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For the last five years, I’ve worked my traditional, corporate job from the comfort of my home office. I was excited to ditch the commute and adopt a more casual wardrobe, but I quickly found that working from home can be a real challenge! Staying motivated, creating and maintaining relationships, feeling like I never got to leave the four walls of my house…these issues started to feel just as big as the ones I left behind.
Before I dive into the three strategies that have worked for me, I want to emphasize that the key here is to have self-awareness. You need to understand what motivates you, as well as what fills and empties your well-being bucket.
Mistake #1 – Not having a designated work space
Answer – Set up your work space with intention
If you need to work from home more than once a week, I highly recommend setting up your work space with intention. If at all possible, avoid places you are at rest or in community with others (e.g. your bedroom or where you spend time with your family.) Be thoughtful about what you need from a functional, ergonomic and aesthetic stand point…and I recommend doing it in that order.
Thoughts on making a space function…
- Do you need to hard-wire into internet or will wireless suffice?
- Do you need to be able to close the door?
- What equipment do you need? (ah-hem…webcam?)
- What organization do you need? Consider how you’ll keep personal files separate from work files.
Thoughts on making a space safe and healthy…
- Get a good chair!
- Consider investing in a large monitor, docking station, and full sized, ergonomic mouse and keyboard.
- What other tools do you need to keep your body healthy? I have a balance ball and a sit/stand desk to help me.
Thoughts on making a space aesthetically supportive…
- What colors help you feel focused, energized or creative?
- What textures make you feel comfortable and willing to stay a while?
- Are there any things or pictures that will help you stay motivated
Mistake #2 – Flying by the Seat of Your Pants
Answer – Consider your schedule…including breaks
Just because you no longer have a commute does not mean you need to be working the hours you would normally be in the car. Maintain the necessary start and stop times and if that gives you extra time consider using it for self-care. Look at your schedule and figure out a few key times to step away from your computer during the day. Even if only for two minutes at a time, get up from your chair and walk completely out of the space; even better walk outside! If you don’t, you’ll finish your day and realize you’ve only walked the 10 steps from your bedroom to your office.
Mistake #3 – Not planning ahead for Basic Needs
Answer – Have a food plan and take care of yourself
If you went into the office, you’d likely have a plan for food. Did you bring your own, are you going out or to the cafeteria? Have a plan for your food at home too and if at all possible, avoid eating at your desk. If you leave this until you’re hungry it is harder to make good decisions.
Before you open your email for the day be sure to grab your morning beverage of choice (for me it’s tea) and water. While requiring yourself to get up to refill your cup can help you move more, I think it’s more important to stay hydrated. When you do need another cup of coffee or a water refill – do it! Getting up and going to the kitchen will be good for your brain and your body.
Get dressed. While I’m the first one to admit there are days I work in my pajamas, I have to make sure that’s the exception and not the rule. I have found that if I don’t “get ready” in the morning I start losing motivation and self-esteem. Furthermore, if you have a big presentation or important task, I highly recommend dressing as if you were in person. Your brain has made associations between what you wear and what you’re doing so make it easier on yourself to succeed.
I know I said there were three strategies but here’s a bonus. Unless you aren’t working with other people…get a webcam and use it. If you’re an extrovert this will be very important but if you’re an introvert this is even more important. Working from home makes creating and maintaining relationships much harder. Being “face to face” with others goes a long way even if it’s through a screen. Plus, it’s a good motivator to get out of your sweat pants.
I wish you many productive, engaging and empowering days working from home!
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