If the Covid-19 outbreak has found your office temporarily closing its doors, you might be either a) relieved to be able to actively social distance yourself from others, b) thinking it’s going to be fantastic to finally have time to catch up on Love is Blind, or c) wondering how the hell you’re actually going to be productive in your job at home.
It’s possible you’re experiencing all three.
I’ve worked at home since 1999, when my youngest child arrived on the scene and I realized that two-thirds of my graphic designer salary was going to go to covering day care costs for that new baby and my then-three-year-old daughter.
My husband and I tightened our budgets and I left my corporate design job at the Science Museum of Minnesota, and with a little ingenuity and a lot of hustle, I’ve managed to make ends meet* every year since—more or less—all while working from home.
I’ve learned a thing or two about setting yourself up for productivity while working at home, and today I’m happy to share these basic tips with anyone who needs them.
- Create a dedicated work space. If you’re fortunate enough to have a home office or an extra room, this will be easy to do. If not, you’ll want to carve out a space that lets you leave your work there when your day is over. I understand that this may not be possible, but if you can commandeer half of the dining room table, then by all means, do so. Having a space, however small, is important to create a semblance of your normal office routine.
- Get up, get showered and get dressed. Oh, and put your shoes on. There is a temptation to just keep it super chill at home and stay in PJs all day. I get that, believe me. But I kid you not: the most important thing I’ve done over the years? Get dressed and put shoes on. Make sure to dedicate a pair of shoes for indoor use only, just to keep them as germ free as possible in your home. I wear Haflinger slippers at home but they FEEL like shoes and remind me that it’s showtime. #shoesequalshowtime
- Take the same breaks you would take at work. If you’re used to getting that cup of coffee during the morning break, and chatting in the break room with colleagues, then do the same at home. Leave your work space and ring up a friend on FaceTime. Or call someone. Or go for a walk around the block. The same applies to lunch. Take a lunch break, similar to what you would do on any normal work day, and try to eat away from where you’ve set up for work.
- If you don’t watch TV at the office… This may just be me but I make a point to not watch TV or YouTube videos while I’m working. I don’t have a TV in my office because I know how quickly I can be sucked into what’s happening on the Season 3 finale of Outlander. (Let’s be real here—Jamie Fraser is NEXT-level hotness in a kilt.)
- If you miss the noise of an office environment then find something to have on in the background that will give you a sense of not being home alone, but not enough to distract you from your work.
- The housework can wait. Don’t feel like the laundry has to be done right now because you’re home. Again, try to keep your schedule similar to any work day. I will admit to multi-tasking during my day, but friends, I’ve been doing this for a long time and at this point, it never derails me. I literally use laundry time as my break time. Go figure.
- Clock out at your usual time. There is a tendency to think that since you’re already home, knocking out a bit more work can’t hurt but I strongly advise against it if you can. It’s a bit of a stressful time in this current era, so be sure to strive for a little balance. Work is not the most important thing.
- Give yourself some grace. If you’re charged with working from home and caring for your younger children, both you and your employer will need to adjust the expectations for productivity. That is a simple fact.
I realize a lot of this is pretty basic, but I hope it helps some of you who are trying to navigate your work life suddenly at home. My best to you and this too shall pass.
*when I was a kid, I thought the phrase was ‘ends meat’ and figured it was some kind of sausage made from the trimmings of other meats. To this day, when I use the phrase, I still am proud that I learned the difference but I feel no need to admit just how old I was when I experienced said awakening.