How to Get More Out of Working from Home

Staying productive is one thing. But what else can you find during a change in your work routine?

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Posted in , Mar 13, 2020

Working from home

I’ve worked at home (as a freelance writer) since the new millennium dawned, so I have long-established habits that help me stay focused and fulfilled. As increasing numbers of people are being asked to work from home, I will quickly share what I might refer to as the 10 commandments of the home office lifestyle:

1) Have a general routine for when you start and end your day.

2) Get dressed, shower, pour yourself a warm beverage, or do some other ritual to help you transition into work.

3) Get up and walk around at least once an hour.

4) Pay attention to the ergonomics of your work area, including a supportive desk chair, properly aligned desk height and a phone with earpiece if possible.

5) Step away from your work to take a walk, run an errand, or eat somewhere other than at your desk.

6) Eat meals on schedule and minimize snacks as much as possible.

7) Set boundaries with family members and friends—protect your work time and space from interruptions.

8) Try to keep “home” paperwork like bills and checkbooks separate from “work” paperwork by using a separate file drawer and, if possible, desktop area.

9) Maintain a task list, separating deadline-driven items from long-term planning and organizational tasks.

10) Enjoy yourself! Make your space your own with music and décor, don’t be shy about thinking out loud, and make your breaks count with fresh air, a load of laundry, or even a catnap.

Just as the biblical 10 commandments aren’t nearly the full set of rules set forth in Scripture, these 10 tips aren’t the whole story of how to make working from home meaningful and positive. For that, you’ll need to think more openly about how you want to spend the precious resource of your time.

After a few days implementing your work-from-home best practices, think about how your new routine differs from your office routine. How much time are you saving by not having to commute? How many meetings have been canceled? With that extra time, what kind of new and creative contribution can you make to your work? To your team? You may find yourself surprisingly energized by fresh ideas.

You might also consider your work relationships in new ways. Maybe skipping a meeting helps you realize that you and your team members thrive on having more independent work time. Maybe you decide to recommit to sharpening your email communication skills. Or perhaps you see the strengths of your colleagues in a new light and want to take a moment to send them a note of appreciation.

Finally, let being away from your desk and the usual water cooler talk and commute time serve as an invitation to think broadly about what your work means to you. What are your long-term goals in your position? Do you aspire to leadership? Do you feel it’s time to step back and slow down? With some private time to reflect, compose a memo to your supervisor (or yourself) to see how it would feel to articulate your professional goals—and map out what it would look like to take steps toward achieving them. 

Regardless of whether you share your memo with others, you will have checked in with yourself and your work life in a positive, forward-looking way—right from the comfort of your own home.

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