my fur baby). So for me, WFH means I get to hang with my dog all day, tackle some chores and work outs in between emails and meetings, and end up so much more energized and mentally prepped for the day when I can use my time in the morning on things other than commuting.
But there are definitely some strong do’s and don’ts for how I effectively WFH, and now that this has been declared (for many) a lifestyle rather than a luxury here’s my best advice to you. The distinction between when work begins and ends is probably the most important marker in this change to your routine. Be sure to set yourself up with some routines to book end your work day to mark that start and end, and keep you focused in between.
Here are my best tips to help give you that structure – especially when one day blends into the next.
Keep up with your morning routine.
Get out of bed on time. Don’t sleep in until it’s time to roll out of bed for your first morning meeting. Do whatever your regular morning routine is to try to keep the semblance of “normal” as best you can. I still get up at my usual time, shower and follow my skincare routine every morning. This gives me a sense of “start” to my day. Also change out of your PJs, even if you’re just changing into sweats. I promise you’ll be more productive for it. I usually follow this up with a dog walk before settling in for coffee and breakfast before our 9am video scrum.
Set yourself up comfortably.
Choose a work station where you can be comfortable but also productive – if you have a dining table, use it. Set up a pretty work station with some décor items to make the space feel more inspiring. Whatever you do, don’t work from your bed. Separate your work space from your relaxation space as best you can. Personally, I prefer alternating working from my dining table and my couch, as I find without the proper ergonomic set-up if I am not switching things up frequently enough my back and shoulders really feel it. When working from the couch, I do so seated (with a pillow behind my back and under my laptop for support) and I avoid turning on the TV, laying down or getting too cozy. Don’t confuse work time with nap time.
Block your time out.
It’s easy for the days to pass before you realize you’ve a) not gotten up from your seat all day, or b) have finished barely a task. If your day can be set up as such, block out your time as best you can. Figure out your top 3-5 to-dos for the day, how much time you need for each, and then block that time in your calendar. Try to limit how frequently you check your email, as that will easily suck you out of productivity mode and into reaction mode. Schedule any breaks (including lunch) into your calendar with a reminder too, to make sure you stick to them.
Chances are you’re entitled to a one-hour lunch break, and I cannot stress this enough – take it! Make yourself a delicious lunch that you otherwise wouldn’t if you were at the office; I often make breakfast for lunch because that’s something I’d never be able to pull off at the office. Whatever you do, don’t just snack all day without ever leaving your work station and call it a meal. Take a walk. Play with your dog. Do something that gets you away from the computer for a bit; fresh air works wonders for coming back from lunch feeling re-energized. Other than lunch, make sure you’re getting up and changing your scenery every so often. Go check the mail, step outside for a few minutes of fresh air, walk to the kitchen to fill your glass of water, stretch out in a few yoga poses, walk your dog (but stay 6ft from anyone you come across). These little mini breaks throughout the day will keep your body and mind feeling sharp.
Nothing can feel more isolating than, well, isolation, so make sure you work social interactions into your work day. Have some of your meetings on video chat, keep up Friday happy hour with your colleagues via Zoom, check in on each other on IM to talk about non work-related things. Try to maintain a sense of normalcy and the social interaction that you’d otherwise have if you were sitting across the desk from one another.
Mark the end of your day.
It’s just as important to mark the end of your day as it is the start of your day. Before you sign off, say goodnight to your colleagues on Slack/IM. This virtual goodbye gives the same sense of closure as saying goodbye when you all leave the office. Put your computer away and out of sight. Even though I’m on my phone in the evenings, I try to stay off my computer because, for me, computer equates to “work”. I immediately light a candle and go hang out in another room for a bit, as a way to physically distance myself from my work day/environment. These little things can help create a ritual that signals your day has transitioned from work to play.