How to Work from Home Effectively

During the latest lockdown in Ontario, many companies have re-instituted mandatory work-from-home policies. If we are still reducing new cases and trying to limit community spread, these new rules may exist for a long while yet before any of us return to a commute to the office. That means a lot of us are experiencing a pretty unique challenge: working from home for the first time, full-time.

Even if you worked from home intermittently in the past, this feels entirely different because of how significant the change is. Not only are we trying to balance our 9-5 workdays, we also have to take into consideration our family (and children) being at home full-time as well, trying to balance home schooling with other responsibilities. It is overwhelming, but one of the best solutions in managing this new normal is to create a space that’s entirely devoted to you and your focus. Here are some of my best tips to make sure you’re successful in getting the job done.

Start by getting dressed.

You grab your phone, and you look at something, and you think you need to answer it right away, so you start working. The next thing you know, it’s almost lunchtime, and you’re still in your pj’s, you haven’t showered, and you feel like your entire day is thrown off. Try your best to stick to a routine when you are home, and that doesn’t mean rolling out of bed and connecting to work. Wake up, have your regular coffee and breakfast, take a shower, and get dressed as if you were still planning on leaving the house for work. You will feel better and more empowered to put your best foot forward.

Keep your work life and home life separate.

Pre-pandemic, most of us were used to the separation that came between our work life and home life: not only was the distance physical, but we had particular schedules to follow that helped us maintain that work-life balance. Now that’s all gone out the window, and it can be tricky to disconnect from work when you’re in your home each day, every day.

If you can, a separate room that you can designate solely as your office space is the ideal scenario. However, if not, you can still create that workspace in an existing room, whether that’s a specific corner in your living room, a section of your kitchen table or your dining room. You want to make your “office” feel as separate from the rest of your home as possible. That way, you’re setting yourself up properly: when you walk into that space in the morning, your workday starts, and whenever you decide to clock out of it, your workday is done. Also important? Shut down your computer, close your files and clean up the workspace, so it officially feels like you’re done working for the day.

Home office

Make your office space comfortable.

This seems intuitive, but think about how many hours you are going to spend working each day, whether it’s a regular 8-hour schedule or a few hours in the morning and afternoon. You must make it comfortable. (Sitting on a dining room chair is not the idea!) If you can, invest in a good, ergonomic office chair that will give you proper support, and try to find a space that will offer up as much natural light as possible – that’s an immediate mood booster, in my opinion! If you’re in a windowless space, position your desk where you can stare at something (a beautiful picture hanging on a wall, for example) when you glance up from your computer.

Set your work hours

I recognize this is easier said than done, but the more you can be clear about when you’re working and when you’re not, you will genuinely optimize your time and get some of your best work done. Have you ever tried to “finish up” some work after dinner? Or when the kids go to bed? You don’t have the same level of focus, or attention to detail when you’re trying to cram in work in between regular life schedules. It can be challenging, and it requires a certain level of accountability, but it’s far better to establish those boundaries early on, so you’re not feeling like you’re in this constant mode of catching up. Having separate time to work will help you be more present in your regular life outside the office.

Get plants!

Did you know having plants around you has been proven to increase productivity and efficiency? Since it’s more difficult for us to run out of the house and buy some fresh blooms, invest in a few potted plants and scatter them around your workspace. You will be amazed at just how much it helps to liven up your area.

Plants on a desk

Organize what’s around you

Wherever your space is, make sure it’s organized and free from lots of clutter, especially during this particularly stressful times. If your space gets disorganized and cluttered, then you automatically start to feel more anxiety. The goal is to keep a sense of calm as much as possible.

Don’t get distracted by the news cycle.

Not surprisingly, distraction is one of the biggest hurdles people are facing when working from home, and given our never-ending news cycle on Covid-19, getting caught up in all the updates and news conferences is very easy to happen daily. While you likely took a few breaks during the day when you were in the office, you can still mimic the same at home (whether that’s making the kids a snack or having a coffee break), but be mindful of how long you’re taking that break. If you find yourself spending an hour scrolling through your Twitter feed, you need to reevaluate how much distraction you’re allowing yourself throughout the day. The longer the break, the harder it will feel to get back into work mode.