By Michael French

Working from home is today’s normal. While it seems like a dream situation, working from home has its own difficulties…distractions, anti-productivity traps, lack of social outlets, miscommunications, work-life imbalance…

We checked in with our colleagues who have year-round work-at-home situations to bring you advice for making this new reality work for you. 

1.    Set up a dedicated workstation. Your work space should not be in the middle of your personal space. Find a spot tucked away from family members or roommates that may also be setting up shop at home. A permanent place where you can have privacy and space to accomplish your work in an organized fashion.
2.    Be flexible with your workspace. When you are not being productive, or when you aren’t physically comfortable, sometimes a change of scenery can do you good. Try a different room or even working outside. Standing at counter can help get the blood flowing. Sitting on the sofa can make your day a little more relaxing. Consider this a break, not the norm though, and head back to your permanent space after you get your mojo back.
3.    Protect your body with the most ergonomic seating options. You may not have that fancy ergo-chair like you had in the office, but do your best to set your body up for the least strain at your workspace. Some ideas: Use pillows to bolster your back or raise you to a better desk position. Ensure you have a seat back. Raise your monitor (either connect your laptop to a monitor or order a Bluetooth keypad and prop your laptop up on books or a box) to provide proper positioning to protect your back, neck and shoulders.
4.   Get a variety of hot beverages to curb your Starbucks cravings. Whether you are social distancing or trying to get the most out of your work day, the benefit of being at home is you can have a fully stocked pantry of exactly what you like. So you don’t get bored, load up with a variety of coffees, teas and other fun beverages that will tickle your taste buds and give you a boost.
5.    Put a candle at your workstation. Aromatherapy can be relaxing and soothing and can also act as your trigger for clocking in and clocking out. Smell that citrus-vanilla? Time to check those emails!
6.    Don’t work in your pajamas. One, starting your day with a shower and a fresh outfit can perk you up and help motivate you to be productive. Two, many businesses are turning to video conference, so you can’t hide your hot mess of a bed head behind the phone these days. That said, it’s okay to take a lazy morning now and again and change out of your PJ’s after lunch. 
7.    Set regular hours. There is no differentiation between home and office when they are one in the same. In order to maintain work-life balance, set your work hours and stick to them. If needed, tell Alexa to remind you to stop working every day at 6pm. While you are working, don’t obsess over the dirty dishes in the sink…that’s for personal time. And, on the flip side, when you are sipping your after-dinner scotch, don’t check your emails or try to solve that little issue in your last project. And, make sure that you communicate your hours with your colleagues and bosses, so there is an understanding of when you won’t be answering calls or responding to emails. Depending on your organizational structure, you may even want to create a shared calendar to help with scheduling collaboration and establish boundaries.
8.    Start your day with a morning routine. If you are used to commuting to work, it will be helpful to find that “thing” that draws the line between your personal morning and your workday. Maybe that’s a workout and a shower. Maybe it’s a walk around the block. Or maybe it’s as simple as pouring your first cup of coffee for the day or lighting that citrus-vanilla candle. Find a ritual and stick to it.
9.    Finish your workday by making a list of what you will tackle tomorrow. It’s hard to put down your work when there’s no commute to distance you from it. A good practice to “put it away” is to literally put it on a list for tomorrow. Anything still nagging at you – write it down, put it on your workstation, and pick it up on your next workday.
10. Separate your workday from your evening with a ritual, just like you start your day. It can be another walk around the block, a phone call to a friend, a quick meditation, or heading into the kitchen and tuning in to the Food Network to wow yourself with another gourmet dinner. Find that line to walk over that says “I’m closed for business” and lets you take care of yourself.
11. Schedule breaks. Whether it be at a pre-determined stopping point in your project or triggered at specific times of the day, make sure you take breaks. It’s easy to go down rabbit holes when you don’t have colleagues distracting you with a coffee run or a story about last night. Make yourself get up for both a mental break and a chance to stretch your legs on a regular basis. This can be a coffee break (see point 5) or walking your dog around the block for some fresh air.
12. Pay attention to tone when you communicate. When you are not in person, it is very easy for people to misunderstand your tone. Intention can be lost or misconstrued through phone calls, emails and texts. Pay attention to your wording and err on the side of super-positive. When possible, use video conferencing to stay on page and maintain that face-to-face connection.
13. Seek out periodic company. Working from home can be isolating. Whether you reach out to colleagues or family or friends, take time every day to connect socially with someone. 
14. Break out the mood music. Sometimes you need a little inspiration to get through a project, like Rocky Balboa as he heads up the steps at the Philly Museum of Art. Sometimes you need a pick me up to find your positive energy for the day. And, sometimes, you need the company of a favorite song. Whatever the reason and the benefit, playing music is good for the soul and the home work environment. Silence can be stifling and can make your space feel empty.
15. Set boundaries with others that are in your home. While you don’t want to disappear into a black hole (bad for relationships), you do need to set some guidelines to help you remain productive at home. Some ways to do this are setting certain hours that are sacred work time, or creating a signal (a sock on the doorknob perhaps?) for times when you can’t be interrupted unless there’s blood involved, or discussing how to politely engage when you are in the middle of a task (for those of us with 8-year-olds running around). This understanding should be a two-way street…even if you are the only one at home working, you should respect the objectives of the other people in the house to keep the balance.

16. Take sick days like you would if you were at the office. Just because you are home and have a bed you could work from, doesn’t mean you should. When you are sick, you are sick. Take the time to heal and don’t push yourself to do more than what you would have done if you worked from the office.


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