Some people achieve working from home, and others have working from home thrust upon them. If you fall into the latter category just now, and we are here to help you navigate working from home for the first time. You have likely puzzled out some difficulties and figured your way through some conundrums, but we can help you smooth out the last rough spots and maximize your comfort as well as your productivity.
You’re not likely a “remote worker” enjoying time at the library or coffee shop, but truly at home all the time. This detail presents its own specific set of challenges and conveniences. Let us help you draw the mental and physical lines between work and home that will allow you to overcome the challenges and lean into the conveniences that make your work days as effective as possible!
Get dressed! Whatever you would do to go to the office, complete at least 75% of those personal tasks. It’s fine to skip the odd shampoo or shave, but take a shower and get dressed in something other than PJ bottoms—and believe me, we at Lands’ End are very into our extremely cozy PJ bottoms! Leggings and a pretty women’s tunic top , or joggers and an attractive Henley are fine for your Zoom meetings; you can enjoy perfect comfort and feel put together and ready to face a real workday.
Consider adopting a transition ritual of some kind. Make your coffee, take care of your pet, and then do whatever you need to do to mentally separate home life from work life. What makes the work day begin? Is it entering your dedicated workspace (more on that later) or turning on your phone headset? Some people take this to the extreme! I once read a story about a man who “commutes” each day by sitting on his staircase listening to the radio and reading the news for precisely ten minutes. That is his “commuting time” when he symbolically travels to work. It seems excessive to me, but it’s what he needs to be his most effective at work. You decide what does the trick for you.
Most people make the mistake of winging it when it comes to their home workspace. They assume the sofa and a laptop are all they need to keep working at 100 percent. Sadly, this is not the case, and while I can attest to this personally, efficiency experts all agree on this point across the board. In order to do your best work effectively and with the least frustration possible, you need a home office. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be a whole room! As convenient as that might be, unless you selected your home with a view to working remotely full time, there probably is no whole room allocated as an office space. With a bit of creativity and re-arranging, you can squeeze a comfortable work space into almost every home.
Is there a seldom or lightly-used area of your home that you could claim? A guest bedroom, formal dining room or finished basement are all good candidates for this kind of home office! You’ll be out of the main traffic areas of your home so you can have a little privacy and quiet, which is especially important if your partner is suddenly working from home, too, or you have children in the house. In the absence of a room you can claim, consider a smaller area you can take over. My work desk is in a corner of the dining room, which my family uses daily, and there are specific considerations for that kind of set-up. When you have to “budge up” in order to allocate a work from home space, keep it as pretty and tidy as you can. Do treat yourself to a truly comfortable chair, even if that means a less-than-attractive desk chair you may have to roll out of the way if you ever have guests, but also make sure you have attractive storage solutions—a pen cup, catch-all storage baskets, and a secure place to slip your laptop—when it’s time to make your work station invisible. I’ve been known to throw a tablecloth over my desk and use the surface as a sideboard!
There are many systems you can read about for increasing your productivity, most famously the Pomodoro technique, and we encourage you to find the one that is right for you and meshes well with your natural work style. What is true for everyone is that constant interruption is the enemy of productivity, and interruption presents the biggest challenge to working from home. Some people believe you’re “not really working” and want to chat or text. The dog wants to go out, a delivery man pounds on the door, the pharmacy phones. . . the world will conspire to break your concentration! My best advice is to make yourself unavailable, and if you have pets to get them on a schedule.
Those aren’t the only interruptions, though. Your own thoughts may hamper you. The comforts of home can be tempting. A sofa perfect for napping. A book that you can barely put down. These can feel like irresistible enticements until you mentally, emotionally, and sometimes physically draw a line between work and home. Drawing those lines is really what we’re addressing here. Being in a dedicated workspace, no matter how modest, and deciding beforehand what you want to do after you have completed a specific task or amount of work are your best defense against those temptations.
Though this article has so far concentrated on the challenges that suddenly working from home might present, there are some terrific perks. You’ll likely get to sleep in a little bit—just a little bit! Instead of visiting the office kitchen for another cup of tea or coffee around 10 o’clock, you can start dinner in the slow cooker and have a no-stress home-cooked meal later. You can enjoy lunch with your partner if they are home, but you can also use your lunch hour in ways you never could before! You might walk the dog, or do a bit of gardening, or take a cat-nap on your deck. You can’t do any of those things from a traditional office, and perhaps you will achieve a greater balance between work and home life than you have been able to figure out up until now.
This article about working from home comes at an unprecedented moment when many workers are expected to produce outside of an office environment for the first time in their entire careers. It may still feel strange, and you may still be in a daze wondering if this can possibly be the new normal. That’s okay. You can do this! And while you might have gotten a rocky or uncertain start, we are here to help you make the most of this transition and enjoy developing the skill of working from home. You will enjoy the comforts and convenience of working from home when you master the mental and physical boundaries between work life and home life.