Friday, March 13, 2020

{work from home | advice and tips}

Well folks, I feel like this post has been a long time coming for me to write... but my DMs have recently been flooded with people asking for advice because starting next week, due to the corona virus, they're going to be working from home. I'm pretty shocked it's come to this, I can't lie, but we've got technology on our side so don't freak!

When I moved to Key West I was lucky to be able to keep my job working as a designer at an architecture firm. They supported me completely, but I knew that my roles and day-to-day was going to change drastically. I also knew that the house Kyle and I bought wasn't totally ideal for a home office - I've had to make do and I think I've come up with a pretty good solution and routine.

I'm not a pro... I've been doing this since August and can say that I'm able to accomplish my daily tasks, be a team player, and help move projects forward but I'm sure there are things I should be changing to be more productive too! My point being - what works for me may not be best for you! So just keep that in mind



Get Yourself Dressed and Ready

- Does that sound obvious? It should be! One of the easiest ruts to fall in to is staying in your pajamas all day. Notice how I said pajamas... you can be in comfy clothes but just CHANGE! This simple routine will help you wake up, get your booty out of bed and feeling like a human ready to work.
- Brush your teeth, fix your hair, and put a bit of makeup on (if you want!). This helps me be ready for an unexpected video call or if I have to run a quick errand. To be honest, it also allows me to answer the door and not get judged by the UPS man lol...
- If you have plans after work then you're also ready to go when the day is over :)

Take 15 min to Pick Up Your House

- Make your bed, unload the dishwasher, straighten up the living room, put dirty dishes in the sink away, quickly sweep the floor, etc. Do what you need to do to create a distraction free environment. I'll write another post about my morning routine and what I do to prep for my work day (too much detail would defeat the purpose of this post).
- Knocking out any distractions early on will allow you to be fully present in your work day. If I can see a mess in my kitchen during a conference call I'm totally losing focus. But maybe that's just me ha I can be a little type A.

Create a Dedicated Work Space

- A place where you can sit down and work comfortably on your computer, preferably something ergonomic so your neck and back don't start aching by hour 4...
- Most people are being forced into WFH right now so their apartment may not allow this. My point simply is - whatever space you choose to work in, make it 100% for work. That means if you're sitting on the sofa... do NOT turn that tv on. Seriously, don't. I've been there before and it doesn't allow you to check tasks off efficiently.
- I personally sit at my dining room table. I've gathered extra tools to help my posture so that I'm more comfortable through the day and I move my chair to the long side so I have more writing space.

Ergonomics

- Ergonomics is the science of designing a space to be functional and comfortable for human use. Basically, if you're on a laptop and hunched over for 8 hours straight your neck is going to kill you, your shoulders will hunch up and don't get me started on that lower back... bad ergonomics!
- If you're able, get a mouse, mouse pad, and extra keyboard from your office. Then find a way to prop your laptop up higher. In your office, you most likely have computer screens that are eye level when you sit down! If you're working in the kitchen like I am then that's not possible.
- I purchased this laptop stand on Amazon and it's been a life changer [note: this version is a bit pricier than usual simply because I wanted it to look sleek if it was left out]. Try stacking a bunch of books up as well! If your laptop is high up that's why you'll want a mouse and keyboard :)

TAKE BREAKS

- Oh my gosh I cannot stress this enough... if you're sitting in your house in one spot for 8 hours you will be burnt out by the second day. Think about how much you move in your office - you go grab a coffee, you walk over to a coworker to ask a question, you look out the window, you walk to a meeting, you walk to another meeting, etc. You are MOVING between each task. So remind yourself to get up and stretch those legs
- Don't be afraid to go outside and get a coffee or take a walk around the block. Your mental health needs some TLC while you're working from home too!
- Also, try to not let yourself snack during every break you take (I say this because I speak from experience and realized how unhealthy I was getting).

Plan Time to Communicate with People

- Working from home is lonely... there. I said it. This has been, hands down, the hardest part about working remotely for me. I am a people person and loved the interactions I would have in my office
- Plan time to talk on the phone with a coworker - not just on IM. Sometimes things can be "talked out" better verbally anyways. Even better? Plan a video conference!! I've tried so hard to get my office to be better with this lol.
- Also plan time to get out of the house and see friends at the end of the day.
- If you're an introvert you're going to thrive in this situation but don't forget about the people that love you and want to know you're doing okay!
- Make time to go to the gym and move your body - this is the biggest thing for me and sometimes the only human interaction I have on a day to day basis.
- Just give yourself a fighting chance to have interactions with other HUMANS! (Even if it's saying thank you to the mail guy... getting mail/package has quickly become a highlight of my day ha).

Remove Distractions

- No TV
- Plug your phone in away from you
- Put on classical music as a white noise
- You get the jist... imitate your usual office environment

Don't Let Things Pile Up

- This was one thing I didn't realize I was doing until Kyle pointed it out... I would make lunch, a snack, open a package, etc. and wouldn't 100% pick up after myself. I said that I would do it after the work day was over. However, then Kyle came home and the house was a bit messy. Even after I had cleaned that morning!!
- When you make lunch, clean up completely after yourself. Don't leave dishes in the sink and don't leave crumbs on the counter. If you open a package, take the box out to the recycling right away. If you wouldn't leave a mess in your office (duh) then don't leave a mess for yourself.

COMMUNICATE

- Again, sounds obvious, but you have to over communicate in this situation.
- At the end of the day let your manager/boss/team know what you were able to get through, what you plan on working on the next day, or if you're going to need more direction or work. This will help alleviate any stress or fear in upper management that work is not getting done. It shows you're responsible and a team player.
- Just trust me on this one - people are automatically going to assume that everyone is goofing off and not getting their work done. When they assume that, they can normally be a bit tougher and virtually "hover" - prove that you're doing your job and you are more likely to be left in peace to accomplish things.

You Have a Life Too!

- You aren't expected to be sitting at your desk every second for every hour. I think this is something everyone needs to be reminded of. Think about your regular day in the office - did you have times when you'd walk to coffee with a coworker? Was it okay if you had a doctor's appointment during the day? Did you have clients call you on your cell phone? Would you take a quick break to sit in the sunshine away from your computer? Did you run to the grocery store to grab an ingredient for dinner or a snack?
- If you communicated that flow of work regularly with your team and bosses then I believe it's okay to do that now. On that note...

Make Sure Your Calendar is Up to Date

- Since your coworkers don't have visual cues of where you are (ex: at your desk or sitting in a focus room) make sure your calendar reflects your schedule.
- Keep meetings up to date, show out of office meetings for doctor's appointments, schedule time when you just want to catch up with a coworker, and even block out breaks to ensure you get reminded to walk around!
- I also like to block out "travel" time... this way I can leave on time for a doctor's visit and my coworker won't accidentally schedule a meeting that ends right when your appointment starts. It just saves a lot of back and forth emailing.
- Also note that it's totally okay to make appointments private. You don't need to blast your day to day and personal life to everyone that can access your calendar. Just be a good and honest employee.

Put Work Away at the End of the Day

- I used to joke that whenever I'd work from home in DC I'd end up working 10 hour days... because I never had a visual cue of coworkers packing up that the day was over.
- Don't overwork yourself... you'll drain out and not be productive the rest of the week
- When I've finished my work for the day, or reached a stopping point, I shut my computer down. Then I make a list for what needs to get done tomorrow, roll up my charger, stack my notebooks, and put everything in a bin in the closet. I put everything back in order on the dining room table, move my chair back, wipe the table clean (germs are all over that surface after 9 hours) and make it look like I never even worked there.
- It's important to visually create a separation of work and life since this is your home!

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Any other tips and tricks that I've missed? Anything I should add? I'd love if you left comments to help others out too. I know many of us aren't new to this but for some this is uncharted territory and it's intimidating. Everything will be okay :) If you're a parent and are staying at home with your kids and still trying to work - just take this WFH thing a day at a time. Some days are more productive than others, that's life!

Love Always,

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