As of June 2020, more than four out of 10 Americans worked from home full-time. While some businesses have brought their employees back into a traditional work environment, many working parents must continue to operate out of the house to monitor their children’s virtual learning experience.
Whether you are new to the work-at-home game or you are now struggling because your work space is being crowded with crayons and arithmetic equations, one thing is clear. You need to find a way to manage the stress and to be as productive as possible.
1. Add “Stop” to the End of Your To-Do List
I’ve been working from home for 12 years, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the “You’re so lucky….” spiel. Now that you work from home, you know that it’s not all that it’s cracked up to be.
Don’t get me wrong – I don’t think many of us miss a 7am commute or obnoxious co-workers.
On the other hand, you may now realize that working from home is not a 9-to-5 job for most people. My workday used to start around 8:30am when I worked in commercial finance. It now starts at 6am. Quitting time could be when someone asks me what’s for dinner around 630pm or so.
More than that, the days seem to run together when you work at home. Working through the weekends isn’t really uncommon for those who work at home.
Clearly, this is not healthy. It leads to unnecessary stress and burnout. The sedentariness can lead to obesity, heart disease and so much more.
Do yourself a favor. Create a firm to-do list for the day. Ensure that you can reasonably complete the work that day. At the end of the list, pencil in that it’s time to call it a day.
2. Learn to Compartmentalize
Finding a healthy work-life balance is not only about allocating ample time for family, friends and self. When you work at home, it is also about finding a mental balance.
In a traditional office environment, thoughts related to making a grocery list, vacuuming the floor and what is in the box that your neighbor is hauling to the curb are unnecessary distractions.
Each distraction pulls your focus away and impairs efficiency. Once your thoughts are somewhere else, it can sometimes take an act of god to get settled again. Then, the next distraction comes along…
One of the best techniques for dealing with these and other irrelevant thoughts is compartmentalization. When a thought continues to distract you, pay attention to it for a moment. Consciously decide if it warrants your attention later. If it doesn’t, allow it to float out of your mind. If it does, compartmentalize it in a box. Once the thought is in a box, you can return to it later.
After all of the thoughts have been dealt with, you can focus fully on your work.
3. Become a Tech Expert
It’s no secret that technological advancements have enabled so much of the workforce to be productive remotely. Technological challenges clearly become a serious hindrance to remote working.
This may be complicated by the fact that you must use a dozen different programs or applications for communication, file sharing, social media management and more.
I’ll admit that I’ve spent many long hours trying to solve what should’ve been a quick fix. If you do not have access to remote tech support, it may fall on your shoulders to be your own tech expert.
Thankfully, there are more online resources than ever before to help you out. Rather than becoming frustrated with your lack of expertise, start Googling.
4. Conquer Your Environment
Is your work environment all that you need it to be? If you are like most work-at-home professionals, you must admit that your office space at home could use some sprucing up.
Are you struggling to find quiet time with the kids in the house? Are you falling asleep on the couch when you should be attending an online webinar? These are only a few of the many challenges that you may be dealing with.
Unfortunately, there is no clear-cut solution that addresses the many environmental issues that could be present in your home. Identify the most pressing issues impacting your workday. Within the structure of your home life or family routine, find feasible solutions.
The best solutions are those that are harmonious with the existing structure.
5. Create Structure
Does your workday start with a bang and then fizzle out a few hours later? Very few people can plough straight through for eight hours or more without stopping in an office environment.
This becomes even more challenging at home when your professional and personal lives are butted in head-to-head combat.
The secret is to create a structured routine. If you are working at home with your kids, your routine must take into account their needs and school responsibilities as well. The good news is that structure can benefit everyone in the home.
6. Reach Out
One of the more challenging aspects of working at home is the sense of isolation that you feel. The break room banter and workday luncheons are gone. There are no pre-meeting jokes with coworkers, and catching up after a long weekend is out the window.
You can and should reach out to your friends from the office. If you have a normal lunch group or happy hour group, everyone may love getting together like old times. For social distancing purposes, you can always hop on Zoom for a remote happy hour or lunch together.
7. Be Flexible
Each of these steps will be invaluable to you in different ways, but one tip stands above all others. When you work at home, anything can happen. Or everything can happen all at once.
Most days in a remote work environment can be rather boring, but personal, professional and technological issues can and will crop up. You must remain flexible so that you can roll with the punches.
Search for the silver lining and the learning opportunity in everything.