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Working From Home Doesn’t Have to Be Pretty

Practical tips to help you create the optimal work environment for you.

Working from home has become our new normal and given the continued uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, it is looking like it is not going to change anytime soon. As someone who has worked from home for years, I have noticed that there is a ton of advice floating around that is providing an unrealistic picture of what working from home looks like in practice.

While we would all love to have a set up that aligns with what studies say is “optimal for productivity,” this crisis is not a situation that any of us planned for. The most important measure is to create an environment that allows you to be productive and for some of us that may require a little creativity if you have the whole family at home. Here are some of my personal insights on how to create the best environment for you in our new normal.

Get ready for the day. You do not need to dress to impress, but at a minimum, brush your teeth and get in comfortable clothes. Even a five-minute morning routine can get your brain ready to roll. There might be days where you end up in your pajamas for most of the day, and that is OKAY, too. That said, if you must be on a video-conference, do what you feel is appropriate for your organization.

Find the best workspace you can. People who work from home regularly often have a dedicated office space, but not everyone has the square footage necessary to have this. Given the current crisis, many of us have been tossed into a work-from-home situation that we were not prepared for and don’t have access to a dedicated space. Despite having one, I end up working from my couch most of the time because this is what works for me. Realize that as long as you have an area where you can focus, it doesn’t matter where it is in your house.

Stay connected with your colleagues. It is easy to get caught up in the isolation of working from home, but it is still important to “show-up.” Make sure to pick up the phone more than you typically do, over-communicate with your colleagues, set your status in your messaging platform and maybe even send status updates of what you are working on. Reminding people that you exist goes a long way – it is really the only way to demonstrate your work ethic and give people a glimpse of what you are up to.

Block out the sounds around you. Whether it be a barking dog, your children yelling, your neighbor’s new found love for home improvement projects or someone else in the house working, white noise or noise cancelling headphones can help drown out some of these unwelcome distractions. As someone who has young children at home, regardless of how far away from me they are, they are loud! A little white noise or headphones can make a world of difference in allowing you to focus on your work.

Stay focused. It is easy to get distracted when you are home, so it is vital to your productivity that you set blocks of time to put your head down and work. If you now have your kids at home that are older, make a plan, communicate and give them something to do that will keep them occupied. If you have younger children, take advantage of naps and, if you have a partner at home, work with him or her to trade off so that you can get a chunk of time to work. If you have tasks on your personal to-do list, calendar them to make sure you don’t get distracted.

Don’t forget to eat. Unlike when you are in the office where you either bring your lunch or go out to grab a quick bite, you are now having to make your lunch in the middle of the day. Even for me, eating often gets completely forgotten. When you are at home, people are not coming by asking you to go to lunch and the hours seem to blend together. Calendaring lunch can be a helpful reminder to take a much-needed break, while also signaling to your colleagues that you are not available. Taking a little time will allow you to stay productive, as well as give you a moment recharge.

Right now, it is important to remember that most everyone in the world is in the same situation. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to have this perfect version of working from home. The most important measure of success is that you are able to be productive in an environment that works for you. It doesn’t matter what this looks like.

Originally published on LinkedIn.com

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