Before I joined the Bluebeam Blog as a Sr. Content Strategist, I worked from home for nearly two years. While my work-from-home experience was mostly positive, there are many reasons why I now enjoy the opportunity to come into an office and work with my Bluebeam colleagues.
But now with the COVID-19 pandemic forcing many companies in the construction, architecture and engineering industries to have their employees work from home, I’m employing the same techniques I used to keep me productive—and sane—in my previous job.
Here are some tips from my experience that I think may be useful to pass on.
Try to wear “normal” clothes.
When you work from home, it’s very tempting to just roll out of bed and start working in your pajamas. It’s even more tempting to allow yourself to be in your pajamas for the entire workday, forgetting to shower, brush your teeth and take care of the “normal” stuff you’re used to doing before you commute into an office.
But, trust me, when you work from home, you want to try and establish as much of a “normal” routine in the morning as possible—and this includes wearing normal clothes. To be sure, this doesn’t have to be your normal office attire, but it should be something that you’d be comfortable wearing on a video conference with colleagues.
Keep a routine.
Try and keep normal office hours. You may work a few more hours here or there but try as much as possible to be working when your colleagues are working and to be “off the clock” at the same time everyone else is. Put simply, don’t let work and life bleed too closely into one another.
Many of your colleagues will be working at the same time, so there will be less temptation to try and work at odd hours, but I found that it is best to stay focused when I knew when I was “working” and when I wasn’t. Plus, keeping a sense of work and non-work boundaries is an important way to stay sane while working from home every day.
I cannot stress this enough. It’s surprising how much people move in a given day just walking around the office, commuting, etc. When you suddenly don’t have that time, you need to make up for it. To this end, make sure you’re taking walking breaks or exercising regularly. Even though many gyms are closed, there are plenty of ways to safely exercise around your neighborhood or even in your home with online workout videos. My trick: use your lunch break as an exercise break. It helps break up the workday nicely, and it helps give you some added energy for those afternoon hours.
Schedule “commuting time” even though you’re not commuting.
People need to mentally rev up before work and decompress afterwards. Normally, when people are commuting into an office, they do this by listening to music or podcasts or reading books—or whatever else you would typically do during a commute.
Make sure you build in some time during your work-from-home day to still do these things. For me, I wake up, get my coffee made and listen to an audio book for an hour before I get ready, eat breakfast and start working. In the afternoons, I decompress by listening to my favorite podcasts. These types of activities help keep your mind fresh and always learning, and it helps you maintain boundaries between work and personal time.
Overcommunicate with coworkers.
Don’t rely on Slack or other workplace collaboration and communication platforms for complicated issues or conversations with coworkers. Set up a video conference or phone call if possible. Seeing people’s faces is important—non-verbal cues are a big deal. If something seems to be escalating over instant messaging and text, pick up the phone or enter into a video conference.
Watch your snacking and drink water.
Two things happen to me when I work from home: I remember I have my own personal food supply called “my refrigerator,” and I forget to drink water. This, paired with lack of movement, is a bad combination.
Pay extra attention to make sure you’re drinking enough water throughout the day. Furthermore, try to maintain a similar diet and eating habits as you would if you were commuting into an office.
For some people, this may mean making a lunch in the morning as part of your routine; for others, it just means not over-snacking throughout the day.
Don’t get caught up in personal affairs.
It’s easy to take care of minor personal affairs when you work from home—but leave it at little things that can be handled in a few minutes here or there. Using a few minutes here or there to pay a bill or make a doctor’s appointment isn’t a big deal, but make sure your day doesn’t escalate into a bunch of household chores. Also, when friends and family—especially those who are in other time zones—know you work from home, they think this is an invitation to call and chat whenever. Don’t do this. Stay focused.
Netflix AFTER or BEFORE work.
This one shouldn’t require too much explanation, but it’s important to stay productive and not let your “work time” become distracted by your favorite movie or TV show. Certainly, without a long commute to account for, you will have more time to do these things—just make sure that it isn’t interfering with your “work” time.
Have a dedicated workspace—if possible.
During this difficult time, it’s not realistic to expect that everyone who is now working from home has their own perfectly manicured home office. But it is important to try and create a separate workspace for yourself as much as possible. This will help you stay focused by limiting distractions, and it will also help you create separation and balance between “work” and “home” that is super important to maintain during this difficult time.
Finally, don’t lay in bed with your laptop working. Your brain will eventually confuse your bed with your workspace and you’ll have trouble falling asleep at night.
Finally, GET STUFF DONE.
Especially for people who have long normal commutes, this is going to add A LOT of time to your day. Make the most of it. You can definitely be more focused and productive working from home—if you want to be. You can do this and still have balance and normal leisure time.
BONUS: Get out—if you can and it’s safe.
Obviously, don’t abuse the social distancing guidelines released by the Centers for Disease Control, but if you’re able to take a walk around your neighborhood or take a drive around your town, it’s important to make sure you don’t feel too confined. Especially since it looks like many companies will enforce working from home for several weeks to lessen the spread of the virus, it’s important for your health—and your productivity during the week—that you find safe ways to get outside every now and then.