Many of us have settled into our new “normal” of working from home (WFH). It is predicted that many more individuals will be working permanently from home in the future as 2020 showed that we are fully capable of doing that. Many tech and research companies have already decided to make the change. Some are down-scaling their office spaces and creating a rotation system where employees can “rent-out” desks and rooms on the days they want to come to the office. I personally have always enjoyed the mix of remote work and in-office work (see my earlier blogpost on working from home vs. in office) so I am excited to see how multiple employers are going to offer that and the changes that they are going to make in order to allow for that to happen.
Despite this, re-entering into working from home after the holidays is posing to be challenging in the new year given the current circumstances. I think that we all have to take time this month to reassess what is working for us and what is not. Below, I share with you some tips on working from home that I have learned (and am continuing to learn) and I have seen rotating on social media as we move into the new year.
- Put yourself first – self-care is key.
Virtual participation can become exhausting! You have to maintain composure, keep your eyes fixed on the screen, pay full attention, and sit for extended periods of time. Your eyes and back can easily feel strained. Always remember that no one is going to watch out better for you than yourself and that you can’t respond to others needs if your own are not being met. So, it is important to maintain-self care. To relieve exhaustion, you can:
- Participate in some meetings with your camera off. Take a phone call instead. If you are leading meetings, allow for others to connect via audio only.
- Limit the length of your meetings and lectures and add in mandatory walking or stretching breaks.
- When you are not working, participate in off-screen activities such as reading a book, listening to music, crafting, and cooking as much as possible.
- Be comfortable in your working space whether that is wearing PJs or sweats or dressing up professionally. Do what works for you! Invest in your room/office space where you are working/ living to become your sanctuary given the amount of time you spend there.
- Treat yourself. Celebrate your accomplishments.
- Keep an agenda and organize.
At this point, a 2021 agenda seems pretty useless, eh? Well, it doesn’t have to be. You can still plan out your days, weeks, and months, to help you stay on track and motivated. Write down all your deadlines. Don’t forget to include your “big events” such as birthday celebrations, graduation, and anniversaries. That being said, try to be flexible. It is okay if everything in your agenda or to-do list isn’t crossed out. The whole point is for it to act as a guideline and to put all your thoughts for the upcoming days on paper. Also, organize your space earlier in the year to make it work for you. This includes organizing your desk space, living space, computer, agenda, and routine.
- Bridge the divide between “home” and “work”.
The divide between home and work is not as clear anymore. Take it from a PhD student that the lack of divide will make you feel as if you are struggling in both work productivity and home-life. It is not too late to create the divide. For that, you can:
- Designate a working space (or if you are like me, multiple working spaces). It may be difficult in certain homes to have a separate room or home office. But, you can be creative with this one. If you don’t feel bothered working in the same space as others, you can make your dining table a working space for you and your family members to work. If you prefer quiet, you can find a corner in the house that is separate from the rest of your house. Entering a designated working space will better allow you to transition into work, while leaving that space will allow you to transition out. When you are working from your bed, that sense of transition is lost.
- Box your time. Keep cognizant of the number of hours that you are working. Taking more breaks throughout the day may mean that you are working late into the evening and then, you may feel as if you worked the entire day. We may also feel the need to work longer because what else is there to do. Well, that’s when burnout can happen. What is important is not the number of hours worked but the amount and quality of work done. With virtual work, you have to learn to be your own time manager and master time boxing.
- Don’t become fixated.
Don’t become fixated on being productive. On the news. On following an agenda. On social media. On activities that everyone else is doing. On setting boundaries. 2020 has taught us to be flexible and patience – we must not lose that as we progress into a new year and work environment.
Share your goals, schedule, and accomplishments with others whether that is colleagues or family. It allows you to remain engaged as well as gain continuous feedback. At the same time, feel free to go on communication freezes for your productivity and/or mental health. If communication whether that is texts or emails feel like an interruption, turn off your notifications. If family members interrupt you, create a signal that allows them to know that you are working whether that is keeping the door closed, a sign on the door, or wearing your headphones.