With many cities under “shelter-in-place” or even outright quarantine restrictions, a lot of the workforce is suddenly having to learn how to work from home.
Hence, the internet is flooded with information: productivity tips, life hacks, and how in the world do you keep your kids out of your hair?!
I can’t help with that last one. And because I’ve only been working from home for less than a year, I’ve been digging into these tips too.
But you know what? They’re not resonating with me.
So for all of you who feel guilty because you don’t have a “morning routine” that involves a grounding meditation session followed by graceful yoga that segues into a hot cup of coffee slowly savored over your fresh-cooked breakfast, I feel you. Read on.
It’s OK to Not Start Work Until 10am… or 11
Provided you have the luxury of setting your own schedule, it’s okay to not jump out of bed at 8am.
As a freelance writer, I have this luxury, and for months, I felt guilty about being seemingly unable to get out of bed at a “decent” hour.
Getting to sleep early enough the night before? Check. Getting solid hours of sleep during the night? Check. Regular exercise routine and healthy(ish) diet? You betcha.
So why, oh why am I turning my alarm off in my sleep and waking up naturally at 9:30, 10, or 11am?
I don’t know. But I’m here to tell you that I don’t feel guilty about it anymore. I got an email from Leah, who runs Freelance to Freedom, who struggled with the exact same problem, and she simply stopped feeling guilty about it. She helped normalize it for me.
Some people are early birds, savoring their two-hour-long morning routine before settling in front of their impeccably clean desk and opening their laptop to put in a complete 8-hour day.
And some of us are learning that our bodies don’t function that way, and that’s okay. Especially during a pandemic. As long as you’re getting your work done and not missing deadlines, cut yourself some slack and put in the hours you “missed” after 5pm, if you need to.
Do Stay Focused
Many of us were used to working in distracting office environments. Coworkers passing by to chat, meetings every hour and a half, and hmm I wonder if there are snacks in the kitchen?
At home, the distractions are different, but they’re still there. The pile of laundry you keep meaning to do, the cell phone your boss suddenly can’t see that you’re scrolling, and oh yes, the grocery store run that takes twice as long because of the social-distancing-caused line.
It’s essential to find ways to stay focused, and some of the tricks you’re used to in an office can still apply.
- Grab your headphones, noise cancelling or otherwise, and use ‘em. Play music, listen to a podcast, whatever you used to do in your office environment to drown out ambient noise, keep up that habit.
- Block off time for home and time for work. Again, it doesn’t have to be a regular 8–5 schedule if you don’t want it to and have that flexibility, but tell your brain that work hours are for work, and you’re not allowed to touch the laundry.
- Keep other tabs closed and your phone laying screen down. Leave it across the room if you have to.
Your home has its distractions, but taking steps to maximize your ability to focus will help you be more productive.
It’s OK to Not Have a Desk… or Pants
While it is a good idea to separate your work from your personal life (meaning don’t work in your bed, for example), you don’t have to have a perfectly organized, Pinterest-worthy desk.
I’m currently writing from a giant armchair in my living room, under an afghan. I don’t have a desk and always hated them when I worked in an office.
Does this mean I’m less productive? Nope. Does it mean it’s not as ergonomic as sitting at a real desk might be? Probably. (But my body hasn’t started talking to me about it yet, so I think I’m okay.)
Maybe you work from your sofa, or your kitchen table, or even a closet. That’s okay! Wherever you’re able to make work, well, work for you is just fine. I’m most comfortable in this cushy purple armchair. You do you.
Similarly, I’ve read many articles touting the importance of Getting Dressed to Get Into Work Mode. If this helps you, by all means, throw on those slacks.
Personally, I prefer pajamas. They’re wayyyyy more comfortable to sit in all day, and being comfortable means not being distracted every five minutes with how snug my skinny jeans are.
So if you’re comfy and focused in sweats and an old T-shirt, again, you do you. You definitely don’t have to wear pants to get into Work Mode. (Just watch out for those Zoom meeting camera fails!)
Do Stay Healthy
That being said, I’m pretty sure my body isn’t yelling at me for lack of proper posture because I have a regular exercise routine that I’m pretty adamant about sticking to.
When suddenly working from home, exercise can fall by the wayside in terms of priorities. Don’t let it! A consistent workout routine is essential for your health.
(Though I sympathize with those who have little ones underfoot; consistent workouts are easier said than done for some.)
Check out Craigslist for free or low-cost treadmills or ellipticals, and spend your 10-minute breaks with a quick indoor walk or cycle. (You are taking breaks still, right?) Take your dog out for an extra walk, or add an extra block or two to your usual route (socially distanced, of course!).
Grab a pair of adjustable dumbbells for a space-saving option and get squatting. Do that yoga flow I mentioned earlier, though you don’t have to do it first thing if you don’t want to. Yoga is great for stretching out hip flexors that can tighten from prolonged sitting.
Supplement this workout-from-home routine with healthful foods. If you’re able, maintain a semi-regular grocery store schedule to keep stocked on fresh goods. If you’re stuck inside and already breaking out the beans and rice staples, find new recipes in which to use them.
Taking care of your body is essential, but don’t neglect your mental health. This is especially important if you’re stuck inside with nothing to stare at but the same half-dozen walls.
When work is over and you’ve gotten your sweat on, check in with yourself. How are you feeling? No, really, I’m gonna ask it again, and I want you to stop reading, close your eyes, and think about it.
How are you feeling?
If the answer is stressed, anxious, tired, tense, or anything else, that’s okay. We’re all feeling it to some degree. The important part is how you handle it.
Do you journal? Bake? Play video games? Curl up with a good book? Hide under the covers and binge-watch TV? (That last one may not be super enriching but no judgement, sometimes you need your comforts.)
However you relax, especially right now, it’s vital to make time for that in your day. I realize this too is a luxury, especially with children, so if your relax-time is just taking five deep breaths at the end of your shower to center yourself, that’s okay too.
What Are You Doing at Home?
If you’re new to working from home, or if you’ve been a professional pajama-wearing Zoom meeting attendee for years, I want to know what you’re doing to make your new at-home hours as smooth and productive as possible.
Me? I’m writing! If you like what I do, let’s talk. I’d love to write for you too; it’s part of my afternoon routine.