Tips for Working from Home (To Avoid Going Crazy!)
I HAVE TO GET OUT OF THE HOUSE! No, my caps are not locked. I am actually screaming right now. Like 1 in 5 Canadians, I work from home, spending the majority of my working hours at my desk, either on my computer or on my phone.
I get bleary-eyed from starring at screens and bored of looking at the same four walls. I realize that office workers the world over struggle with this too. But I also end up craving human interaction, which explain why I’m writing this at my neighbourhood Starbucks. (Well that, and I have a hankering for a rice crispy square.)
I asked a group of fellow work-from-homers* about their tips for working from home effectively. I’m starting from the assumption that procrastination isn’t an issue. (All of the below women are total go-getters.) I’m more interested in how they structure their time and get the most out of their day.
“Getting dressed helps my mind shift from sleep time to get down to business time,” says Anna Wallner. (Perhaps you’ve heard of her?) The same goes for when I’ve had a day of meetings. The moment I come home I change out of my work clothes into something couch worthy.”
Pretty much everyone said they get dressed for work, even if it’s leggings and a sweatshirt. With one exception.
“I often roll out of bed then head right into the studio (just to see something) and end up working in my bathrobe. It has the paint marks to prove it. And I have to admit, I’ve painted in the buff! I have the full intention on getting dressed and I just get sidetracked by something that needs to be addressed right away before “I can’t see it anymore,” says Artist Athena Bax.
Those crazy artists!
Renu Bakshi says, “wake up at the same time daily and go to your home office like it is an actual office. That includes changing out of your PJs and not taking breaks to watch TV, unless it’s the noon news.”
Bakshi says that while she loves working from home because it minimizes distractions, her business is growing and she’s now moving into office space.
While working from home obviously offers more flexibility (and perhaps an escape to the odd matinee) most of my queried work-from-homers do follow a relatively structured workday.
SET UP SHOP
Speaking of structure – “I’ve always found it important to have a separate work space and not to work from the dining table. It helps to have the separation from the home life and keep things better organized,” says Tanis Sullivan, a mother of three.
“I realize not everyone has the extra space but if converting a small nook or closet into a desk area is an option, I’d highly recommend it,” she adds.
I have a dedicated work area but still find myself moving from room to room. But I’m sure if I shared my space with others, especially children, I’d likely stick to an office area.
Anna agrees. “I do like working in different locations. Oftentimes at the kitchen counter! I love having a change of scenery.”
MEET AND GREET
Most respondent to my survey said they get their human interactions from work meetings. I usually have a couple of meetings a week, but there are days when it’s just me and this keyboard. That’s when I arrange to meet a friend for coffee or lunch. Sometimes I’ll even head out to do a bit of shopping, just to interact with other people. (Or maybe I just like shopping?!)
It’s pretty tough to sit at your desk for 10 hours straight, no matter where you work. If you’re at home, breaks can often end up being household chores. I work for a bit, sweep the floor. Work for a bit, make the bed. Work for a bit, raid the fridge.
When it comes to breaks, Jennifer Nelson says, “I generally only take lunch, to read the paper. However, I take computer breaks and do fun searches, etc.” Others do squeeze in the odd load of laundry or take time to make a healthy lunch.
Which leads to…
SHAKE A LEG
Maybe this is just an active bunch but most everyone I interviewed said it’s important to incorporate some sort of exercise. And with so much research on the dangers of being sedentary, the more the better.
“Physical activity is extremely important, which is why I choose to walk to my meetings in Downtown Vancouver,” says Bakshi.
I get on my treadmill or walk Ruby to stretch my legs. I find that coming back with a clear head does wonders for my productivity and helps spur creativity.
Got any work-from-home tips? I’d love to hear them.
*You’ll notice many of the people I polled are in the Communications biz. Could be because I know a lot of people in that industry but it’s also because it lends itself to working from home.