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Thoughts on WFH from Someone Who’s Been Doing It

By Joyce Bethoney on

Working from home? Maybe for the first time ever? As someone who’s been working remotely for over eight years, I can attest that it is not without its challenges and distractions. And in this unprecedented time, when you may be in a house full of people working and/or kids, determining how to set yourself up for success will be an evolving proposition.

In the meantime, here are a few tips that may prove beneficial, particularly if you’re “starting from scratch” on this whole WFH thing:

Create a dedicated workspace. To the extent that you can, cordoning off a space specific to work and perhaps quieter than, let’s say, the kitchen island, is step one in promoting focus and productivity. If possible, a room with a door and four walls is ideal. (Emphasis on ideal. Know that may not be the reality for all.)

Get ready. You’ve already heard this. Get dressed. Take a shower. You’ll continue to hear it because it really does make a difference in how you approach your day. And now that everyone wants to Zoom and Skype, I’ll probably be more dressed up than ever!

Let friends/family know that you’re working. For family and friends who may be texting, calling, etc., be sure they know you are working. Establishing boundaries for yourself can help. If possible, set aside time during lunchtime or breaks to return personal calls/texts.

Reduce distractions. This is the hardest one. Even before this week. And if you have kids at home, particularly young kids, the ability to reduce distractions will likely be the hardest for you. All I can say is, if you keep the idea of reducing distractions as your “North Star,” try to find solutions that meet that objective. So, if an hour is about all you’ll get for uninterrupted time, reserve that time for your most pressing work rather than, for instance, quickly replying to a personal text.

Plan and adapt. I used to be able to plan my days and entire week, diligently scheduling interviews, meetings, etc. I’ll still strive for that, but as we all know, life is changing minute-to-minute. So, my new advice is plan and adapt. Know that you may need to pivot on a daily and hourly basis, but resist the urge to throw a plan out entirely.

Take breaks. Again, for the folks with kids, you may be laughing right now. Your work “breaks” will likely not feel like breaks at all. I suppose my point here is, if you’ve never worked from home, your day will look and feel different than it does when you work in an office. It is ok to get up and go for a walk. Call a coworker. Don’t eat your lunch at your desk. You get social interaction breaks when you work in an office all day. Those need to be replaced with something else when you’re home.

Set boundaries. WFH doesn’t mean working every second that you’re home or being available to work every second that you’re home. Over the course of the next few days and weeks, identify a schedule that works for you.

Accountable, yet forgiving. Be honest with yourself and your situation at home. Everyone should be keeping themselves on task and accountable during this time. Your company and the economy need it. If you’re in a situation where you’re primarily responsible for yourself, commit to staying busy and motivated. If you’re in a situation where you’re trying to juggle work, kids, elderly parents, etc., acknowledge that you’re doing the best you can. We will all continue to figure this out together.