5 Tips for the New Home-Based Employee

5 Tips for the New
Home-Based Employee

Over the last few years, many workers have made the transition from in-office work to at-home work. This transition works best when employees take a gradual approach and adapt to their new work-from-home reality over several months.

Now, however, many workers don’t have a few months to adjust to the change; they don’t even have a few days. The current social distancing environment has led just about every office worker to become home-based overnight. Adjusting to a new way of working with zero transition time might feel challenging, but it’s not impossible. Here are five tips I’ve learned (sometimes painfully) as a veteran work-from-home employee:

1. Keep your morning routine. 
For those of us who aren’t naturally morning people, the routine of waking up to get to the office by a certain time is an important part of self-accountability. It’s easy when working from home to let this slip; don’t. Keep the same morning routine to maintain your productivity. True, you’re going to end up at your desk a little earlier without a commute, but is that really a bad thing? Maintaining good work habits will help keep you effective and, in turn, will help you manage the transition.

2. Set up your space. 
Chances are, your home office isn’t as well equipped for productivity as your company office. Right now, it may also be full of small children home from school, young adults taking college classes, and/or a spouse trying to conduct their own conference call. If you are able to, designate one area as your “working space.” Try to limit distractions in the space. Also, pay particular attention to your chair and the overall ergonomics – the last thing you need is sore muscles and repetitive stress injuries after a day of work. Eliminating physical impediments and distractions will help you focus on the task at hand.

If there are multiple people working in your home, designating your own workspace may not be an option. If this is true, try to find small ways to carve out your own productive and comfortable working environment. If this means moving around to different spots throughout the day, using headphones to tune out distractions, or simply keeping your favorite mug of coffee close, do what you can to keep calm, comfortable, and focused.

3. Take breaks and honor regular working hours.
Chances are you’ll start working earlier, and without your commute, you may end up working later. Make sure you take breaks during the day – start a load of laundry or make social connections with others. It’s easy to worry that you’re not “doing enough” when working from home, but taking breaks to take care of yourself and your space isn’t bad – it’s a sign you’re working smarter and maintaining balance, which leads to better focus. You can even use multitasking to your advantage and schedule one-on-one check-ins with team members over walks, folding laundry, or doing meal prep.

In other cases, some people really need clear mental and physical boundaries to separate work from home. Keeping certain parts of your house (the couch, the dinner table) reserved for non-working-hours, as well as setting regular working hours for yourself, can help to maintain those boundaries.

4. Set up connection points throughout the day.
With the wide variety of virtual communication options available to at-home workers, you may find yourself going for a few hours or even a day without physically talking to someone. Make a point to balance your quick text messages with longer, more personal forms of communication like phone or video chat. Having trouble finding your “virtual voice” on these platforms? Look to Millennials and Gen-Zers for advice. As digital natives who grew up using much of this technology, they’ve learned how to turn virtual connections into rich conversational spaces.

5. Go outside.
When everything you need is within four walls, days can slip by without you needing to leave the relative comfort of your home. The risk of feeling stir-crazy is real, and there is only one cure: leave your house. Though mixing among crowds and being in public isn’t an option right now, you can still go outside to take a walk, play a sport, or just sit (your pets will be glad for the outside time, too!). Fresh air is a great way to change your stimulus and re-energize yourself.

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