Tip Tuesday - Work from Home Like a Boss with these Five Tips
Updated: Sep 8, 2020
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I'm going to try a new series on this page called "Tip Tuesday", I know, it's not that original. But I want to try to share some tips and ideas that I have found to be helpful in my life and might be helpful to you. I'll start with this one that might be something you're dealing with right now - working from home.
I have been working from home for about a year and a half now, long before COVID-19 reared its ugly head, and I absolutely love it.! For anyone that doesn't know, I work for a worldwide commercial real estate firm, as a Project Manager that manages commercial construction projects. The work that I do can, for the most part, be done from anywhere. I do need to visit project sites and meet with clients in person, more so before COVID changed the world, but other than that my work is very computer-based.
When COVID-19 hit earlier this year and many states and cities went on lockdown, many businesses sent their employees home and had them working remotely when possible. Working in the commercial real estate industry I have seen that although many cities and states have started re-opening, many companies have found that they can operate with their employees working remotely and that a lot of their employees prefer to do so. It will be interesting to see if businesses decide to keep more and more employees working from home and reduce their real estate footprint - especially given how expensive commercial real estate can be.
This may be the case for you, whether temporarily or permanently depending on your situation. Given that I have been doing this for a while now I wanted to offer some suggestions to make working from home as successful as possible. I will preface this with the fact that I DO NOT have children. I honestly cannot imagine the complexities and stresses that might be added to working from home if you are also trying to watch kids and possibly now even home school them. So I hope my tips are helpful for everyone, but I completely understand if you have kids at home, they may not work for you.
Number 1: Try to set aside a specific "office" space. Especially if the work from home situation is going to be long term. If your work from home situation is going to be temporary, you can make something temporary (like a card table in the TV room, or a laptop on the dining room table) work, but if you want to work from home permanently, you will need a permanent spot. We are fortunate enough to have a spare bedroom that I am able to dedicate mostly as my office - it also has a twin bed in there for when my younger brother stays the night once in a while.
Number 2: Once you've designated an office area, try to make it as functional as possible. When I was working in a traditional office setting I had two large computer monitors and I find it very hard to work productively without them. So when I set up my home office I purchased two of these HP Pavillion 22cwa (#ad) computer monitors so that I had the same kind of technology set up that I was used to in an office. My employer provides my laptop and also provided me with a Dell (#ad) docking station (I've linked one here if you need one) which is really essential for running all of the technology components. I purchased a Wireless Logitech Keyboard and Mouse (#ad) as I find it much easier to type and navigate with them vs. on my laptop. I also bought this Office Chair from Amazon (#ad) (I can no longer find the exact one I purchased) because we didn't have one. This may all sound very expensive, but other than my employer-provided laptop, it really wasn't. Given how much easier it is for me to work with this setup, I don't think I could do without it. Here are the components I purchased if you want to do something similar.
Number 3: I kind of skipped over another functional piece of the office space, which is the office furniture. Right now I am using an old desk that we have had forever and purchased from Target. It is nothing fancy but totally does the job for now. We also have this old lateral filing cabinet that was given to me by an old employer about 15 years ago (that is a crazy story for another day). This thing weighs like 200 lbs. totally empty and is a beast! It's great for keeping our files and having somewhere to put my printer, but I absolutely hate it. It has been missing a foot since the day we brought it home so we have to shim it up on one side of the drawers will just roll open. Anyway, what I'm saying is that if you don't want to make a big investment take a look around your house and see what you have that will work. If you really don't have anything you can use, but don't want to break the bank look at IKEA, Target, Walmart, or Office Depot. Those are always great resources for good but inexpensive desks. I have big plans in the works for a budget-friendly office makeover, so stay tuned for that in the next few months. But I've been working with what I've had for over a year now.
Number 4: Routine, routine, routine. This is probably the most important part of working from home and that is setting and sticking to a routine. Depending on what kind of work you are doing, that routine will vary from person to person, but establish a routine for yourself. I'll be honest, right now my routine is anything but routine. Since COVID-19 hit my workload took a dump, so I have not been sticking to a routine, so I'll tell you about my routine pre-COVID. A typical office workday for me would have me in the office between 8:00-8:30 am, so when I switched to work from home, I stuck to this routine. Not having a 30-minute commute to the office meant I could sleep in a bit longer, but I still aimed to be at my desk between 8:00 and 8:30 each day. Then around noon, I take a lunch break. I get up from my desk, leave my office space, and take a lunch break - usually an hour - just like I would if I was in the office. It may just be sitting in my kitchen or TV room while eating a sandwich, but I make sure to take a decent break mid-day. Sometimes I take advantage of the nice weather and eat my lunch outside on the patio. Sometimes I still go and meet friends for lunch. I still treat this time as a standard work lunch break. I need that break in my day to let my mind and body refresh - I think it is critically important. Then it's back to work. I find that I am way more productive and efficient working from home than I was in an office (this may or may not be the case for you), but I typically find that I can end my day by 4:00 rather than 5:00 - not always, but more often than not. When I'm done for the day, I shut down my computer, turn off the lights, and walk away - just like leaving a real office.
Number 5: Leave it behind. What I hear from so many people is that they could never work from home because they would never be able to leave it behind. You have to be able to turn it off and focus on the rest of your life when it is "quitting time". Depending on the type of work you do, maybe you never have quitting time, but if you're coming from a typical 9-5 working environment, you should be able to turn it off. You need to set some boundaries and not let working from home take over your home life. Ideally working from home will give you a much more balanced life - it certainly has for me.
There are so many things I love about working from home. Let's talk about some of those.
- No commute: I save at least an hour in the car every single day now (30+ minutes to and from work each day). That is an hour each day, 5 hours a week, 20+ hours a week I have been given back to do more productive things with - or if I want, to sleep in more!
- Saving money: I save so much money on gas and parking! I used to have to pay a monthly fee to park downtown (it was not cheap), not to mention gas for my car for my daily commute. That is all gone now and is more money in my pocket!
- Music: I love listening to music while I work, in fact, I cannot stand it to be quiet. Now I can listen to whatever music I want, as loud as I want without having to wear earbuds or anything. I can crank up my tunes to suit whatever mood I am in.
- Fewer distractions: I mentioned before that I am much more productive working from home and I think this has a lot to do with no one around me distracting me. I am not distracted by other co-workers and getting caught up in office gossip. I am just working. Although I may take a break and do some laundry (I'll discuss that in a minute), when I am working I am focused on working. I also mentioned that I don't have any children so I really don't have any other distractions at home. My husband works outside of the house and my two cats are pretty quiet. I do stop once in a while to snap cute photos of them like this one.
- I'm an introvert: You may wonder why this matters, but let me explain. For an introvert working in an open-concept office space, as my employer's space is designed, it is very challenging. I absolutely HATE having to make or take a phone call with everyone around; I feel like I am so loud and everyone is listening. I feel like I have no privacy - is everyone watching what I am doing? I am sure that no one could care less, but if you're introverted you get it. Working from home, by myself, I have all the privacy I want. I never feel intimidated by other co-workers eavesdropping on me.
- Flexibility: This may not come with every WFH job, but my job is very flexible. As long as I am getting my work done and my clients are happy my hours are fairly flexible. If I need to go to an appointment, go to the grocery store, take care of an errand, or something around the house I can do that. Being at home and closer to all of those things makes that so much easier.
- Getting things done: Working from home makes it so much easier to get things done around the house during the day as well. I can throw in a load of laundry whenever I need to; prep something for dinner; take a break and work in the garden or vacuum the floor. Rather than taking a 15-minute break in a traditional office and chatting with a co-worker or surfing the internet, I do something productive that needs to get done at my house. This frees up some time on my evenings and weekends which is a huge benefit.
- Comfort: This hits in a couple of ways. First off, I can set up my office space for what works best for me. When you're in a traditional office setting you get what you get, small desk, uncomfortable chair, too cold a/c, etc. In my own office, I choose what I want. Secondly, I wear what I want! Unless I am going to an in-person meeting, or am going to be seen on a video call, I don't give a rip what I am wearing. The majority of my "office" attire now consists of leggings, joggers, and t-shirts! I do try to put myself together as far as putting on make-up and doing something with my hair most days so I at least feel more human, but as far as clothing goes, it's all about comfort for me.
I really think that working from home is going to become more and more prevalent in the coming years. I think that the lockdowns from COVID sort of forced the issue, but I do believe that companies that previously thought that they could never allow working from home, have now found that they cannot only allow it, but their employees are thriving in it and it is saving them money. While I am a fan of working from home, this doesn't come without drawbacks for me as my primary workload comes from commercial office real estate, so if/when that slows down, so do I... Regardless, I wanted to share my experience of working from home and hopefully a few helpful tips if you find yourself in the same situation.
If you are working from home, especially if it's a new situation for you, I would love to hear about your experience. I would love to hear from others with different circumstances than myself - people working from home that also have kids at home, or maybe both you and your spouse are working from home at the same time. Let's share our experiences, tips, and tricks.