Many of us were forced to work from home for the last year, and many of us either hated the experience and can’t wait to get back or loved the experience and plan to continue working from home for as long as possible. It turns out that both have their pros and cons. Depending on work culture and family life, home or an office could end up being the more efficient place to work.
One issue of working from home is the temptation of doing household things at home while also trying to work. The experience of working from home may not have been a positive one if it was difficult to concentrate. However, with a proper mindset and communication with family, working from home can be a very beneficial situation.
Here is our list of tips for maintaining a positive experience working from home, even in an apartment.
Create a Permanent Workspace
It is so tempting when work from home to get a comfy spot on the couch, turn on the tv, grab a drink, and veg to your hearts content while tackling your job. It may initially feel comfortable, but the ergonomics just don’t cut it for working efficiently at a computer. Laptops screens and keyboards can cause wrist and neck soreness if they are not at ergonomic positions. This may also disable the use of a mouse, or a dual screen.
The first thing you need to do to work at home is to establish a workspace similar to the office. It does not need to be the size of a normal office or cubicle, and it may be something that needs to be setup and torn down each day to make space, but it is essential. Have a padded, properly sized chair that maintains your posture. Keep your computer screen at eye level, and your keyboard low. Stack your laptop on top of something so that it is at eye level (finally a use for your college textbooks!) and buy a simple keyboard so you can keep it at hand level. If you work for a business, ask them about funding other office features like a second monitor, a better webcam, or even a compact printer if it is needed. This might take up a bit more space, but it will make working much more efficient.
As well, a quick note about Internet Access. If you are working from home, you may want to fork up the cash to upgrade the Internet to a faster speed. If you have family that are using streaming services such as games, tv, or music, it can affect your work performance and cause great frustration. You don’t have to get gigabit speed if you don’t need it, but stay off the 15Mbps plans if you find yourself waiting for things to load all the time.
Keep Work and Home separate
When traveling to work, it’s easy on the drive to make the switch in your head from home life to work life. At home, that switch never naturally happens. It is important to maintain a schedule at home when you are expected to be “at work” and “at home”. This means that when you are at work, other friends or family in the house know only to interrupt you if it is important. Try to avoid making mental notes in your head about chores that need to be done, or family things to communicate, make a list and leave it all for when you are “off work”. When you get off work, make sure to pack up and put everything away. Try not to linger on your computer after you are finished or glance at it throughout the night. Work hard during the day and enjoy your time off.
Sometimes this means avoid wandering the house during work looking for things you needed for work or to get water/snacks etc. It is good to take breaks every hour or so, but you still need to keep the “at work” mentality during the break, know what you are going to do for your break and stick to it. This also means keep everything you need for work at your desk, including a water bottle, and healthy snacks like carrots nearby.
Use Your Commute
Working from home means that you no longer need to drive to work, which on average frees up a half an hour before and after normal working hours. This is valuable time and needs to be used efficiently.
The time should be used to get you into your work mental state and back into your home mental state, but the activity you do yourself can be very creative. Take a quick bike ride or read the news. If you find yourself getting distracted by household clutter or messiness, use your commute time to quickly clean up the kitchen or your room before you begin work. Take the time to remove distractions so that you don’t have those while you work. The same thing applies to the end of the day, run a quick errand, clean a bathroom, call a friend, the possibilities can fit whatever you need, just use the time and don’t waste it sleeping in more, scrolling social media, and most definitely do not just work more.
Find ways to Isolate
There can be many distractions out of your control while working from home, especially noise. Find a place in the apartment that the lights can either stay on or off the entire time, that you are not directly in front of a bright window that constantly needs adjusting, and that you can maintain a steady noise level. In many cases, headphones are going to be needed. Keep music at a low to medium level. Music without lyrics can help to keep the brain concentrated on work, and it’s good to listen to average music (music that you neither love nor hate). Streaming services like di.fm are great for this as you can turn on a genre-based radio station and let it mindlessly play all day. It is important to enjoy the music and to encourage work, but not to be so demanding of attention, whether by song selection or emotion reaction to the music, that it takes you away from work.
Working from home takes away many of the natural things an office has that is healthy like walking to different locations, bonding social interaction among co-workers, and the social requirement of maintaining any level of hygiene. Working from home isn’t an invitation to be sloppy, and it requires an intrinsic desire to stay healthy. Shower and get dressed for work, eat healthy snacks, stay hydrated. Make sure you get time for exercise and time outside during breaks or when you are off work. Communicate with your family about what is working and what is not working and adjust to accommodate everyone. Maintain boundaries with your work and you family about what is appropriate for you as well. Talk to co-workers regularly to maintain those bonds. Make sure that if something is ergonomically uncomfortable at your workspace, then fix it right away.
What Works for You
In the end, the important thing to remember is that it is your job and working hard at it is important. As well family is important too and working from home can enrich those relationships instead of destroy them. Everyone works a bit differently and some of these ideas might not work well, while others work much better. Many of us have had the chance to explore working from home during COVID, and now it’s the time to put everything we’ve learned to become as effective workers as possible.