For many of us, we’ve now experienced a few weeks of working from home. How’s it going? How’s your hygiene? Are you still bathing frequently? Have you found your rhythm?
Now that you’ve had your first experiences with work from home, I wanted to provide some advice on how to make it the greatest thing since sliced bread (which was first sold in 1928).
I started working from home over 15 years ago.
I was the minority. Over the years, I’ve learned a few things. You could spend thousands of dollars on multiple monitors, desks, chairs or even a major home renovation, but I want to look at the easy, cheap things you can do right now.
- Change it up: As someone who lives in a climate where it is 70 degrees one day and 24 hours later having 10 inches of new snow, nothing is more depressing than being stuck indoors on a computer when sun and warm weather arrives. My first piece of advice, change it up. Don’t stay in the same location in your house every day. If the weather is nice, go outside. Many times I have to review and provide feedback on content. I take my tablet, go outside, and read in comfort of my hammock.
- Turn it to 11: Sitting in a room by yourself is boring. You start to realize how many strange noises your body makes. Depending on what I’m doing, I turn on the tunes. If I’m doing lab work, I need something to keep me pumped and excited. 30 Seconds to Mars, Within Temptation and some Motley Crue (just can beat Kickstart my Heart). If I’m writing documentation, I need something more mellow, often opting for things like Sleepthief, Soulsavers. I spend a lot of time in PowerPoint. Time to listen to some Depeche Mode, Duran Duran, Mesh and of course Prince (I’m from Minnesota).
- Green is Good: If you have a window, get some plants. I started with a Meyer lemon tree. When the tree blooms, my office smells wonderful. Since then I expanded to include a hydroponic garden that I built with scrap wood. In addition to the lemon tree, I now grow spinach, swiss chard, lettuce, strawberries, bell peppers and more in my home.
- Laugh at the Chaos: We have busy, complex lives. On some of my calls, people have heard my kids playing (and lots of screaming), music lessons, doorbells, and tornado sirens. I’ve been on some calls where I’ve heard a toilet flush . Hysterical (thank goodness no webcams). Everyone can use a good laugh, so laugh at the chaos.
- Peanut Butter sandwiches get boring: When it comes to lunchtime (please remember to stop for lunch), you must fend for yourself. How many days in a row can you tolerate a peanut butter sandwich? Leftovers are wonderful. I cook Sunday night dinners, and I make sure there will be leftovers. If we are making homemade pizzas, I might a deep dish for my lunches. If I’m making jambalaya, I make sure there will be leftovers. If I’m smoking a pork butt, I can guarantee you there will be leftovers.
- Stop and smell the roses: I’m lucky that my job is extremely flexible. One of the reasons why I’ve been at Citrix for so long. My day is not 9-5. I’m a morning person and usually start work around 5AM. Super productive as there are minimal distractions from other coworkers. My day doesn’t end until 5PM. Yes, your math is correct. That is 12 hours. Trust me, I don’t work 12 hours. My day is broken up many times. Sometime after 8AM, I’m exercising for 30-60 minutes. If the weather is nice, I’m outside running. If the weather sucks, I’m inside doing yoga from YouTube or a P90X workout video. During lunchtime… Hello NetFlix. In the afternoon, I’m taking a walk with the wife. It doesn’t matter what you do, what matters is you do something away from your computer. Give your brain a break.
- Reach out to friends: When I started working remotely, I found myself talking to myself. Unfortunately, I would get into arguments with myself, which escalated into conflict until I beat myself up (I’m totally kidding here). Just because you work from home doesn’t mean you are alone. I have regular calls with some very good friends who I don’t get to see often. It gives us time to catch up and takes our minds off of work for a moment.
- Fortress of Solitude: You need a space. You need to have a place where you can be alone and focus for a moment. We all have critical items that must get completed and trying to do this in the kitchen with constant interruptions will make your job impossible. Find a room, close the door and let people know you are not to be disturbed unless someone broke a bone, the house is on fire, or the FBI is there to take you away. You should only use your fortress of solitude when it is absolutely needed. Don’t spend your entire day working like this because your fortress of solitude can quickly become solitary confinement.
- Fit your personality: I’ve been fascinated at all of the things people are now doing with this new work from home world. I can’t tell you how many virtual happy hour invitations I’ve seen. Sorry, but this activity is not for me. But if you enjoy it, then do it. Another activity I’ve seen is having weekly themes. People post a photo of themselves related to the theme. That one is kind of fun in that you get to see some of your coworkers personalities. For example, one theme that went around Citrix is where do you go to just get away for to remain sane. I like single track mountain biking (even in winter)
- Everything ends: Remember when I said my workday is 5AM to 5PM. The 5PM part is IMPORTANT. Your work day MUST end. This is one of the biggest challenges people have when working from home. Stopping. You must stop. The fact that you have constant access to your work doesn’t mean you must work constantly. I’ve grown into the habit that when the clock strikes 5, the computer turns off. And if you have a family, they will thank you for this.
If working from home is new, how have you adapted? Any words of advice?