Tips to work well in your new home corner office
Remote work has been on the rise for years. But before March 2020, it was still seen mostly as a perk for people looking for a little more work/life balance. These days? It’s a necessity. With millions of people working from home for the first time in the wake of COVID-19, people have had to learn new ways of managing schedules and communicating with colleagues.
Most people who try working from home like it enough to stick with it, but like any skill, it can be challenging at first. These tips can help you work from your new corner office productively and ambitiously.
Manage by task, not time
When you work in an office, you know when the day is done – when everyone starts leaving. When you work from home, it’s harder to know for sure if you’ve put in an honest day’s labour. So, try creating challenging but doable task lists for each day – for yourself, or anyone you manage. When the tasks are done, the day is done, and you can feel proud of your accomplishments.
Get the rhythm right
Come up with some ritual to start and end the day. Maybe you walk your dog, and then return to your home in work mode. Maybe you write in a journal. You can end the day by calling a colleague to say goodbye or reviewing tomorrow’s to-do list. Rituals give structure to the day, and establish boundaries (to keep you from working all night).
People get distracted when they’re tired, so proactively plan in breaks during the workday for the times when your energy dips. For most people, this is mid-morning, lunch, and mid-afternoon. Aim for breaks that add to your energy levels, such as going outside for a few minutes, or chatting with a friend. You’ll return to work far more refreshed.
Match the right work to the right time
When you work from home, you can often set your own schedule, so figure out what kind of work each part of the day is best suited for. Most people are more focused in the morning. If that’s you, tackle your biggest task then. Save the low-stakes meetings and inbox cleaning for later in the day when you’re tired.
Your dining room chairs can work for a week or two, but if you’re working from home long-term, you need a work set-up that can handle a 40-hour workweek. Get a real desk and work chair and adjust them to the right height. If a second monitor would help with your posture, that’s a good investment.
Find a spot in the house with a door (for privacy) and a window (for natural light). If that’s your bedroom, fine – just find a way to be able to conceal your work when you’re trying to sleep (a folding screen could work).
Pick up the phone
In offices, lots of work gets done through informal conversations. You stop by someone’s office and quickly get approval for a project, or nudge someone to send a response. Since those conversations don’t happen in home offices, people schedule formal meetings to try to accomplish the same goals. When everyone does this, schedules quickly fill up.
Instead of scheduling a meeting, just pick up the phone and call your colleagues when you need a quick answer. You don’t need permission to do this – if they’re busy, they won’t pick up, and you can try again. But you’re likely to move things along more efficiently.
You can still connect with colleagues and others when working from home. Start meetings with a few minutes of social conversation. Get in the habit of reaching out to new professional connections at least once a week for conversations. Doing this will build a robust network over time. And finally, when it’s safe to do so, get together with colleagues and connections in person on occasion.
Remote work doesn’t have to be either/or, and when you know you’ve got work-from-home days that will let you focus, you can relax and enjoy the social conversations that happen over lunches, happy hours, or the occasional day in the office. It’s really the best of both worlds.
The New Corner Office by Laura Vanderkam (£9.99) is published in audio and eBook on 20th August by Yellow Kite Books. Learn more about Laura’s work at lauravanderkam.com.
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