How are you doing in this strange new reality? We have been sheltering in place since last Wednesday and so far, so good. We’re healthy, we have plenty of food, we’re connected to family and friends, and we’re getting outside to take walks with our dogs.
Many people have transitioned to working from home and I’m impressed with the number of people I know who have become skilled at using Zoom or other types of video conferencing in a short time, my husband included!
I have had a home office and have worked remotely more often than not over the last 20 or so years, except to see clients, attend meetings and so forth. That means that not a whole lot has changed for me in the past couple of weeks, at least work-wise. At any rate, because working from home is so new for so many, I wanted to share my thoughts on what has worked for me (and what hasn’t!)
- Create a work-at-home routine. Working from home can become unwieldy very quickly without some parameters in place. The idea seems great – no commute, work in your pajamas! – but the lines between work and home can quickly become blurred without some type of schedule. As time goes on, I try to schedule more of my focused work (writing, projects and the like) for the mornings and client appointments in the afternoon. That being said, the ability to be flexible is key when you are also trying to accommodate others’ schedules so keep that in mind.
- Build in a time for lunch and take breaks. I can (and have) sat at my computer for hours on end and can attest to the fact that there’s a point at which you need to get up and do something else, even if it’s to take a walk to get the mail, or just stretch your legs. Sitting for long periods of time is just plan unhealthy; research shows that it can increase your chances of cancer, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and back pain. Sitting and staring at a screen for hours at a time can cause eye strain, headaches, and weight gain, not to mention back, shoulder and neck pain. Most experts recommend getting up and moving every hour for at least 10 minutes to avoid problems creeping up on you. Moreover, giving your mind a break will enable you to come back to your work with refreshed concentration and creativity, and prevent burnout.
- Feeling isolated. I use the phone, email and the internet to do just about everything. I have worked with a VA (virtual assistant), Kim, for years, and I can always trust her to get the job done professionally and pleasantly. We have never met in person, but we know about each others’ lives and stay in touch that way, and she has become very dear to me. My Instagram manager, who I’ve also never laid eyes on, does an amazing virtual job for me, and is also a lovely person. I have meetings with clients and colleagues, attend classes and interact with others, and facilitate a university class, all virtually. Until recently, I would see local clients in person but obviously that has changed for now. My point is this: It’s possible to have great relationships with colleagues and others, even when you don’t seem them in person. I’m not advocating being a hermit by any means but it’s important to realize that working remotely doesn’t have to isolate you. Over time, I’ve been able to meet some of my virtual associates in person at conferences or when traveling, and some have become dear friends. Know that there will be a time when this is all over. If you can make the best of it and stay connected to others, you may find some unexpected gifts along the way.
- Get out of those pajamas. It’s tempting to feel like you don’t need to make much of an effort to be presentable when you’re working remotely. The reality, though, is that you are the one who will feel better if you make the decision to be presentable. Obviously, wearing a suit or a suit and tie when you’re working from home is overkill, but you can still be your best self. Getting dressed (think casual Friday) will help you to feel more professional and cause your mind to be sharper. Not to mention that most everyone is using video conferencing these days. Putting your best foot forward will only add to your confidence and credibility and help define the line between your home life and your professional life. There’s nothing wrong with wearing your workout clothes on those days when you have no appointments and want to be comfortable. I do it often. Just keep in mind that you want to look appropriately professional on days when you have meetings with clients and colleagues.
If you’re new to working from home, I hope this has been helpful to you and I’ll be back with part 2 next time. For now, stay safe and take good care! If there’s anything I can do to support you throughout this time, please drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stay safe and well!