How to Work (and Not) From Home
Working from home can be stressful in normal circumstances, so what’s the best way to manage remote work in these wild times?
If you’re anything like me, then you like to “get out” of the house for work. Much easier said than done as most of us now must work from home (if we’re lucky enough to work at all).
For some of us, this is a relatively reasonable adjustment. If you’ve taught online classes as I have, then this shifting of gears isn’t nearly as monumental as for, well, those who haven’t. Indeed, for the many millions of Americans who normally do the ol’ 9 to 5, such a restructuring of one’s daily work schedule can indeed be a daunting challenge.
I can’t imagine the wide range of factors that others might have to juggle: kids, pets, persistent existential dread (okay, I also know that last one all too well). As such, it’s worth noting that these tips are merely guidelines — some more practical than others. However, each tip has its merits (at least philosophically) and are therefore certainly worth considering in spirit, if not in practice.
1. Make your bed. This might sound like a small, even silly little step — but it’s a big one in terms of setting the day’s tone. The point here is to establish “order” early. You control so little in the larger world, so ordering what you can in your own world can yield surprising focus for other tasks on a day-to-day basis.
2. In fact, stay away from your bed. If you think that you’ll do your best work while lounging in bed, then think again, lazy head. Studies show that employees are up to 30% less productive typing while laying down as opposed to sitting upright at a desk.
The fact that I just concocted that bogus stat on the fly (yet it still sounds pretty reasonable) is proof enough that you should set up a workstation — any sort of workstation — whether a desk in the corner of your room, or ideally someplace where you can attempt to detach from daily life distractions.
3. Isolate distractions. This is much easier said than done. It may seem hopeless to fully separate work and home life, but there are some steps you can take — like shutting off social media for a certain duration.
There are actually apps to do this, but at the very least, you can deactivate notifications and promise yourself that you won’t check Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and so on until certain goal points, like 12:00pm lunch or 5:00pm end of the workday.
Studies again show that the average American checks their social media accounts at least 80 times a day. That, again, is a fictional stat, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out to be a bit of an underestimate. As such, rest assured that you’re not going to miss anything by cutting back your social media checking. The proliferated dog pictures and coronavirus articles aren’t going anywhere.
4. Schedule deadlines. You may be given hard deadlines by your boss or others, but it’s a great idea to schedule your own sort of “mini deadlines” or goal posts. Sitting on an assignment or project because you think you have hours or even days to complete it can yield disastrous panic-working at the last minute.
There’s a great reason why I spend so much time in my writing classes redefining the value of crafting outlines. Heck, I even recorded a recent podcast episode on exactly this reasoning — focusing on how such organization tools are exactly that: forms of structure geared toward helping you develop how and why you approach, process, and analyze information, all while working toward a larger goal.
5. Schedule breaks. You’ll be glad you did. Otherwise it’s all too easy to “burn out” and give up for the day — or just become less productive with the time you have left. Again, this idea of having “goal posts” to reach can be vital to helping you drive on toward an end point at which to rest, reboot, and continue forward.
6. Finish for the day. Unless your work requires you to “login” for certain times, your working hours may become blurred, confusing the line between personal and professional time — which is already quite tenuous at best in this situation.
Set out to accomplish certain goals for the workday, meet those goals, and enjoy your time off. You’ve earned it and should be proud!
7. Know that change is coming. While the economy — and society in general — is likely to change in various ways from our current pandemic, things, in general, will eventually return to a sort of normal like we remember.
As such, keep in mind as the old (yet very true) cliché goes: “We’re all in this together.” If you don’t enjoy working from home, know that we’re all struggling to get through this, so reach out to others to discuss what strategies they’ve come up with. Share your own challenges and lessons learned. You’d be surprised by how much you have to say.
A big part of becoming an expert at anything in life is actually doing the task — which means, for all of us who are learning to work remotely, that we are well on our way.
These pieces of advice are far from perfect. I’ve cobbled them together from years of having tons of take-home work in the form of grading student papers, preparing lectures, and performing other general communicative duties.
Since so many readers have so many different requirements for remote, at-home work, take what kernels of wisdom you can derive from these tips. They’ve certainly helped me in the past — and I’m sure as heck going to continue to rely on them moving forward through this pandemic, and beyond.