The world is changing rapidly these days, with more and more change being thrown at us by the minute. A lot of my research during my PhD program centered around transitions and what is known as the liminal or in-between state. This is definitely where we are right now. It is a time where we know things have changed and yet we have no idea how anything will turn out. What I know from my research is that it is helpful during these times to have simple guidelines and a way to navigate new ways of being. One recent change that many people are going through is that they are transitioning from an office setting to working from home. I know from experience that this can take some getting used to and a lot of people on instagram have been asking for advice on how to be productive while WFH. So I wanted to give some advice based on what I have learned in the past five months of WFH through trial and error and what has worked for me.
Communicate - Just because you understand what you have to do for work and what your needs are, dont assume that your loved ones or whoever you live with understands your work needs. Set clear guidelines for how this new situation will work. If you have a meeting let them know you need quiet for that time period. You can also set rules like if the door is shut that means you can not be interrupted, but if the door is slightly ajar it means you're working but can be interrupted.
Curate a work area - Set up a designated work space and make it feel like a good place to work. I like setting up in front of a window and put some inspirational quotes around, but do whatever feels motivating to you. I highly recommend that the placement of your work space be located somewhere that is separate from your hang out space if possible and definitely separate from your sleeping space.
Create a schedule - Plan your day according to what needs to get done and how you want to work. Create a to do list and use block scheduling to combine similar tasks. For example if you can, try batching all of your calls together in a two hour block or create a 30 minute block to check emails. For me this makes it easier to be productive because I know what’s coming and can get in the right mindset for each task. I also like to schedule in "water cooler" breaks. So every hour I might take five minutes to go get some water, respond to a couple of texts or do jumping jacks. These breaks keep me going and take the place of talking with a coworker or going to the cafe or snack bar. Also keep in mind that it is really easy to say I will do it later when you are at home which is why it is important to create a schedule and stick to it.
Be flexible - Understand that based on your new situation, you may have to make some adjustments. For example, if your kids are home now and you need to help them with school work, you may have to rearrange your work schedule to accommodate that. It's important to keep in mind that this is only temporary and that the more you are able to bend the less likely you are to break.
Get dressed- I am all for being comfortable when you are working from home but I find I am way more productive if I get dressed. For me, I really like wearing super comfy leggings, or sweat pants with a dressy top because no one sees me from the waist down anyway.
Turn your notifications off during work times - In order to stay focused on work I put my phone on do not disturb so that I dont get distracted. This is especially important if you are now doing a lot of video conferencing because otherwise the phone will disrupt the meeting.
Create zoom hangouts- If you are used to working in an office setting it may be difficult to get used to working at home without the energy created by multiple people working at the same time. So open up a zoom meeting, invite your coworkers in, and treat it like an office. You can keep yourself muted until you have something to say and then just unmute yourself to talk to the group. It’s a great way to feel connected while working at home.
Create an end of the workday ritual - Its really easy to just keep working when you dont have to leave an office or have a set end time. In the beginning I found that I was working until 11pm, which is definitely not good for a work life balance. So I set an alarm for the time I want to be done each day and when it goes off I pack my computer into my bag like I am leaving the office for the day. Then I go into my bedroom, change into different clothes, and take a few minutes to just sit and relax before reentering the rest of the house. It just helps to create a signal to my brain that the work day is done and it’s time to relax.
Limit screen time - chances are that if you are working from home your screen time is increasing. Therefore, it is a good idea to limit the amount of screen time you have after your workday is done. Instead of watching tv try reading a book, playing a game with the family/roommates, or do some crafting.
Try to have fun with it - My motto for last few months has been that if I'm not having fun while I'm working than I am doing something wrong. So do whatever it takes to make yourself laugh especially now. Maybe that looks like playing music while you work or maybe it means that instead of getting dressed up you wear a silly onesie with all of your coworkers over zoom. Whatever it is, make it a point to have a good time.
I hope that these tips are useful for you right now and help to ease some of the anxiety that can come during times of transition. If you have any questions about how to implement some of these into your unique situation please feel free to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Otherwise, if you have any tips that you have found useful I would love to hear them in the comment section. Wishing you all a peaceful and fun WFH experience. Stay safe.