4 rules I follow to work from home and still be productive
Sticking to a routine is key...
Two years ago, I transitioned from a media professional in a highly organised newsroom environment, to a graduate student in a fairly dynamic, informal classroom setting. As our lectures were just three hours long and limited only to a certain few days of the week, the rest of the time was spent reading papers and writing essays at home. Naturally, I embraced the change with great relish. Here I was, unconcerned about dressing up or behaving myself in front of my colleagues and editors after years of office discipline, finally free to sit (read sprawl) in my pyjamas on my couch with a large assortment of snacks and drinks while working. Who wouldn’t get used to a work from home arrangement?
Needless to say, the system didn’t last long, for multiple reasons. The changes in my body and mind were starting to become too huge to ignore. As the pile of readings increased with the nearing of the end of the first semester, so did my weight and mental stress. Instead of bringing me comfort, my pyjamas and couch became glaring reminders of, “What am I doing with my life?” even while I was working on complex political, social and economic theories. The charm of an approaching weekend lost all meaning. I began missing the conversations of the same colleagues of the newsroom who earlier annoyed me with their loud voices and incredulous arguments. An occasional beer with lunch also creeped into my schedule, as did endless videos of funny dogs and cats. In fact, work started to seem like an interruption in my leisure schedule.
I realised I needed to make a change when the deadlines that had seemed months away appeared out of nowhere with all three essays due within the same week. It was like a bus had hit me. I, who had prided on my organisational skills, work ethics and army-like discipline, had become a slob. But now, in my final semester and two years later, I can happily share some small, but highly effective tips on how to work from home. These tips helped me get off the lazy train, improved my grades, and restored my slipping mental and physical health.
4 WORK FROM HOME RULES TO FOLLOW
Follow a work and play schedule
Make a schedule
Working from home (WFH) affords you some luxuries such as eliminating the commute to office. It’s crucial how you utilise this free time and use it to your benefit. Instead of being tempted to stay in bed and jumping on to online chats five minutes before the start of the meeting, use this time to work out and prepare your meals. This gives a boost to your mental and physical sanity. Eating well and exercising are important to elevate mood swings and depression that are two big realities of WFH. Being cut off from physical interactions with colleagues can reduce inspiration and motivation to work, and it is important to find energies in other sources. Enjoy the fact that you now have time to cook and work out, which had seemed daunting during the rigorous work hours, and include both in your WFH schedule. As the end of the day nears, remember to disconnect from work and create time boundaries between office and play hours. Don’t let work spill on to your evening walk with the dog or a run in the park and at the same time, don’t get too complacent about work.
Maintain the sanctity of workspace and professionalism
Don’t spend the day working in your pyjamas
Dress up when you are working, even if semi-formally. If you must stay in your pyjamas, at least make sure to wear a smart top. There is a reason why you don’t show up at work unkempt and it is called discipline. Couch and bed are the two biggest enemies of WFH. Invest in a desk and good office chair that you can ideally put in a brightly lit corner of your home. Not only will your productivity and posture thank you, your colleagues will not be forced to endure your unmade bed and piles of laundry in the background. Communicate with other members of your house the importance of not distracting you during work hours, no matter how important they may feel the conversation is. They wouldn’t bug you about the empty milk carton or a courier at the door if you were at office, and the same should be applied to when you are WFH.
(Over)communicate with colleagues
Keep in touch with your colleagues
Update your managers about your daily or weekly goals, send reminders about meetings, write more detailed emails and follow up on tasks more often. It is important to stay in touch with your colleagues to keep up the importance of work and the seriousness of what you are doing. Let your team know you are available and connected for chats and group projects. Set more rigorous deadlines for your own goals to feel more successful.
Connect with the outside world
Try and venture out once in a while
It is easy to become a hermit and lose all sense of the reality when you are WFH. Socialise with friends, neighbours or family members, even if it’s online. A 15-minute conversation with a loved one can give you a much-needed break from the monotony of home and email threads.
In the end, remember to be grateful for the luxury of being able to work from home, which many daily wage labourers or offline industry workers are unable to do. WHF isn’t your cue to becoming a lazy slob, it is an opportunity to up your professional game, get more healthy and become more productive.
The author is a social science researcher in Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, Spain.