How to work from home without losing your mind? I bet it is a question a lot of people are asking at the moment. Why? Because most people are just not used to working from home. Most workers commute to and from work, spend some time in the transports and get to experience the office life. I experienced both. To work from and to commute to the office I mean. Back in the summer, while waiting for my work permit, I worked as a freelance content creator and social media marketer. Thus, I worked from home. However, before moving to New York and upon starting my new full-time job, I worked in an office.
However, with COVID-19 and all the latest developments of the pandemic, many workers are forced to work from home. By many, I mean most of them. For example, France put in place a confinement forbidding non-essential movements and getting everyone to work from home. In New York, Governor Cuomo signed an order saying that 100% of non-essential workers must stay home. If you are not medical staff, grocery store staff or any other essential service, you will stay at home.
How to work from home without losing your mind
I know that many freelancers, people unable to commute to an office or business owners are already used to working from home. It is not their first rodeo after all. They have put in place mechanisms a long time ago to cope with this particular setting. If you, dear reader, belong to that group, you already know how to work from home without losing your mind. But a refresher never hurts. If you are one of the many who are working from home for the first time, let me share with you my top tips on how to work from home without losing your mind.
I implemented those as I worked from home as a freelancer last year. They work fine for me and as my husband is also working from home during COVID-19, I can tell it works for him too. It is not like I am leaving him much choice with this framework after all but he is not complaining. And we are still on good terms with each other. Working with your partner and literally spending 24/7 with them as you get through the pandemic might also be something you need to make some adjustments for. But let’s not talk about that today.
Making working from home easier
1. Dress up like you usually would
First thing first, get up and get dressed. I am a firm believer that what you wear has a huge impact on your mood and productivity. Somehow, your attire sets the mood for the day. I wrote a long blog post on why I think you should dress up even when you stay at home. Having worked from home in the past or promised myself to be super productive at the weekend, I have noticed that my procrastination levels reach new highs when I stay in my pajamas. And this, regardless of me waking up at dawn or at noon.
We usually pick attire depending on what we have planned during the day or what we want to do. Obviously, you wear your pajamas when you want to sleep or have a very lazy day in. You get in workout gear when you want to exercise. If you want to work, well, you get it. The clothes you wear have a huge impact on your mood. Thus, they do too on your energy levels as well as productivity. Dressing up helps you reinforce the state you want to be in. That is why you should get dressed even when you work from home.
2. Set up a dedicated work space
I am not convinced that “tidy desk tidy mind” is actually true. Personally, I am very messy and my house is never really tidy. There’s gonna be things everywhere. My desk might be crowded with books, papers and other things, it does not mean I won’t be able to be productive and work well there. As a matter of fact, what I call organized chaos is my ideal environment.
By dedicated work space, I mean somewhere in your flat where you will sit to work. Not your bed, not your couch. Not somewhere uncomfortable and inconvenient. You need somewhere where you can be productive and creative. Somewhere where you can get in working mode and do everything you need to do. A dedicated space will put in the right mood and makes you more productive than sitting on the couch or staying in bed. We currently use our dining table as a giant desk.
3. Keep your usual work schedule
As far as I am concerned, I think that one key to make working from home efficient is to keep your usual work schedule and to treat this new setting as what it actually is, work. I get that being at home gives you a lot more freedom to move around, to eat whenever you want, to pick your own working hours, etc. Yet, I also do think that a proper schedule really helps with your productivity. Plus, when you get back in the office, you won’t be out of touch with the office life.
Keeping your usual work schedule allows you to break your working day into blocks of hours and breaks. Plus, it really helps estimate what time you will have to do all the tasks you need to do and stay organize. In the end, working from home is just like working in an office so why would you change how you usually work just because you are under no supervision? Keeping your work schedule makes you more productive, helps with breaking up your day, gives you a bit of normalcy and gives you a proper work setting as well.
4. Take small breaks
No human being can be 100% productive 24/7 and 100% focused. Or if someone like that exists, I’d love to meet them. In reality, we can stay focus for just so long. Two hours straight actually. Then, the brain needs a rest. Did you ever notice that after a couple of hours of intense productive work you get distracted more easily? You need to give your brain a little rest. 10 to 15 minutes will do just fine. Taking a break won’t disturb your day nor prevent your from doing everything you need to do.
Actually, it is taking regular small breaks that will help you stay productive and efficient throughout the day. I am a very productive person overall. I can do 9 to 6 no problem. And I will work through those nine hours and accomplish a lot. Yet, I will take a tiny break to breathe every two hours. And a longer break for lunch. Working hard is great, working smarter is better. There is no point in forcing yourself to work if you do not get anything done. On the other hands, dedicating a few minutes here and there to breath might just boost your productivity. It does the trick for me.
5. Communicate with your co-workers
Something I have myself found difficult since the beginning of the quarantine, is that I don’t have anyone from the office to talk to face to face. Even a silly joke, talking about things going on, asking questions, etc. Talking feels good, you know. Of course, since my husband also works from home, I can speak with him. But it also feels weird to not speak with my co-workers anymore.
The first thing I did when my office started to send people home was to set up Slack. It is not face-to-face chat but it is still something. It feels good to catch up with your co-workers, know how they are holding on, where they are at in their tasks, etc. Humans are social creatures after all. We need to interact. And since we can’t do it outside or in the office, we need to find other ways. Slack, text, whatsApps, you name it! Plus you probably need to report to someone about your work anyway!
6. Draw a line between work hours and after-work hours
When you commute to the office, you establish a clear work schedule. Work starts when you get to the office and finishes when you leave. What about when you work from home though? Well, you basically sleep and eat in your office too. Thus, it is difficult to get a clear break from your work day. Freelancers and bloggers will know that more than anyone else.
I think drawing a line between work hours and after-work hours is essential to stay sane as you work from home. Also to avoid burnout and getting fed up with it. And that is why it is also so important that you keep your usual work schedule if you were in an office prior. You need to strictly apply those work hours so that you do not let yourself be lost in working all the time.
7. Get the tools you need
This one should probably be at the top of this post but never mind. If you are to work from home – you’ve got no choice now anyway – you and your boss need to make sure it is going to be as efficient as possible. Thus, you need to be given the proper tools to accomplish every work task at home. That may mean a dedicated laptop, access to editing softwares, setting up Slack, access to other tools.
How frustrating is it to realize you cannot do your work because you are missing the login to SEMrush for example? Or to Creative Cloud? Frustration turns into anger so quickly too. And you can’t even work, which makes working from home so unpleasant. Make sure that whatever you need to cross everything your work to-do list is given to you so that you can actually deliver.
Here are my top tips on how to stay sane while you work from home during those crazy time! We need to all work together to ensure we get through the pandemic as quickly as possible. Now, just a tiny reminder, to people like spring breakers and sea side town goers, who still think they are smarter than everybody else. The longer you take to comply to the social distancing recommendations, the longer we will have to do it and the longer the crisis will go on for. So, stay the f*ck home.
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Are you working from home? What are your best tips to make it a positive experience? How do you stay productive when working from home?
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