You can now work in your PJ’s from home, you don’t have to dress up, you can do your shopping quickly. But after a week your house is a mess, you realise that you have been working (and sleeping) in the same clothes for 3 days and sweating bullets from frustration (and loneliness). Does this sound familiar? I’ve been working from home for 1.5 years now and it’s not as easy as most people think. I share with you my best tips to avoid awkward situations and stay productive while working at home. (read: sitting in your PJ pants in front of the camera during a video meeting).
Yes dûh! Easy enough, right? Well, not for everyone! Some people are night owls and have trouble getting up -me-so I make it my daily habit to get out of bed before 9am! Now with this virus I even get up at 8 am to read the news and check in with neighbours and family members.
The first days in quarantine are the hardest because you want to stay informed on everything. Quickly checking the news in your bed. But I noticed that this just makes it even harder for me to fall asleep. Just before bedtime, I try to be grateful for the little things. It really works, try it!
You don’t have to wear your business clothes, just something you feel comfortable in. No, not the t-shirt you sleep in! You only wear those while sleeping. It’s so easy to get up and wander around the house in your sleeping gown. But then you’re giving yourself the wrong signal, which is that it’s time to relax.
As soon as you get up, wear sweatpants and a comfortable, yet fancy sweater. On camera it looks neat, but you’re still comfortable!
I’ve been doing this for years now and it makes me feel good every time. As soon as I get up, I look around. Dishes, dirty clothes on the floor? I’ll take 15 minutes to clean all this up. The reason is very simple. If you come home after a day of hard work, the mess wouldn’t bother you during the day, because you weren’t home to see it. But when you work from home, it feels like working in a garbage dump after a while. (Even though it’s not so bad!)
So before you start your workday, tidy up a little. It’s so much nicer working like this.
Forgive yourself and the others and try to find as many distractions as possible for your negative thoughts!
Create a (temporary) workspace
The kitchen table, sofa, storage room, hallway… Try to create a separate workspace for yourself (and your partner). I have my own desk in the living room, facing the wall. My wall is full of schedules, ideas, tips… That way I stay focused on my work.
I only use that desk for my work. When I want to look something up for myself, I tend to sit down with my laptop on the couch and hang around a bit.
Do you live in a little apartment like me? For 17 euros you can buy a table at Ikea that you can easily take apart again by screwing the legs in and out.
Optimise your workspace
When I started working from home, my physical discomfort followed shortly afterwards. Tension in my neck, back and shoulders. My upper arms felt stiff after a few days of intensive work. When I got up, I groaned in pain. Most people will think it’s related to stress. (like everything these days) But chances are that your workspace is not ergonomically designed. For less than 150 euros you have an ergonomic office chair. Use an external screen if you are using a laptop or an external keyboard (even better, both).
You now have a good (fullsized) mouse for 10 euros. Don’t you want to make the investment yourself? Ask your boss/manager, if you can’t borrow this stuff from your workplace.
Listen to your body
My boyfriend’s alarm goes off at 5:00, and in less than 2 seconds he’s out of bed. I don’t know how he does it, but I’ve tried to do the same so we could spend more time together. The outcome? I fell asleep during the day! And I felt bad because of sleep deprivation as well as not being productive during the day.
Meanwhile, I know what works for me. And we both made peace that I’m a night owl and he’s an early bird.
I divide my day depending on what I have to do that day. Every day is different. Sometimes I have a workshop first and then work from home in the afternoon. On other days I work at home all day and give computer classes in the evening.
Sometimes I work 4 hours a day at home, sometimes 12 hours. It doesn’t matter how much you work. As long as you use your time efficiently.
If I know that I have to get up for a workshop at 6am, I make sure that after my workshop I plan 1 hour for a nap (usually somewhere on the side of the highway). If I don’t, I’ll be unproductive and sleepy all afternoon.
The opposite also applies to me. When I get up at 9am, I know I can easily make it a very long day and tick off more tasks than usual. It’s up to you!
Work together with your family
I don’t have children, but these are a few tips I received through my instagram.
If you work in a separate room -lucky (wo)man- make a door hanger with “Do not disturb” / “Come on in”. Just make sure you flip it yourself.
- Make a door hanger with on one side “Don’t disturb!” and on the other side “Knock first, then come in!” Explain to the kids why it’s so important. (for example, because you’re in a meeting)
- Make clear rules about what the children are allowed to do while you are working. (Are they allowed to eat candy? Can they watch TV? Can they bother you for other things? Or do they have to text you first?)
- Place a nannycam (59 euros from Ring) in the play area to keep an eye on them effortlessly.
Give each other a little breathing space! (chuckles) Due to the quarantine it is no longer possible to go to your friends or sit in a cafe after a stressful day. So the dynamics in your relationship and between your friends/family will probably change. Respect that.
Stay in touch
This is an important one! Technically, I don’t have any colleagues, because I’m self-employed. But I do have a lot of people I consider to be colleagues and even work friends. I do my best to keep them informed of what’s happening in my day, what’s going smoothly and what’s not. They’re going through the same thing! Support each other. I now spend a lot of time on facebook in order to stay in touch with other people. If you feel lonely, you can call me anytime!
Respect your working hours
When you work from home there’s this constant temptation to do some quick groceries at the supermarket or pick up your parcel at the post office. PLEASE, DON’T! Before you know it, you’re hours away and at night worrying in your bed because you haven’t finished your work.
Consider doing your personal grocery shopping for 1 half day a week. I suggest doing the groceries in the morning.
Not only is it important not to be constantly disturbed by our children, pets… But also not to work too much.
I have a clock next to me and as soon as I say “wow, time flies by!” I know it’s time for a break. (or more realistically, if my bottom hurts)
This really is the MOST IMPORTANT piece of ADVICE I can give you! I have been working from home for 2 years now and everyone has experienced this feeling when you have to stay at home because of a broken wrist or after surgery. Wanting to drive up the walls because of loneliness or simply because you’re bored… This is the worst feeling of all for me. I haven’t fully mastered it yet, but I have noticed that thanks to the quarantine it is now easier to call someone and simply ask how things are going. The people I’m calling are also very happy to hear somebody.
Okay, you can’t go to the cafe or restaurant anymore, but you can still enjoy a walk in the park. Explore your neighborhood and wander the streets.
Keep enough distance from each other.
Be understanding and hold on
Wouldn’t you like nothing better than to lie in bed, hoping it’ll all pass faster? Is your productivity lower than normal? Do you see anyone coughing at the store? Scared of the economic consequences?
Forgive yourself and others! Try to find as many distractions as possible! You don’t know what others are going through, the only thing you know for sure is that for your own safety you have to keep your distance from others.
I don’t know how we’re gonna get out of this. Are we gonna stop greeting each other with kisses and hugs? Or will we laugh it all off in 5 years’ time? Will we have a nice summer with family and friends? Will half the population have learned a new hobby due to boredom? I don’t know…
All I know is we have to keep going. Because we can do it.
Be understanding, support each other and hold on.
Kind (virtual) greetings,
Sara Van Zandycke