A Real Game Plan for Working from Home (from a team who does it everyday)
As we do our best to minimize the spread of COVID-19 by self-isolating and working from home, I think a growing number of us are finding out that it takes some legitimate planning and forethought to work from home and STILL get stuff done. (Whoda thunk it, right?)
Well, we’re pretty much experts on this subject. At The Shelf, about 80 percent of our team members work remotely, and even the staff members who typically work from our Brooklyn office work from home twice a week.
So, we thought who better than our team of remote working veterans to create a game plan for the people who are working from home for the first time?
The Most Common (and Fixable) Challenges of Working From Home
Just a couple of weeks ago, working from home used to be this elusive, magical perk few were able to get their employers to agree to. Yeah, working remotely is more common than it used to be, but working from home is still kind of fraught with challenges, like:
- Employer oversight – Many employers prefer to keep an eye on employees during regular business hours.
- Productivity – Newly-remote team members can find it hard to get “in the zone” in their new, non-Starbucks environments.
- Tools – Work tech is different from home tech.
- Routines and mindset – An interruption to your regular morning routine can make it tough to jump into your workday.
- Work space – If remote workers don’t have space allocated at home specifically for work, it could be tough to make that recliner, bed, or cafeteria-style dining room set work for 8 hours.
- Work hours – Employers worry about team members not working long enough, but the reality is a lot of remote workers struggle to effectively make the shift from their workdays to their home life, even after 5PM.
- Distractions – There are going to be a TON of distractions in the house. Remote workers watch up to 3 hours more television per week than those who work outside the home (Nielsen).
If you happen to have kids, your workday is likely to be a little more challenging (let’s just agree to disagree on whether that’s an understatement).
So if you’re newly working from home or looking to make it a full time thing, here are a few tips on how to minimize stress as much as possible. I’ll be including a separate option for moms whose kids will be joining them 24/7 for the next few weeks. (Or months maybe? Eeesh.)
Here’s How to Work Remotely and Still Get Things Done
Get Up Early
Trust me on this one. You’ll be tempted to get every last bit of sleep you can, but don’t. Just… don’t. Now is not the time to mess up your routine. Get up at the same time you usually do, make some coffee, and have a nice breakfast. This simple act will keep you energized throughout the day. You no longer have the excuse that you don’t have time to make yourself some eggs. Also, maybe you don’t want to mess with your circadian rhythm. #justsayin
If you’re a mom: I know you get up early enough as it is, but make sure to squeeze in at least 15 minutes to have your coffee hot and in one sitting. Then you can make everyone breakfast.
Shower and Groom
You have no idea how easy it’ll be for you to drift into showering once every three days when working from home. Don’t do that. Keep showering. And ladies, if you wear makeup to work, keep putting makeup on. There’s nothing like not showering, staying bare-faced, and staying in your pjs all day to send you into a depressive state quick af. Don’t believe me? Ask a mom. Just pretend you were going to work outside your home.
If you’re a mom: You already know what I’m talking about. Maternity leave, am I right? This may be great for a week, maybe two, but after that, you know how horrible it feels. This is a friendly reminder: shower and groom
Repurpose That Commute Time for Something More Productive
That’s right. You know how you always complain about having to drive an hour to and from work, and how that’s two hours of your day, which is kind of like working 11 hours but only getting paid for nine? Well, you still won’t get paid for it, but at least you’ll be able to do something more productive than listen to podcasts.
Podcasts may entertain you on the road, but it’s not like you’re able to take notes or anything. I don’t know about you, but if I want something to stick, I gotta take notes, so listening to podcasts on my commute that contain information I actually want to retain is a waste. (Although, now you’ll have the time for taking notes, so…listen to podcasts.)
You now got yourself 30 minutes to an hour (unless you live a block away from your job, in which case, lucky you) to do whatever you want! Can you imagine? Here are a few ideas:
- Work out. Ugh, I know. The dreaded workout. But honestly, so, so important. Even if it’s just a brisk walk. Get up, get moving and get the blood flowing. This doesn’t have to be CrossFit or whatever the cool kids are doing these days. It could be stretching, yoga, cardio, whatever floats your boat. (Tickles your pickle? Ok, I’m out.)
- Journal. I know not everyone likes to do this, and it’s becoming the equivalent of reading horoscopes with how much people claim it has magical powers, but journaling has been proven to reduce anxiety and set the tone for the day. I personally wish I would remember to journal, especially with a deadly virus going around. There’s nothing like a good virus to send anyone’s anxiety into overdrive. And maybe all we need is a good brain dump to make it through the day.
- Read a book. Yeah, you know, that book you bought months ago and it has yet to be cracked open? Most people’s excuse for not reading more is not having the time. Well, now you do! And try to stick to something you enjoy reading for the sake of reading. Stay away from work-related reading. Reading relaxes you and can take you to other worlds, so pick something mind-blowing, not Karen’s umpteenth email about HR policies.
- Just pick anything that makes you happy!
If you’re a mom: Take this time to explain to everyone in the house how the day’s going to go. And then go do one of the four things listed above. You may be interrupted 100 times, but hey, at least you tried. You can take a walk outside with the kids, especially since we’ll all be quarantined pretty soon (probably). Also, you may be surprised how willing kids are to do yoga with you. There’s a great YouTuber who does yoga for kids, and they love it. You can also make this art time for kids, while you journal or read. You can do it!
Have An Office, Even if You Don’t!
I know not everyone has the luxury of having a whole room to use as an office, especially if you have no need for one. But since you’ll be home for some time or indefinitely (if that’s your chosen route), having a designated space with everything you need can make all the difference. Look, it’s totally fine to work from your bed for a day or two (good to get it out of your system), but doing this everyday, will not only give you back pains that will never go away, it’ll also make you lazy af. Here’s what you should do:
- Have a desk and chair. Duh. But, seriously, I don’t care if it’s one of those food tables used to eat while watching TV. Have something you can sit in front of comfortably. And definitely get the best chair in the house. ‘Cause having the wrong one will also give you back pains that’ll never go away (ahh, the joys of getting older).
- Find a good spot. If you’re into natural light like me, find the spot in your space that has the most. You also want to take into account any video calls you’ll have to take. So good lighting is not only for your mental health, but also so Karen doesn’t talk shit about your video quality (aka apartment).
- Get your essentials. Again, pretend you’re at work. What do you usually keep on your desk or in the drawers? Airpods? Glossier Balm Dot Com? Almonds? Whatever items you use on a daily basis at work, make sure to have in stock at home, too. This will reduce the stress of having to get up and see the pile of laundry sitting in the corner of the room.
If you’re a mom: This is where shit gets real. Your kids (depending on their ages) will most likely not leave you alone for very long (mine sure don’t), so try to schedule any meetings during their usual nap times. Otherwise, you can put your “office” anywhere. Also, you probably already have back pains that will never go away (I know I do), so sorry I can’t help you with that one.
Have a Set Time to Work (and to Quit Working)
Do you work 9-5 in an office? Then work 9-5 at home, too. It’s tempting to wipe your drool in the morning and open your laptop or stay hooked into the wee hours of the night, and you may be able to sustain that for a couple of days, but trust me, by day three, you’ll be throwing in the towel. Timing is everything. So keeping your work hours the same will reduce some serious stress. I know this can be difficult to do, so willpower is a must with this one. Also, you want to make sure Karen doesn’t overstep by expecting a response at 9 p.m.
If you’re a mom: If you’re working from home temporarily due to the coronavirus, your kid’s school has probably closed by now, and they are with you all day. This is stressful af. So, guess what? They also need a tight schedule. It’s best to try and stick to the routine they have at school or daycare, that way, when they go back, they’re not all wacky. This will relieve some stress for you and them.
How About That Lunch Break?
Being able to make whatever you want at home for lunch and having all the ingredients is the best thing ever. I don’t know how many times I’ve forgotten one item for my salad, which totally kills it for me. And there’s nothing I can do ‘cause I’m an hour away from home. #FirstWorldProblems, I know, but seriously, take advantage of this. And if you finish eating in 30 minutes, you still have 30 minutes to take a walk, phone a friend, or, oh yeah, take a walk. Since you’re probably not getting enough vitamin D, getting some sun is one of the best things you can do during your workday. And I’m sure Cujo won’t mind a walk either now that you’re home all day.
If you’re a mom: You will have to make lunch for your kids, so make sure you eat something other than their leftover bread crusts. Plus, it will give you a much needed boost to make it until dinner. If you finish lunch early, spend some time having dessert with the kids. They’ll get their dose of mom, and you’ll take a mental break from work.
Speaking of healthy stuff, whatever cool tumbler you bought ‘cause you were influenced by your favorite influencer…keep that around. You need to hydrate. Water helps with literally everything in your body, so try to drink at least 8-10 (8 ounce) glasses of water or four (16.9 ounce) bottles of water.
If you’re a mom: Drink water yourself, but make sure your kids drink enough, too. Between the chocolate milks and juices, water can be forgotten. Make sure to always offer them water throughout the day, and purposefully offer them only water as their drink for at least one meal a day.
Disconnect at 5 PM
That means it’s time to disconnect. And I don’t just mean from the computer. Put your phone to charge and walk away. I know I already talked about work hours, but this is more about work/life balance. Since there’s no commute home, it’ll be hard to disconnect, but Cujo (or your kid) needs you. Take your would-be commute time home to prepare a nice family meal. If it’s just you, taking the time to actually cook something can reduce stress, too, and you’ll feel better for doing it. A healthy meal = a healthy body. You can follow it with a bath and some time to read a book or watch some mindless TV.
If you’re a mom: I know all about throwing something together quickly for dinner ‘cause the kids are hungry, and I’m tired. But now you have time to do something a little more elaborate than chicken nuggets and mac and cheese. You can eat together as a family and then maybe play a board game before it’s time for baths and bedtime.
Let’s Put It All Together Now
A stress-free workday from home! Okay, maybe not totally stress-free but stress-lite. Working from home isn’t for everyone, but given the situation at hand with the current pandemic, it’s important to keep your sanity and make the best of the situation. If you follow the steps above, it could seriously reduce the stress you may feel of being home all day, especially if you got children running amok. Sticking to a routine and taking time for yourself can make all the difference. So much so that you may never want to go back to the office (at least once the kids are back in school).
Now go wash ALL the hands in your house and call your mom!