5 Tips to Redeem Working From Home
Another WFH advice article, but make it relatable
I debated whether or not to add to the plethora of existing work from home (WFH) advice articles. But, it’s a multi-dimensional topic with much to discuss. So, since I’ve found the 10 tips circulating most content channels insufficient and rather dry, here’s my take. My list is 100% based on my experience and only includes things I found to be helpful.
Why is working from home hard?
I have no issue with virtual work. I’ve done both remote internships and projects in the past without a problem. However, I do have an issue with the home part of WFH. On-campus, I never work in my room, and past summers I’d go to my local library and coffee shops to activate “work mode.” But COVID-19 eliminated all my preferred, tried-and-true options.
So, after two weeks of intensely struggling and a week of trial-and-error adjusting, here’s what worked for me:
1. Separate your spaces
All my work hours now take place exclusively in the basement. I only emerge from my poorly-lit cave for Zoom meetings in my dining room by a window. Despite several issues including the constant cold and creepy crawlies, it was the only space in my house not associated with “homey” activities or relaxing.
2. Optimize your set-up
Now that you have a room (or corner), make it your ideal workplace. For my basement, a space heater took care of the cold and an easily accessible flip-flop and paper towel roll addressed the spiders. Now it became a neutral space. But why stop there? You have complete control over creating your ultimate office space. I installed a shelf and organized all my work / study materials, moved my dog in, and created a makeshift standing desk. If next semester goes online, I might go all the way and get a treadmill desk to really bring to life the pinnacle of my ideal.
3. Face a wall
People-watching has its time and place, but facing a wall easily cuts the distraction of family members walking across my line of sight.
4. Identify focus patterns and plan accordingly
It takes me 10 minutes to sink into full focus, and I can stay there for up to three consecutive hours. My focus zones generally fall into 8am-3pm and 8-11pm. With a varying daily schedule that included travel times and unexpected encounters, I wouldn’t have noticed these specifics. Take note of your “warmup” time, focus duration, and optimal times of day. Adjust your schedule accordingly and break when your focus wanders off. I like to take a walk, do a stretching routine, listen to music, or organize (anything) for a 15-minute recharge period.
5. Coordinate with co-habitants
Whether you’re sharing your space with family, roommates, or temporary quarantine buddies, coordinating can be challenging. Loud sounds can’t be isolated (piano practices, above-conversational-volume phone calls, etc), and work vs browsing the internet now look identical at first glance. So, my family starts each day by texting a snapshot of our daily schedules including quiet-time for meetings and free time for meals so we can see and hear each other only when we want to.
Use this temporary lifestyle transition as an opportunity to learn about yourself and optimize the variables available to you. Despite my initial horror at the WFH “new normal,” after identifying and addressing points of frustration, I must say I’ve become quite a fan.
Feel free to share any other tips you've found to be valuable in the comments below!