Much like the rest of the world, I was sent to start working from home at the end of March. With no inclination of how long this would last and very short notice, my home work set-up is far from ideal. I’ve had to make do with what we have and I have an idea many of you are in the same situation. I hope my tips will be helpful if you also find yourself unable to get your hands on anything non-essential or you don’t want a permanent solution for a temporary problem.
I almost abandoned the idea of this post as so many of you have likely already settled into your WFH schedule. But then I realised that a large portion of the workforce were only placed on leave until now and that many are only now starting to wade into the uncertainty of WFH. So whether you’re interested in tweaking your situation or need to start from scratch, these are the things that I’ve found works for me.
1. Set Up an Office Space
I know that it is tempting to start wading through your inbox while in bed and I think that we should fully allow ourselves some slack during these distressing times, but a good rule of thumb is to have that be the exception rather than the rule.
Creating an area or room in your home that contains all your office essentials – internet access, power cords, laptop, seating, stationery, etc allows you to be more productive when necessary. I think a corner or smaller room works well as it is easy to create a cosy feeling. Plus you preferably don’t want to spend both leisure and work hours lounging in the same chair.
2. Create Some Distance
If you’re not living alone, try to create some distance between yourself and your new ‘colleague’. The last thing you want is to be distracted by your partner’s frequent business calls or constantly having to explain why you are sniggering when colleagues send you memes.
If you live in space able to accommodate two “office nooks” separate from each other, make use of it and set yourselves up apart. If that isn’t an option, try to at least create rules around communication and make sure you have a separate area for taking work calls. In these situations noise-cancelling headphones will help get you into the work zone.
3. Furniture Choices
Once you’ve chosen your area, you’ll find yourself in need of a table. If you’re not lucky enough to have a spare desk lying around, a dining table, bistro table, console table or beauty desk works just as well. Be creative, think outside the box! Maybe you can balance an old door on two lower bookcases? Any stable flat surface at the right height (which incidentally happens to be between 70-75 cm) can work.
I constantly joke with my colleagues that the thing I miss most about our office isn’t their presence, but my comfortable, perfectly ergonomic office chair. If office chair shops were open and I knew I’d be working from home for a long time, I’d definitely invest in a decent chair. It is something my back will certainly thank me for! Right now I’ve found the best solution to be switching between all available chairs, including both our upholstered and ghost chairs. Neither is particularly comfortable for long stretches of time, but at least they tend to hurt different parts of my body? Plus it forces me to get up and stretch regularly! So if there isn’t a comfortable office chair available, choose the next best thing and swap it out every few days.
4. Pay Attention to Your Background
If you’re anything like me you’ll love getting a peek into your colleagues’ homes. With Zoom calls being the new norm, you’ll have to consider what your home looks like in the background too. I favour the simple background as it places the focus firmly where it should be – on what you’re verbally communicating! But I have to admit that a beautifully styled bookcase or favourite art piece makes for a much more pleasing background. Choose what best suits the situation and from what you have available. And be sure to make the bed and fluff the pillows if they do have to make their Zoom debut.
5. Add Some Personality
Make sure that your work space is inspiring and somewhere you want to spend time at by adding some personality.
Walk through the house and select a few of your favourite things and make sure they are in your sight-line while working to instantly lift your mood. This could mean anything from adding your favourite coffee table books and a candle to your desk to taping some beautiful prints to your wall.
Be selective though, you don’t want to clutter your work space. The idea is to simply make it feel like an extension of your home and a welcoming space to spend what might be the majority of your work day.
I struggled so much during those first few days, but I think I’ve settled into a routine that works for me. I always keep a glass of water on my desk to ensure I stay hydrated and then plan a few tea breaks to help “break up” the day at specific times. If I feel peckish at these times, I might also grab a biscuit or fruit to snack on but try to stay away from the kitchen during the rest of the day. This structure seems to work well for me.
7. Stay Connected With Colleagues
This obviously depends on what your work situation is and the role you fulfill, but as I don’t work in a team it has been important for me to keep in touch with the other colleagues in my department. We have a Skype chat open at all times where we share useful resources, jokes and industry specific information. Even though I live with a partner, we aren’t in the same industry and our work situations differ vastly. My partner is understanding and supportive, but it is not the same as the sense of community between colleagues. Don’t let that fade into the background.
8. Be Comfortable
Make sure you’re comfortable at all times, whether that means stretchy jeans (you weirdo!) or elasticated waistbands. If you’re comfortable you can focus on the task at hand! So no judgement if that happens to be your Pjs. Just remember that you also want to be comfortable on your unscheduled video call.
9. Welcome the Pets
Spending more time with your pets is absolutely the best part about working from home. I live with two loving kitties who always favoured my husband, who works from home permanently. Now that I’m also home and seated most of the time, they’re starting to share custody between our laps. To keep them happy and close by when they can’t get settled, I’ve set up a kitty bed on a chair next to me. This frees up my work space for me to do just that – work – and allows all of us to be happy with their close proximity for cuddles.
10. Be Flexible With Your Schedule
If there is one thing I’ve realised, is that each day is completely different. While it definitely helps that I still work within my usual scheduled office hours, you need to allow yourself some freedom as your ‘controlled environment’ to work in is now your home. Plus you need to allow yourself to take at least some advantage of that!
You need to feel it out and do what works for you, and that might be different on some days than others. Also know that it takes some time to settle into a new schedule and that things will start to feel better by week two.
I hope you find these tips helpful! Let me know what has been working for you?