When you’re working at home, it’s all too easy to get distracted from getting things done. That’s why lines need to be drawn and boundaries need to be set.
A lot of office workers find themselves in an interesting situation these days. They’re no longer going to an office to work.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, companies that used to frown on employees working from home were suddenly forced to embrace the practice. While this was great news for those of you who were tired of endless commutes (sitting in your car for an hour to go sit for another eight hours), you might have been unprepared for just how significant a shift in lifestyle this required.
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No more relaxing coffee breaks and water cooler talks. Instead, you’re at the mercy of spouses, kids, and pets who love the fact you’re now at home 24/7. So much access! Who cares if you have to get that 50-page report done? Fido needs a walk!
Then, of course, there’s the fact that the boss isn’t anywhere in your neighborhood. Why not watch a couple episodes of the newest streaming series sensation? Why not watch a couple more? And if you should happen to feel the need for a long, long nap…
As you can see, when you’re working at home, it’s all too easy to get distracted from getting things done. That’s why lines need to be drawn and boundaries need to be set. Here are a few ways to keep your sanity — and your job — when your commute shrinks down to strolling from your bedroom to your spare room.
If your home office space is limited, I sympathize. But I also STRONGLY advise you find a way to put a door between you and the rest of the household if you don’t live alone. While it’s webcam-cute if your kitty lays down on your desk and purrs for all to enjoy, it’s not so cute if your feline friend starts coughing up a furball while you’re making a virtual presentation. Shut the door and stick a sign on the outside of it: “SHHH. IMPORTANT PERSON AT WORK.” Hopefully, your spouse won’t laugh loudly at it while you’re on the phone…
The last thing you need after surviving COVID-19 is ending up with neck, back, or carpal tunnel syndrome. You can find thousands of articles and videos to help guide you in creating a desk set up that won’t bring on the pain down the line. At our company, we take it up a notch. Our company hires ergonomic experts to do a presentation for all-hands-on-deck calls, then we adapt the recording for our new employee training. If people still are having problems with their setup, we’ll ask a specialist to do a video check to make sure it’s as physically comfortable as possible.
Even though you’re at home, you’re also at work. And even though it might not look like what you're used to, you must act like it’s an office.
Do yourself a favor. Print out the title of this tip (inspired by Gertrude Stein) and stick it on the wall above your monitor to remind yourself that even though you’re at home, you’re also at work. And even though it might not look like what you're used to, you must act like it’s an office. You’ll still be interacting with colleagues and you’ll still be expected to respond to messages in a timely manner—not to mention actually getting your work done and taking things seriously. Joining a management meeting in your fluffy PJs and funny hat to celebrate your home-based freedom is not adorable. Stay professional – and employed.
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At the same time, don’t forget to have a life and one that won’t kill you. When you work at home, all sorts of lines can end up getting crossed. You could find yourself up at 2 a.m. finishing up a report. And you could end up ignoring important parts of your personal life, simply because your office is now in your home.
Look for ways to integrate work into your life, instead of allowing it to do a hostile takeover. If you want to maintain regular work hours because that’s how you’re the most efficient, that’s fine. For me, work is just part of my life—not the biggest part, but it’s how I pay for the rest of it. This may seem like an extreme example, but on my way up Everest, I knew there was an Internet café at 14,000 feet. So I hunkered down an extra day, caught up, did a couple of meetings, and kept climbing.
A couple of other tips. Eat healthy (snacking all day at your desk doesn’t fit that definition) and make time for exercise so you stay in shape. Finally, get showered and dressed so you feel like a person, rather than an unemployed blogger!