My friend asked me the other day, “How did you handle working from home all those years? I’m going stir crazy!”
I’m grateful for my small apartment but I understood how she felt. In the beginning, it was a real adjustment for me too. I had to be creative with the space I had, and I luckily found a routine that kept me sane. With many people now going remote, they are trying to adjust. I’m even struggling to find a new structure during these uncertain times. Before, I would usually grab lunch with a friend or go work at a café when I needed a break, but that’s changed with the social distancing rules.
After talking to some friends and colleagues, I’ve learned that working from home doesn’t look the same for everyone. While there are those who enjoy the solitary lifestyle, others might thrive on interactions with other people. We each have different ways to stay focused on the job, stay in contact with people, and also make time for ourselves. There is no one way to go about this, but here are three points I and others have found that matter. We hope this helps as you look to alleviate the stress and distractions that surround all of us.
When I moved into my apartment, the desk was in the bedroom and I immediately moved it into my walk-in closet. Since I don’t commute on the train anymore, I still have to get up and go to a separate room which helps me get into work mode. I also decorated with string lights on the walls, pictures of loved ones, and a plant on my desk. Having an organized space with items that make you smile can promote a more productive and peaceful environment rather than blank walls and piles of papers. This way I’m able to focus on what I need to do. Plus, when I’m finished with the day, I can close the door and relax in my bedroom.
Picking a place that is not in the normal foot-path helps to limit distractions from your roommate, spouse, or children. I understand not everyone may have the option to have a place designated for work, but one of my colleagues mentioned that having a door to physically close makes it easier to shift from work to home mode. I’ve found that to be true for myself as well. If not a door, make a physical divider like a small bookcase or an end table. It’s also important on the weekends to not go near the area we work and treat it as if it’s the office. This helps us avoid putting ourselves in the position of working longer hours because we know we can always go back to work.
Everyone’s idea of a break can vary from spending time with the kids, meditating on your own or making your favorite drink or meal. I learned from one coworker that if he goes downstairs to “quickly” fill his cup with water, it can easily turn into 15 minutes because his kids will ask him a question or want to show him something they worked on. Although he enjoys these moments with them, he also makes time for himself by going outside to get some fresh air or listening to music with noise-canceling headphones. This way he might hear some noise from the kids, but since he can’t understand what is being said he doesn’t get sucked into what is happening outside his office. Structuring breaks at specific times will not just help avoid burn out but it’s important to let others in your household know what your schedule is like so they do not disturb you.
Breaks are a way to get refocused before starting work again. I’ll either journal, make a quick snack, or read a book. I’m already on my laptop most of the day so it gives my eyes some rest and I can reserve watching movies or tv shows with my roommate when our day is done. I also limit the number of times I check the news because I find that what I read or watch can heavily affect how I feel the rest of the day. The health crisis we are in can create a lot of fears and worries, so it is important to take time out for yourself to just breathe, listen to music or write out a gratitude list.
I have one friend who lives on her own. She made a goal to call someone each day. Just the act of reaching out to someone can lift up your spirits. I make it a point to have a scheduled game night with friends once a week as well as video calls with my parents and brothers. I also recommend virtual workouts with a friend or two; it can be as easy as unwinding with yoga or pushing each other in a boot camp class. I’ve seen families make their own versions of popular songs or movie scenes. Connecting with others during this time, especially with the free trials of classes and courses available, can give us things to look forward to when the days seem endless.
Working from home can also make it harder to communicate with your coworkers. When I have a question for someone on my team or even my boss, I’ll hesitate to ask sometimes because I’ll see their status as “busy”. Because I don’t want to interrupt them, I end up trying to figure it out myself when I could’ve saved a lot of time asking the person. This is the time to discuss what is the best way to communicate as a team. In fact, my coworker and I did have a conversation about how to handle a “busy” status and how best to then communicate with each other.
We believe at LearningBridge that we are humans first and employees second. We are constantly working to receive feedback ourselves so we can work more effectively as a team and provide those same tools our clients can then use within their own organization. Checking in with someone you work with and simply asking, “How are you doing?” could make a big difference in that person’s day. Asking them what’s working and not working about working from home as we navigate this new system and routine together can help both parties understand each other’s situation. The feedback loop can remain open, and we can figure out a solution together, so we know what to do when questions or concerns come up.
These are mere suggestions about working from home, but we hope you find these useful whatever your situation looks like. Our team at LearningBridge hopes that you and your families are staying safe and healthy at this time. Please do not hesitate to contact us as we are here to help in any way we can.