Are You Fed Up With Working From Home?
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I don’t know about you, but I hit a point this summer when I was just SO done with working from home. I didn’t think I’d ever get to that point. After all, I’ve loved working remotely. Quarantine was almost easy for me. But in August, I realized I missed the office.
I guess it’s not that surprising. Although I’m naturally introverted, I have a bit of an odd trait for an introvert. I LOVE to talk. Seriously, I can talk for hours straight. Even though I talk to my coworkers often via video chat (and always have my sister to talk to,) it’s not the same.
And that’s not the only thing. While I love being able to sleep late and wear comfy clothes all day, I realized I’m actually a lot less active at home. I sit all day and only have to walk from the kitchen to my desk and back. In the office, I got a few hundred steps just walking from my car to the desk in the morning. Trips to my coworkers’ desks surprisingly added up, and I would easily get over 6,000 steps a day with no effort. Now, my back hurts from sitting all day. I don’t even have my standing desk to ease the pain!
So I decided to make some tweaks. We’re probably not going back to the office anytime soon, so I have to make the most of the work-from-home situation. And let’s face it. There is a lot to like about working from home.
Here are six ways to survive working from home until you can return to the office:
Don’t Check Your Email After Hours. Seriously.
I have to admit, I’m still working on following my own advice with this one. But when I observe strict work hours and sign off at 5PM, I notice that I’m happier, less stressed, and more productive the next day.
I’ve always had a problem switching off. I’m a big believer in continuous improvement, and that often means learning and working after I leave the office. That was fine when my work and living spaces were different, but now that they’re the same, I don’t have that mental separation. So I have to be a lot more intentional about creating that separation.
That doesn’t mean I completely shut off after hours. I still work to improve my skills, (this blog is actually one way I’m doing that!) but I try really hard not to do daily work tasks or read emails during “my” time.
I know it’s hard to stop. But trust me, that spreadsheet can wait until tomorrow. You will reach a breaking point if you don’t create boundaries between home and work. You may not even realize how stretched thin you are until you hit that point. So do something good for yourself and turn off your work phone.
Close Your Door
Similarly, you should try and keep your home life out during work hours. I know that’s easier said than done, especially if you have kids who are distance learning from home during the day. But try to find some time away from the rest of your family to focus. At the very least, invest in a good pair of noise cancelling headphones that can make you feel like you’re in your own space. (These are my favorite, and they’re affordable!)
Setting alone time for work is the key to being productive during the day, so that you can shut off your email at night. It can be hard to say no and set that boundary, but your family will be happier if you are happy. And shutting off your computer at the end of the day will help you achieve that. So set your kids up with their schoolwork, send your husband to another room, and hang up a door sign to keep them out. (For a little while, at least.)
Redecorate Your Workspace
Make sure your workspace is comfortable and conducive to getting work done. Decorate it in whatever way makes you happy. (Here are some ideas for decorating your office this Halloween!)
You don’t have to worry about your strict boss wrinkling her nose at your cutesy desk, so go ahead and buy that unicorn desk lamp. Hang inspirational art that will get you through a tough meeting. Get a bean bag for a chair. Make your space yours.
You might also want to consider your physical health. If you’re like me, you’re lacking in steps during the day. A standing desk could encourage you to walk around more. Or try a desk cycle, a mini bike that fits under your desk. I actually bought one as a Christmas gift to myself last December, but felt a bit silly using it in the office. It’s perfect for my home office, though! I like to cycle while sitting on hour-long calls. Before I know it, the call’s over, and I’ve worked up a sweat. It’s a great way to burn a few calories, and it’s a better pick-me-up than a cup of coffee for that 3PM slump.
Talk to Your Coworkers
What? You already have too many calls with your coworkers. So why should you go out of your way to talk to them?
Think back to your office life. You practically spent more time with your coworkers than your family. You probably spent every morning chatting about what show you were watching on Netflix or some crazy story you saw on Reddit. But with the move to working from home, you’ve lost a lot of those personal connections. Your team meetings are for work, and you probably don’t schedule time for chit chatting.
For the first few months of working from home, our Zoom meetings were very focused. We were super busy, and there was no time for off-topic talk. But over the summer, we started to veer off topic more and more frequently. It’s not that we weren’t busy, but we missed that connection with each other.
But that wasn’t productive. Inevitably, at least one team member would be trying to meet a deadline, and would get frustrated by the chatter. I personally would get annoyed by off-topic texts from my coworkers that always seemed to come when I was deep in a project. When we were in the office, they could tell if I was focusing and would come back to chat a little later. Now, we don’t have those visual cues.
Instead of stretching a project call for an extra hour or texting your coworkers at inopportune times, schedule time to talk to them for fun! That could mean scheduling a virtual happy hour once every week or two to catch up with the entire team. (We know these turned into a chore back in April. But here are some tips to actually make them fun.) Or put time with your work bff on your calendar every week just to catch up—during the workday.
If you can safely meet in person, schedule an outdoor barbecue or other socially distanced event to catch up. And don’t forget about your friend from another department who you haven’t spoken to since March because you haven’t had any meetings together. Schedule time to catch up!
Building relationships is an important part of work. Companies with long-established remote work policies put an emphasis on team building because they know it’s not easy to connect virtually. Companies that were forced into work from home may have forgotten to make this a priority. But you don’t have to! Treat it as an important part of your work and schedule it into your day. You, and your team, deserve it.
Make your Own Commute
One of my favorite parts of working from home is that I don’t have to commute. Okay, I live four minutes from the office so I don’t have much of a commute, but I used to drive about half an hour each way. Even my four minute commute served a purpose, though. It gave me that all important mental shift from home life to work mode. I knew when I stepped out of my car at the office that it was time to get to work.
It’s much harder to switch into work mode when my commute is the walk from my couch to my desk. I like to relax with a cup of coffee while watching the news every morning, and it’s a challenge to peel myself off the couch and get to work. If you’re a late riser, it’s even more difficult.
So make your own commute. No, you don’t have to sit in traffic and feel your blood pressure rise as you flip off the guy who just cut you off at your exit. (Look, I live in NJ. Our commutes are never calm.) But why not go for a short walk to separate your breakfast time from your work time? Or take a quick trip to your favorite coffee shop across town. Just find something that helps you flip the switch from relaxation to work time. You’ll start the day more focused and will be more productive throughout the day.
Switch Things Up
My final tip is to switch things up. If working from home just isn’t working anymore, it’s a signal that something has to change. You can’t simply decide to go back to the office, but you can decide to change your routine.
Add one thing to your day that you’ve been wanting to do but have kept putting off. Maybe you want to start an exercise routine. Or you’ve been stressed, so you’ve started meditating. Or you’ve begun cooking dinner every night instead of ordering out or eating frozen dinners.
One small switch can change your whole outlook. Your stale work-from-home routine will suddenly feel fresh. And if you pick a hobby that makes you feel healthier or happier, you’ll have something to look forward to, even during a tough day at work.
Starting a new habit is easier said than done. Countless blogs and books have been written on the subject, so I’m not going to go into it in depth right now. But two books I’ve read that have really helped are The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg and Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything by BJ Fogg. Both books helped me think differently about forming habits. Tiny Habits, in particular, was super actionable. In fact, after putting what I learned in place, I went from not working out for over a year, to doing pilates almost every day since April. But as I learned in Tiny Habits, even small changes can change everything.
There’s a lot to love about working from home. But there’s also a lot that’s frustrating. It’s particularly difficult when something that was supposed to be a temporary situation stretches months upon months, with no end in sight. But with a fresh outlook and maybe some fresh paint, you can learn to love working from home again.