Working from home is everyone’s dream. Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), has granted many Americans that wish. Some of them are finding out that working from home isn’t the work-life balance panacea they were hoping for.
Indeed, no matter what kind of worker you are, working from home presents new problems that many people have not ever had to grapple with.
If you were a workaholic before you started teleworking, then you have now lost the natural barriers that kept you from overworking. Your work-life balance has probably shifted even more to the work side because work and home are now the same place.
If you were a procrastinator prior to the pandemic then you probably are getting even less done than you did before in spite of the fact that you technically have more time. You have lost the natural structure that makes you start and finish things.
I am a teacher, but I have several other jobs that I perform from home. So here are some tips that I have learned the hard way as a telecommuter over the years.
- Get a consistent schedule.
The biggest shock to the system is the fact that you likely have more time on your hands as you no longer have to get up to commute back and forth to work. However, the trick to remaining productive is to behave like this isn’t the case. If you had an hour-long commute to your job and want to sleep in a little longer then, by all means, do so. However, you should keep the hours that you typically work sacred. Don’t sleep in until the afternoon just because you can get away with it because it will eventually come back to bite you.
Set a stopping point too. Ending your workday at the normal time keeps your work like balance intact and makes your goals for the day feel more urgent and less abstract.
Administrators can help their employees with this by scheduling meetings and check-ins around 8 am or 9 am to force them to get up.
- Put your damn clothes on.
People have been posting memes about doing their Zoom calls in pajamas or less, and I, for one, am horrified. First and foremost, you shouldn’t be communicating with children or even other adults in sleep attire regardless of whether or not they can see you.
But there is also a practical, productivity reason to get dressed as well. If you don’t get dressed in the morning your brain is not getting the signal that it is time to be a professional and when you are working from home you are already missing most of the work-day mental cues that you usually get. If you get up on a Tuesday morning and start walking around in a robe and PJs like it’s the weekend…don’t be surprised that your brain wants to act like it’s the weekend.
- Create a dedicated workspace with limited distractions.
People who have trouble sleeping have likely been told not to do anything in their bed other than sleep. The logic being you want your body and mind to associate the bedroom with sleeping. The inverse of this is true as well.
Working from home is hard because your body does not register that your home is a work area. The solution is to create a work area. You don’t have to have a whole room to create dedicated space. A simple corner of a quiet room will suffice. It might not meet the requirements for the home-office tax deduction, but it will work. Make sure that this space is free from distractions like TV if you can.
- Set boundaries.
If you live with other people like a roommate or a spouse set boundaries about contact during the day. Just because you are home does not mean your roommates or boyfriend should expect you to be able to hang out all day.
Kids are a different story, but and try and come up with a system or schedule that allows you to keep an eye on your children and get your work complete.
- Take breaks.
Make sure that during the workday you are taking breaks just like you would at work. Preferably during the same times, you were accustomed to before.
While the need for scheduled breaks is obvious for the workaholic, the procrastinators probably feel like they have the break time part down given their nature, but the opposite is true. One of the main reasons they procrastinate is because they have a sense of dread about the enormity of tasks ahead. Having scheduled breaks helps them pulse and be more productive.
Working from home can be relaxing. There is a certain freedom that comes with being able to curate your own space and create your own schedule. But, it does require you to do extra things to make yourself productive otherwise working from home can turn into a nightmare.