Whether you’re an old hand at Working from Home (WFH) or if it’s a new experience, there are actions you can take to ensure you’re successful.
When many of us migrated to WFH in 2020 at the onset of the COVID19 pandemic, we had no idea that this might be a long-term change to our working lives. For most, it has provided a welcome relief to long commutes, absences from families and costly daily expenses. Others miss the social connections and the professional, well fitted work environment they’d grown accustomed to.
Regardless of your experience, here are 10 things you can do to make WFH work for you.
- Keep work and home separate
Working from home can mean your work life and your home life start to blur, and with no clear boundaries, you might feel like there is no-downtime, with fatigue or burn-out the result. In an ideal world, you’d maintain a separate room that is only used for your working hours but not everyone has this luxury. A smaller scale solution is to allocate a desk for work-only, or even a specific chair at the dining table. If you have no options to separate work and home, define it by the clothes you wear, or how you fix your hair or makeup. You can even try burning oils or a candle with a specific scent while you’re working, and a different one when you stop. Anything that signals to your brain that this is “work time” and that is “home time” .
- Make sure the space is quiet
You need a quiet place to work to ensure your productivity is at least at the levels it was back in the office. Some home workers naturally find their output is higher at home, while others struggle with the personal distractions of family, pets and outdoor noise. You also need a quiet environment to reassure your boss and your colleagues that your working environment is adequate. If every time you jump on a call with your manager, she can hear dogs barking, babies crying and siblings arguing, she will be skeptical of your productivity. If you are adept at working through these noises and don’t have a clear solution to manage them, chat with your family. You may need to agree that every Tuesday at 2pm when you have a call with your manager, they will take the baby and the dog for a walk so that you can conduct the meeting in a quiet place.
- Set clear hours
It’s become easier and easier to keep in touch while being away from your desk. This is a freeing concept, but again, it can mean that work creeps into home time. Many home based workers find they work longer hours than they did in the office because they save on commuting time, but it is important to not let work intrude 24×7. If you have a fixed shift and are not expected to be on-call, turn off your email and other alerts after hours and don’t compulsively check these applications.
- Schedule catch ups with colleagues
WFH can be lonely – we miss the water-cooler conversations and sharing lunch with our work colleagues. If these relationships lapse into transactional email responses and scheduled meetings, we lose the value of those friendships which are important for easing tensions when problems arise. Chat to your employer about scheduling regular online team catchups that are either non-work related, or have a social element at the end of them. Or if you live close together, agree to meet up in person once in a while.
- Participate in meetings
When we were together in the office and had a team meeting, we might have walked to the meeting room with a colleague, having a social chat along the way. While we waited for the meeting to start, we may have chatted to other colleagues, or shared a funny story with the entire room. In-person meetings tend to be more interactive and collegial, while our online meetings tend to be more transactional. Consider how you behave on a team call. When a colleague shares an update, do you listen, ask questions, commend them? Or do you just wait until it’s your turn to speak? Consider bringing more of the casual banter into meetings to replicate the face-to-face experience.
- Consider hybrid if it’s available
If your employer offers hybrid working as an option, take the lead if you think you or your colleagues will benefit from it. While you may love to work from home, showing the initiative in bringing people together once a week, once a month or once a quarter to just sit and work alongside each other like the old days will be noticed and appreciated by your manager.
- Take proper breaks
Those of us who consider WFH a privilege and want it to continue can have a tendency to be paranoid about being offline. If we step away from our desk for a bathroom break or to answer a doorbell and someone messages in our absence we worry that they think we were absent from work. So we try to respond immediately to every email and be über responsive to every message. This doesn’t lend itself to good mental health. It’s important that you take a break when you need to – stand up from your desk and walk around the house or the garden. Take a proper lunch break. Set your message status to “away from my desk, back in 5” if you’re worried, then relax and clear your head.
- Get out of the house
With our commute absent from daily routines, it’s easy to find ourselves always at home. Once upon a time, this was a necessity while we endured lockdowns, but now that we have the freedom to move around, we should. Getting out of the house every day is a good goal to set. This doesn’t mean you need to visit friends, go to the movies, go to the mall every day, just a walk around your neighbourhood, or 30 minutes spent sitting in the garden will do. Make sure you don’t get stir crazy from confinement within the walls of your home.
With the water cooler conversations and the shared coffees and lunch breaks gone, much of the communication beyond the transactional is lost. Make sure you share your schedule, your upcoming vacation and your important deadline that’s looming. Tell colleagues when you completed a project or task. Don’t assume people know what you’re doing or where you are, or that they will remember. If you have 2 weeks’ vacation booked in 4 months’ time, remind your colleagues at least every month until your departure. They won’t get sick of hearing it – they will have forgotten the dates!
- Capitalize on the benefits
Remember to embrace all the wonderful benefits that WFH can offer. You can sit with your children during your coffee or lunch break – precious time that was lost to you when in the office. You can prepare ingredients before you start work, and then stir a pot or take things in and out of the oven during the course of the day. You can save money on work clothes, and be more comfortable, by working in sweat pants, or boxer shorts, or pajama bottoms! You can relocate to a more cost effective and quiet location away from the city.
Do you love or hate WFH? What’s your WFH tip for success?