Many businesspeople and professionals have an occasional work-from-home day. But working from home exclusively – and unexpectedly – takes things to a different level and can require some effort. Now that so many shelter-in-place orders are in effect around the country, many of us find ourselves sharing our (often makeshift) home offices with family members, roommates and children (who now need a home classroom). Once an anticipated indulgence, working from home is becoming a struggle to maintain productivity while juggling distractions, limited space and resources.
Our team at CLIENTSFirst Consulting has been working remotely for more than a decade. All of our employees work exclusively from home offices and, as a result, we have mastered the fine art of creating a productive workspace in our living spaces. To help our Clients and friends succeed and get the job done, we reached out to our team to compile some of their best tips they could offer for working from home effectively while minimizing stress:
Work Environment Matters
In a perfect work-from-home world, everyone would have a home office in a quiet, interruption-free room with a door that could be closed and maybe even a window with a pleasant view. In the current reality, however, many of us are sharing living and working spaces with our families and interruptions can be commonplace.
This means that trying to find a private, dedicated workspace can be essential to getting your job done effectively. It also sends a message to your “home team” that you are actually at work and need to minimize distractions. You will need to communicate with housemates about your need for privacy or silence at certain times and respect their needs as well. You will also need to establish routines for any young children at home and try to occupy their time with homework, games, apps, tasks or naps when necessary.
Having the right equipment is also important. A good chair matters more than you think. While working from your comfy couch is tempting, your back and neck won’t be happy after eight hours hunched over your laptop. Trust us on this one. Sit up straight in a comfortable, supportive chair and take regular breaks to stretch and adjust your posture. White noise apps and headphones can also be lifesavers if you need a quiet environment in which to work or think. Additionally, if you’re going to be attending web conferences, it’ll be helpful to have a computer with a good webcam and microphone.
For many of us, a strong WIFI signal is essential for productivity in this digital age. Working from home can use a surprising amount of bandwidth, especially if you’re sharing your Internet connection with family members who are binging Netflix or Twitch. If you need to participate in video conferencing, your best bet may be to bypass Wi-Fi and connect directly to your router or gateway via ethernet. If that’s not an option and you find your Wi-Fi struggling to keep up with demand, negotiate with your housemates to stagger or schedule Internet usage and turn off or unplug wireless devices temporarily. As a last resort, you may need to contact your ISP and increase your bandwidth for a period of time.
Working from home can be sedentary. Not only can this be bad for your physical health, it’s also bad for your mental health, focus and concentration. Now is not the time to ditch your morning workout. If you’re not a regular exerciser, you’ll need to make an extra effort to increase your daily movement while you’re spending more time indoors. Luckily, since there’s no time spent commuting, there should be time in your day to fit in yoga, stretching, cardio or whatever activity works for you. Also, remember to take regular breaks during the workday to move around and increase your heart rate. Consider heading outdoors for some solitary activity if your local shelter-in-place rules permit it. There are also plenty of apps and streaming exercise programs for at-home workouts.
Maintain a Normal Work Routine
While working from home can feel like a holiday, keep it from descending into a free-for-all by sticking to your normal work routine as much as possible. Wake up at your normal time and start and stop work at your normal times. It may be tempting to sleep in and start your work later and then stay up late to compensate. But when your entire household is also working from home, keeping to a routine sends a message to family members, clients and colleagues (as well as yourself) that it’s business as usual for you.
Dress for Work-from-Home Success
It might seem easy to go directly from your bed to your temporary desk without a change of attire, especially if you aren’t scheduled for a video calls and no one will see what you’re wearing. But dressing down sends a psychological message that you’re on “down time,” and can make it more challenging to maintain normal productivity and your professional persona. While you don’t have to put on business clothes, you should try to dress comfortably and professionally. It goes without saying that if you are participating in video calls, no one wants to see you in your jammies!
Put It Away at the End of the Day
Working from home can sometimes feel like the workday never ends. After all, your laptop is right there, with emails to answer and more work to complete. If you are fortunate enough to have a dedicated home office, leave “work” and close the door at the same time you would normally leave the office. If you’re working from a corner of the bedroom or the kitchen table, bundle up your work and place it in a bin or tote at the end of the workday to put it out of sight. Try not to leave visible piles of unfinished work sitting out after hours calling out to lure you back to your computer.
One of the most challenging aspects of working from home is the lack of face-to-face interaction with co-workers, which can lead to loneliness and a feeling of isolation. Hearing others’ voices can help make the workday feel more normal, so incorporate phone calls rather than just texts or emails and carve out a few minutes for casual conversations.
If you manage others, make it a point to reach out and check in with your team members. Allow time for social conversations during scheduled meetings and calls. Don’t forget to acknowledge birthdays or other milestones that happen during this time. Employ conference calls or video conferences for a virtual lunch or other gathering with friends or colleagues. You could even plan a regular group exercise class in the morning or at lunch to help maintain connections with your team members.
While there are some aspects of the working from home that can seem challenging, especially when everyone is doing it, with a few accommodations and some tried-and-tested tactics, you may find that you can be just as productive as you are at the office – or more so. We hope this information is helpful – and if you have any tips of your own you’d like to share, please reach out… we’d love to connect and hear them!
For more than a decade, the team at CLIENTSFirst Consulting has been helping professional services firms and other organizations successfully select and implement CRM and eMarketing systems to maximize value, adoption and return on investment. If you need help achieving CRM, Data Quality or eMarketing success, please contact us at 404-249-9914 or Info@ClientsFirstConsulting.com.