We are all doing our part during this challenging period. For many individuals that means working from home for the first time.
As someone who has worked from home for the past eight years, I know that it isn’t easy at first. It takes time to get used to working from home – time to learn technology that makes it easier, to adjust to the lack of colleagues (though now you may have partners, roommates or children to distract you).
That’s why I reached out to other longtime work-from-home individuals (who work for themselves or for a company), so that we can share what works for us.
1. Show up to work
When you work at home, everything sort of bleeds together. So it can be easy to be distracted by TV, the fridge or the laundry piles.
I find that setting my hours of work is key to success. For me, my day starts once my kids get on the school bus and ends when they got off of it. Now, it’s different every day as I manage homeschooling my two kids.
One thing that hasn’t changed is that I still show up to work, ready to work. I get dressed in real clothes and set up my desk ready to take on the day. If working from home is new and you are delighted to wear your PJs to work, that’s fine (the novelty will wear off, trust me), but at least wear a clean set (maybe dedicate some nighttime and some daytime PJs!).
2. Create a plan
Christine Cristiano (Certified Career Strategist and Resume Writer) stays productive by logging all of her work into a daily and weekly schedule. This has also worked for PR, a work-from-home employee, who says having a plan allows her to focus so that she can complete the items she is accountable for.
As an INFJ personality type, I love a good plan. I usually plan out my week at some point over the weekend or first thing Monday morning. But right now, my plan is complicated as my husband and I (he is relatively new to working from home) need to co-ordinate our schedules, as many parents are finding. So communicating your tasks with your partner is key.
3. Enjoy the perks (AKA be flexible)
Creating a schedule and setting goals allows Cristiano the flexibility that many crave. She feels comfortable taking some personal time to herself in the afternoon as she has booked work in the evening to cover it all.
She isn’t alone in that. Many of us enjoyed working from coffee shops, meeting friends for lunch or replying to emails on the run before social distancing rules applied. So, take some time in the middle of the day to catch any of the amazing online and live content (my favourite so far has been a Vance Joy concert), taking a walk in the afternoon (while keeping your distance from others) or doing your weekly grocery shopping when the crowds are at their lowest.
4. Leverage time-management hacks
Elaine Piper of Ally Career Solutions leverages some time-management techniques like blocking her time for focused work. When you are a solopreneur, you need to wear many hats, so I block my time and use hacks like the Pomodoro Technique (working in 25-minute increments with 5-minute breaks to keep from distractions) to help keep me focused.
Piper also sets time aside to answer emails/phone calls and ensures that her auto reply is on to let potential and current clients know when to expect a response. This is a great technique as checking emails gets us into “urgency” mode, which sometimes takes us away from what really matters most.
5. Stay engaged
Sandie Seymour of Seymour Possibilities states that staying connected with other people is what makes the difference for her. She engages online in relevant Facebook groups and attends webinars.
People working on teams may be able to use online tools such as Yammer, MS Teams or their intranet messenger to stay in contact with their co-workers.
During this time, my focus has been to stay well connected online, including engaging within my own Facebook Group – the Career Networking Group. I also have increased my use of Zoom. For a corporate employee who is used to having lunch with coworkers, set up a Zoom call. It’s free and easy to use. You can still eat lunch together or have those after-work drinks.
As Sandie states, the great thing about staying engaged is that it “not only has the benefit of making you feel less alone but expands your network and knowledge. Win, win, win!”
6. Build trust
A few corporate employees reached out to state that the key to successfully working from home is having the trust of management.
Many organizations’ leaders have been hesitant about having employees work from home and have pushed for a “bum in seat” way of working. They say they fear loss of productivity, but really I think they fear the loss of control and power.
If you are working from home with a manager hovering and overly concerned, use that knowledge to create processes that help make this time easier. Suggest meeting with them over Zoom or a phone call once a day to touch base. JC has had success with this – he speaks with his manager every day at 4:30 p.m. to review what was accomplished. This leaves the manager feeling like they haven’t lost control and means that they leave JC alone the rest of the time to work his magic.
Another idea is to send them an email at the end of the day showcasing your to-do list with all the checkmarks beside it or cc’ing them on emails. Show them you are being productive so that with trust, working from home becomes, as AT says the “best and most efficient way I have every worked”
It can be easy to begin work as soon as we wake up and continue all the way through to when we go to bed (usually checking emails!). That can lead us to feeling overwhelmed.
It’s key to remember that there is more to being successful than work and that when we take care of ourselves, we in fact set ourselves up for success. We do that by ensuring we sleep enough (7-9 hours ideally), that we nourish our bodies through movement and food and that we take time to unplug by rewinding and relaxing.
Working from home effectively is an artform. It looks different for everyone and even through the different seasons of life we face, such as the current Covid-19 pandemic. Use these seven tips to create a work-from-home plan that sets you up for success. Share this article with your own recommendations or let us know what has worked for you so far in the comments below.
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