With the coronavirus reaching more and more countries, many of us work remotely from home these days. In general, remote work has become more and more popular. Companies have included remote work for their employees on certain days of the week and more flexible work models allow to balance career and family. Furthermore, the number of freelancers working digitally is increasing as well.
I started a productive routine from home already when I was working on my PhD and I still follow it today. I want to share my advice with you because I know it can be challenging to adapt quickly to this new work style.
1, Establish a Daily Routine and Follow Rituals
I have mentioned this in many of my articles: it is all about rituals and routines. (You can read more in my Monday Postcard #30 as well.) It may be tempting to stay in bed and work from there in your pajamas. This might be fun one day. But if you take working from home seriously, this is definitely not the way to go. I have a “No-PJ-rule”: get out of bed, shower, have breakfast (at the dining table, not in bed) and get ready as if you went to the office.
Because you do not have any set hours, a train to catch or in-person-meetings, structuring your day requires a bit more effort than at the office. Hence, I recommend to wake up every day at the same time – just keep the same rhythm as if you were headed to the office. The only difference is that there is no commute.
Starting the day like this sounds like a lot of effort and you may think it may just be easier to lounge around the whole day because nobody will see you. But if you do not feel good about yourself, you will not be productive. And let’s be honest – who likes to walk around without brushing their teeth until the afternoon?
2. Find a Dedicated Work Space
Not everybody will have a dedicated room as their home office. If you have one: great – you can skip this part.
Find a spot in your home where you feel productive and at peace. Maybe near a window with a nice view. Even if it is just a small corner of your home or the dining table, try to make it your temporary desk. Try to make it “your space” for the time you work remotely – add some flowers or some pictures which motivate you.
If you do have to work from your dining table, remove your “temporary office” after you are done. Otherwise, work will haunt you until you go to sleep. (See my advice below.)
3. Make Sure You Have Access to All Your Data
Before you make the decision to work from home, ensure that you have access to all the data. Can you access the servers from home? Do you need any special access details from the IT-department? Do you need a VPN? Definitely test the access before you decide to work remotely to avoid any unpleasant surprises.
4. Check in with Your Team
The challenge about working from home is that you are physcially detached from your team. Hence, it is important to regularly check in with them. Call up once a day or send a message, even if there is nothing to discuss in particular. A simple “Hi, just wanted to check on you and ask if everything is running smoothly” will make sure your team does not “forget” about you. We are all human beings and, hence, are used to interaction in real life. When you suddenly “disappear” and work remotely, your team might look for ways to solve the issues without you. Especially if you work remotely for a longer period of time, the risk is that you may slowly be substituted by someone else. Therefore, I highly recommend checking in regularly. (You can read my tips about how to manage a team remotely here.)
Do not forget to take breaks. Your colleagues may not be around to ask you to have lunch or quickly head out for a coffee. Set fixed times in the day when you take a five- to ten-minute-break.
6. Keep Housework to a Minimum
This is coming from somebody with a mania for cleaning. When I work from home and procrastinate or I need to declutter my mind, I clean, or go through my closets and drawers. When you work from home, you may notice so many things – the laundry, a closet to declutter, dishes to wash. All of them are perfect excuses to procrastinate. Just do not get carried away. It is perfectly fine to do the laundry when you are at home. But it is definitely not the time to revamp your space. Just think like this: if you went to the office, when would you have taken care of it? You probably would have found a way to do it on the weekend or after work. Hence, there is no need to get obsessed when you are at home.
7. Go for a Walk, Call a Friend or Set up Lunch Dates
We are all used to social interactions and being confined to your apartment can be very tough when you start with remote work. It is totally normal to feel isolated. If you feel that you cannot take it anymore, leave for a short walk. Head outside – maybe stop by your favourite coffee place. This will make you feel more connected. Altenratively, you can also call a friend for a bit and it will make you feel less isolated.
If you can, set up lunch dates as if you were at the office. It will break up your day and help you take breaks. Furthermore, it is a great way to feel social again.
Unless there are urgent issues to take care of, stop at the same time as you would at the office. It is tempting to keep working when you are at home but similar to the above-mentioned breaks, you also need time to unwind and forget about work.
As I said before, remove your temporary home office (especially if you work from the dining table), enjoy dinner and try to do something fun in the evening.
Do you have any experience with working remotely from home? What is your advice?
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All information as of the date of publishing/updating. We cannot accept responsibility for the correctness or completeness of the data, or for ensuring that it is up to date. All recommendations are based on the personal experience of Elisabeth Steiger, no fees were received by the recommended services above.