“We have to remember what’s important in life: friends, waffles, and work. Or waffles, friends, work. But work has to come third.” – Leslie Knope, Parks & Recreation
After a hiatus from the blog, during which I prepared and sat for the Vermont bar exam (as fun as it sounds), I am excited to be writing again on Joie de Vivre. I never imagined, however, that my first post of 2020 would be under the shadow of the global coronavirus pandemic and that many would be adjusting to the “new normal” of working from home, among other things.
I love to work from home. I live to work from home. Home is where I am most comfortable and productive, where I thrive. I’ve spent the better part of the last five years making a career right from here, from running a yoga business from a Chicago condo, making forays into the city to teach at yoga studios, corporate offices, and private residences; to pursuing doctoral coursework and research in Milwaukee, spending half my time on campus and half at home; to studying for the Vermont bar exam from the cozy confines of a townhome office.
Mon Mari, a seasoned home-office worker himself, started working from home again last Monday. Feedback regarding the adjustment from our co-workers and peers around the world is mixed and people are struggling. Because I’ve also seen lots of articles, posts, and comments on how to work from home, today’s post contains the top tips from two veteran (and inveterate) workers-from-home: routine, boundaries, and communication.
Stick to a Routine
I cannot stress this enough: Have a routine. A daily schedule. A plan. Everything about your day, from home to work to home again, will function and flow better if you have a routine.
Some things you can try:
- Try to start and end work at the same time every day, meetings permitting.
- Schedule breaks, just like at the office. You still need to go to the bathroom, make a fresh cup of tea or coffee, or stretch your legs. Do not let yourself hunker down in the recliner with your laptop and puppy and forget to get up and move (I may be speaking from experience).
- Have a proper lunch hour, during which time you actually step away from your desk (no more dining al desko!). Take a walk outside or schedule a phone date or virtual lunch with a friend or family member. Working from home can be quiet and lonely, so staying connected with others is even more important.
- Create daily moments for checking emails, returning phone calls, and working on your calendar. A check-in at the beginning and end of the workday helps keep you connected to colleagues and on top of tasks.
- Initiate an end-of-workday ritual. Now that Mon Mari and I are home all the time, we congregate at the end of the day to catch up and transition to evening. For now, we walk Le Chien and then watch and episode of The Simpsons with a Vermont beer.
Again, I must emphasize: Have. A. Routine.
One way your new routine will succeed is if you establish boundaries, both physical and mental. Home is home and work is work, but it is sometimes tough enough to leave work at work when you can actually leave the office and commute home.
That commute, whether five minutes or an hour, is much-needed space: Space to relax, to blow off steam, to zone out. Space that sends signals your mind and body that the day has changed and it is time to move on. When the commute goes away, boundaries can blur, and home and work can start to merge into a messy blob (le sigh).
Some things you can try:
- Create an office space in the home as best you can. A folding table becomes a desk in the corner of the dining room; a guest room converts to a home office; the basement is no longer just for laundry and decorations.
- Once you go to work, stay at work. Resist the temptation to start laundry or flip on television or rummage through the pantry. Focus on your work tasks and transition to home activities during your normal “at home” time before and after work.
- Once you go home for the day, go home. Shut the door on the new guest-room office or cover the makeshift desk in the corner of the dining room. Resist the temptation
- Make the most of the time you get back from commuting. Those minutes or possibly hours in the morning and evening are free time for you, not work. Remember, work is third!
- Don’t think you should be working more just because you are working form home. It’s still real work (a fact which I myself did not truly believe until just recently). Put a hard stop on the end of your workday and move on.
Like establishing a routine, establishing boundaries is critical for work-from-home success. The last thing you want is to feel like you’re working all the time, since your new office is so convenient, or, conversely, that you can’t get anything done because the pull of home is too strong.
Communicate with Co-Workers – and Yourself
Communicating with co-workers will necessarily change as people shift to working from home. Gone are the quick side conversations, lunch breaks that invariably cover work-related topics, and good, old-fashioned human contact. You may also find you need to check in with yourself either more or in a different way to make sure you’re on track. To keep momentum and manage expectations, make sure you stay in touch with your work people.
Some things you can try:
- Consider video calls for meetings. Seeing your colleagues will help people stay connected. Communication is not just verbal but visual; being able to read facial expressions and other body language increases its effectiveness.
- If your office uses integrated calendar software, update and check in frequently so folks know what you’re up to and vice-versa.
- Despite social distancing, make it social. For example, I recently scheduled a WhatsApp video call with an old colleague who works in Rotterdam. Mon Mari has a virtual happy hour with his team this Wednesday from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m.
As I am at a loss with how to cope with the overwhelming changes and fears wrought by coronavirus, I hope these tips can help you transition and adjust. Since I am staying home as much as possible, writing is all I feel like I can offer right now.
How have you adjusted to working from home?
Merci for reading and please subscribe and share!