Staying Focused (And Sane) While Working From Home
Updated: Mar 19
We are living in some crazy times. With all the mitigation being done to lessen the spread of the novel coronavirus, many businesses are now forcing their employees to work from home if they can. It's a struggle getting used to if you've never done it before.
As someone who has worked from home for the last few years, I thought I'd offer some insight and tips on how to do this successfully.
Normally, one of the biggest benefits of working from home is the flexibility of your schedule. In some cases, you aren't beholden to a particular set of hours. You can take time for medical appointments or get little Suzy to soccer practice when you need to. For those reasons alone, I love it. I also find that I can be more productive at times because I'm not getting interrupted by all the normal office/workplace things.
It is a double-edged sword, however.
One, if you do your remote work from home, you never leave work. When most people get off work, they are able to escape and relax in the confines of their homes. As a remote worker, you're always there. Instead of wanting nothing more than to be home, you just want to get out of the house. Which may conflict with everyone else in the home. Which now leads me to...
Limited social activity. No more face to face chit-chat around the watercooler or coffee machine. Now you are relegated to socializing over Slack or Microsoft Teams, or the occasional phone call and text message. After a while, it can be very isolating and lonely.
The other thing is, you'll have to learn to do a lot of work on the go, so you're always connected and reacting at a moment's notice. Unless you are able to set standard hours, you are almost always on-call.
While you have the flexibility to move your schedule around, those are all distractions. Then having to contend with kids or pets at home as well. Some of you might be tempted to never get out of your PJs and nothing could be worse for your mental health.
Here are some tips on how to successfully work from home.
Make a schedule if you aren't given one.
You might be tempted, but don't lay in bed with your laptop and sit in your PJ's all day. Get up, take a shower, and get dressed just like you would if you were going into work. This is imperative for your mental health. If you are in pajamas, you'll just be stuck in chill mode and will have a tough time staying zeroed in your tasks. You're brain subconsciously associates things with activities. This is also a big reason why it is NOT a good idea to set up an office in your bedroom. That's a place for sleeping (and other activities).
Schedule phone calls with people you need to talk to on a regular basis.
This way you'll limit random distractions from clients or employers. The last thing you want is for the phone to keep ringing randomly and interrupting you.
Turn your phone or notifications off after certain hours.
Unless your employer or client needs to have you available 24/7, there is generally nothing so important that it can't wait until morning to address. Make sure you let them know you'll be unavailable during those times though!
Also, stay off of social media unless that's actually part of your job. You probably already know this, but it's really easy to get sucked in and waste time there watching videos of cats or people fighting over toilet paper at your neighborhood Costco. Sigh. If you need, there are some great Chrome extensions like that allow you to blacklist certain websites while you work. Check them out on the Chrome Web Store or search on your browser's extension store.
This one might be a bit tougher to do these days, especially if you find yourself in quarantine or mandatory self-isolation. Normally I'd recommend going to a coffee shop or head over and use one of those co-working offices, or even hitting up trade events and remote worker luncheons in your area. Since there's a good chance you might not be getting out of the house much these days, there are many groups that I've seen setting up virtual events. If you can't find one, organize one on Zoom, Skype, or whatever your preferred video
Make time for yourself
While some may find this hard to believe, it's really easy to end up working more than usual. I tell you this as I sit here eating my lunch, being the hypocrite that I am.
Jokes aside, take breaks throughout the day. Go for a walk. Get some fresh air. Excercise. Do a puzzle. Whatever it is you need to do to give yourself a mental break.
Communicate with your family
I can't stress this enough. Make sure your significant other, kids, roommates, and pets understand that during certain times are your work hours and you aren't to be disturbed. I know, I know - easier said than done. My dogs don't care what I'm doing either. To them, it's always playtime.
Do you have some good tips on how to maintain a good work-from-home work/life balance? Share it below or hit us up on social media wherever we've linked this.
Joe is the Head of Audience insights for Jam Street Media, a podcast production company based in Los Angeles. Find him on all the social media places at @joestonemedia or you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.