For those who haven’t tried it before, working from home occupies this abstract, slightly daunting, world. Sure, it’s fun to work in your PJs all day, and eat Pop Tarts on tap without judgment. But what about loneliness? And don’t you struggle to focus?
The truth is, working from home is a lot easier and less chaotic than people like to make out. You just need the right tools to ease you in.
With the spread of coronavirus forcing record numbers of employees to make the transition, here are some common myths, dissected – and some everyday hacks to keep you on track:
“I’ll Get So Distracted”
You may indeed – but not in the way that you think. When you work from home, your biggest enemy is not that washing pile or free cable TV: it’s online.
You’re under pressure to be present and alert in a way that makes up for your lack of physical presence. And this means you may well spend your entire working day firing off messages to colleagues, without actually doing anything.
Messaging apps are attention drains, and all the more so if you have three on the go at once. It takes a lot of energy just to switch between platforms. Every time you try to settle down, a notification is there to throw you off course. This happens without you even being aware of it, because instant alerts are so addictive.
The solution? Stop using different apps and instead focus everything in one place: your inbox. Since you and most people you know use email every day, it’s a natural home for all your appointments, chats, projects and more.
“Who Will Be My Office Buddy?”
Working from home can be a lonely business, but not if you play your cards right.
Start by building up a strong support network. You may already have this, in the form of a permanent team you work with – great. If not, make an effort to find your people through online groups.
Then, stay tuned with your crew throughout the day. Just because you’re working from home, it doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. Make room for those water-cooler moments, even if they’re taking place online rather than in real life.
Be conscious of the way you communicate, too. While a constant back-and-forth on different apps is distracting, there’s a balance to be struck.
By carving out time for social interaction when you need it, you put yourself in control of your work routine. You’re not diverted by a constant bubble of background noise, but neither are you working full-pelt, without joy or stimulation. Chat when you want, and focus when you don’t.
“I’ll Be Completely Out the Loop”
Actually, you may well be *more* in the loop than you would be in the office. When you’re based in a formal work environment, it’s easy to get complacent about communication. You assume you will know about an upcoming project deadline, or a new company policy, because – well, you’re right there in person.
Working from home forces you to be more organized in your approach.
It’s a good idea to sync all your email and calendar accounts into one place – your inbox – so you can easily keep pace with what’s going on.
Then, treat your emails as if each one is a task, i.e. a specific call to action. Everything is there for a reason. You either pin your task to the top of your inbox, so it’s top of your mind. Or you snooze it for another time, as a calendar appointment that syncs with your email. That way, it pops back up again when it’s needed. Or you delete the task altogether when it’s complete. Out of sight, out of mind.
By treating your email like this – as a giant To-Do list – you’ll get into the habit of being more efficient. Rather than being bloated with unread mail, your inbox will become a clutter-free zone: the perfect place to run your life from, and see at a glance what you need to.
“But… How Will I Ever Switch Off?”
Work and life have a tendency to blur, and all the more so when you’re working from home. How can you expect to crash on the sofa come 8pm when you’re surrounded by work cues?
There’s a simple solution here: one that returns us to the concept of a centralized hub. When you run every part of your life, from work tasks to personal admin, from your inbox, you cut down the need for diversions.
By bringing together all your appointments and tasks into one calendar and one email feed, nothing will get confused. You will see in an instant if your dentist appointment clashes with a 3pm conference call, or whether to prioritize your boiler fix over tomorrow’s presentation prep.
Work and personal commitments will overlap, but that’s fine because they do anyway – it’s a lot more hassle to separate them than it is simply to let them merge.
Crucially, by focusing everything you need to do in your inbox, without the distraction of other apps, you’ll get work done faster. And that means more time to switch off and play as you please.