Having a home office is great! But it also merges our personal and professional lives. Today, as more companies shift to remote working environments, it’s less about work-life “balance” and instead finding a way to “integrate” the personal with the professional in a way that keeps us motivated, fulfilled, productive and healthy.
The remote working environment also brings with it a confluence of challenges – we have to gain the trust of our teams, prove to be accountable, available and a self-starter, and committed to meeting all deadlines. Company’s can set up the virtual employee for success, but it’s ultimately on us to build that credibility and maximize the remote opportunity, while finding a healthy balance between our personal and professional lives.
For those new to the remote working environment, or seeking ways to improve your current home office situation, here are five ways to set yourself up for success!
Build a dedicated – and SPACIOUS – workspace. The best part about working from home is that you never have to go into the office (and flip-flops). The challenging part? You live at your office! Well, it can certainly feel that way if we fail to set personal and professional, physical boundaries. The home is meant for family, fun, food; home is meant to feel like a reprieve from the rigours of the outside world, safe and comforting. Without a dedicated workspace, the two can begin to meld and leave us feeling like a conspiracy theorist peppering our walls with newspaper clippings, leads, drawings and yarn connecting it all in some grand scheme that ultimately doesn’t exist.
Don’t let yourself reach that level of crazy. Build a dedicated workspace; if possible, away from your bed, away from loud noises and distractions, and most importantly – a space with elbow room. Stock your workspace with the materials you need, including pens/pencils, paper, a printer if possible, and any decorations you might have kept at the office before transitioning. The more professional my workspace feels, the more productive I find myself to be. And when the work day is over, leave work in your workspace, keep the comforts of home the comforts of home. Separate, even if that’s just closing your laptop.
Stick to your routine. New to the remote environment? Whatever you did before going to a physical office, don’t change. Follow the exact same process. Set your alarm. Shower. Eat breakfast. Take a minute to inhale the aroma of fresh coffee. Enjoy the crackle of bacon on the stove. Brush your teeth. And put on fresh, clean clothes. It can be fun to go all slumber party mode and work from home in your pillow fort. But it can also be a huge detractor from productivity. When we look good and feel good, we work well. Some can roll out of bed and plop into a chair ready to tackle the world. If you’re like me, a shower, breakfast and brief walk with the dog is vital to flipping that switch from early morning haze to “it’s go time” work mode.
Get out. Leave. The. House. Traffic is my No. 1 pet peeve. As an extension of that, commuting to work used to make me miserable. However, our commutes provide somewhat of a disconnect from work and home. During commutes I’d throw on a podcast or one of my Spotify playlists. Commutes can be a hassle, but I also found mine to be therapeutic in a way as I trekked from the office to the gym or from home to the office with a full cup of coffee and 90’s soft rock tunes on a loop. Without a commute, I’ve found my ability to perform demands occasionally getting out. Take a 15-minute walk around the block. Venture with your laptop to the local coffee shop (if you’re not easily distracted) for an afternoon work session. Pick up lunch. Do jumping jacks in the backyard. Whatever you do, find a brief respite of free time during the work day. This also extends to non-work time! I love my remote working environment. I love the intersection of work and home and find it most conducive to my working style. That said, I also enjoy face-to-face interaction with both colleagues and friends. Disconnecting from work and spending time with those I care about, over happy hour or even in silence at a movie, not only fills my mental wellness cup but also makes me appreciate even more the flexibility of working from home on a full-time basis. However you need to identify the best ways to disconnect from work, during the work day and during your free time, then try to stick with it! Your work will experience the benefits.
Eliminate procrastination outlets. Many remote employees, myself included, have remote workspaces that include TVs, beds, book cases, pets and/or even family. Personally, I love some background noise. I work best to music or the sounds of a bustling coffee shop. Depending on your working style, it may be essential to cut off the opportunity for procrastination and distraction. Unplug the television, shut the blinds, silence your phone and throw it in a drawer, turn down the music, keep your dog in another room, maybe even consider setting social media restrictions. For me, my bedroom means relaxation. Relaxation before bed means pulling out my iPhone and browsing Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and countless sporting websites. If my workspace were to be located in my bedroom, I could see that pull toward “relaxation” trickling its way into my work days – specifically, feeling the urge to pull out my phone when a challenge I’d rather avoid than confront arose or a slow period of the day were to hit. Toward this end, if at all possible, keep your bedroom part of "home" and your "office" located elsewhere, in the pantry if necessary! If new to the remote working environment, equip yourself for success by first eliminating distractions and finding your groove. You can always adjust as you continue to learn what you need to thrive.
Stick to your schedule (and communicate it). Scheduled working hours for remote professionals can and certainly will vary. We don’t have a commute, so we often feel obligated to start earlier and end later. There is no closing time. On top of that, if new to the remote environment, we need to gain the trust of our superiors and colleagues; we need to meet our deadlines, make meetings, respond to timely requests and prove our accountability. It’s important to earn that trust by how we carry ourselves. Similarly, it’s also important to set boundaries. Make sure your colleagues know your work schedule. Likewise, respect your free time. We all work hard because we care about our careers, we care about our teams, and we want to do well for ourselves but also for our peers. It’s possible to maintain a healthy balance!
The most important component of setting and sticking to a healthy schedule: communication. Set your status on the company chat platform, firm up your daily schedule, keep your company calendar fully updated (you can never put too many things on here), let teammates know if you have an appointment or need to step out for a time, and give yourself a little grace by wrapping up the work day at a reasonable time when the schedule allows. There are work days that turn into work nights. It’s reality. But by setting and sticking to a regular schedule, working from home becomes more structured, and with structures comes healthier work-life integration and balance.
Working from home can be awesome. If we’re accountable to our companies, our teams and ourselves, if we communicate and maintain balance and invest in uncovering our optimal remote working style, it can be a perk unlike any other. For some, the five examples above hopefully prove useful. For others, it may be a complete 180. Whatever your avenue for succeeding from home, find what works best for you! And maybe just once try working from a pillow fort.
Richard supports WilsonHCG's marketing team as global communications specialist, focusing on content strategy, public relations and telling both client and WilsonHCG stories. Richard finds true joy and passion developing real, genuine relationships and connecting people across the talent landscape through inclusive and engaging content. He's an ardent coffee drinker, book-aholic and adores his English lab Maggie.