Working from Home? Here’s Expert Advice

For all of those that find themselves shifting from a work-at-office to a work-at-home scenario, this may be worth the read.

First off, this will be an extreme shift for most. Be kind and patient with yourself, and when in doubt, take a moment to step away and breathe. I have worked from home for 8 years. It’s not all roses and sunshine, but if you are disciplined and consistent, it can be pretty great.

Here are some pieces of advice based on my experience:

  1. Create a space that is work only. I have an office, but if it is just a corner of a table – designate some spot that is work only. This makes it easier to mentally separate work from home. Ideally – it is quiet, but I know that is not always feasible, so do the best you can.
  2. Make sure your space is clean and de-cluttered. This also helps mentally. I clean out my office every week with a “10-minute tidy” to help keep it clean and clear.
  3. Treat working at home as you would working at the office. This means setting office hours (this has been a challenge for me – even after 8 years). I am lucky because I can sometimes start work at 5:30 or 6:00 am and get a few hours in when the house is quiet. If you have that flexibility, try it. It will make you feel better when you step away for one reason or another later in the day. When you are finished for the day, be finished. If there are others in your household, they will appreciate your undivided attention. If there is no one else in your household, you will appreciate your undivided attention.
  4. Along with 3, when you get up every day, get showered and dressed as you would if you were going out to work. This may seem basic but trust me, you will find yourself in yoga pants and a sweatshirt for two days and it will not help your mental state.
  5. Take a few minutes in the morning to mentally prepare for the day. Have a coffee or tea at the kitchen table. Check the news (or read an interesting article that sparks your interest). Then think and focus on what you want to accomplish that day. I plot out my calendar with blocks of time for items that I have on my to-do list. If you have kids that will be at home, structure your calendar in the same way – giving yourself some time with them in the morning, afternoon, and evening. More on that later.
  6. Get up and MOVE every hour, even if it is taking a trip down to the basement and back up. Sitting in one spot for hours is virtually impossible for me. I am lucky enough to have a standing desk but I also pace, go outside, and run up and down the stairs. I also have a dog, and I walk him 2 to 3 times a day. Whatever you can do to move, move.
  7. Now, if you have kids that are home (I have one) you will wonder how you will be able to do this. It is hard, stressful, and you will feel conflicted between being able to work and be a good parent. Let’s face it – I am a little envious of those who are able to just be at home with their kids sans work, but the reality is reality! I am a single parent – so it’s just him and I (and our dog) at home. Your child may end up playing video games for a few hours. While that is not ideal, don’t beat yourself up too much about it. When you are able, give your child age-appropriate tasks or have them do projects that may take an hour to complete, to give you both time to feel productive. Teach them to be respectful of the fact that you are working. They will interrupt you from time to time, and they will be kids, so a little patience and consistent training and responses like: “Awesome, we will talk about that at lunch!” or “I can’t wait to hear about that more at dinner!”, and then remembering to bring up that specific thing at that time will make a difference. I am starting my child on chapter books and assigning chores that should take some time to complete. You will feel like a ping pong ball. This is normal. Referencing 3 above, if your child can expect undivided attention after work then they should eventually fall into that schedule and count on it – that is why it is important to be disciplined and structured with the time.
  8. If you have never worked from home, there may be set up on your computer that has to be done. You will feel like everything is different. Your desktop at home is not your desktop at work. This can be a major challenge for some people depending on the computer skill level. Just take some time and a deep breath. If your company has an IT department – reach out, but remember to please be kind and mindful that they are trying their best to help and that they may be overwhelmed alongside you.

I have been assisting people with the shift to work-from-home for about a week. I hear the frustration and uneasiness in your voice, and I am doing whatever I can to help. Having you succeed and feel comfortable with technology is WHY I DO WHAT I DO. We are all in this (whatever it is) together. Let’s succeed together.

Good luck – and reach out to me if you have any questions, need help, or just need someone to chat with!