I have had the chance to work from home a few times before lockdown was introduced in our lives and this work environment became the norm and not the exception. However, it was very rare that I had to spend more than 2 days in a row at home so the situation was really new for me as well. Nine months after I started working from home permanently, I decided that it was high time that I shared my experience and what worked best for me.
Please note that this is my approach based on many trials and errors. What has helped me make working from home an enjoyable and stress-free experience, may not be very appropriate for you. So, take your time, experiment, try different things and find the approach that best suits your personal needs. It is an exciting ride, so enjoy it! 🙂
DEVELOP A MORNING AND NIGHT ROUTINE
I have always loved my routines so it is no wonder that I decided to mention this tip right from the beginning. For me, a healthy routine means that I can maintain a relatively healthy balance between my work and personal/home commitments without having to compromise on any of them. I can start and finish off my days in the exact same way every single day no matter how hectic and unpredictable my working day is. Daily morning and night routines bring structure to my day and make it easier to set boundaries between my working and personal/home commitments.
Of course, my routines today are quite different than the ones before lockdown when I was working predominantly in the office and not at home. Now, I don’t need to lose 2 hours per day for commute to and from work so I am using these extra hours to my greatest possible advantage.
Routines are very different for each person but for me they include a cup of coffee with my fiancé very early in the morning (6:30 am) which gives me the necessary boost to tackle my first block of home-related tasks: making the bed, tidying up all rooms in the apartment, washing the dishes, if there are any left from the night before, vacuuming and moping the floor a few times per week, and finally dusting all surfaces. Then I make sure that I can have some me-time every now and then – a quick workout or yoga session, a nice morning shower and getting ready for the day. Even though I work from home, I still make the effort to get myself ready each morning – a nice and comfy outfit, my usual skin care routine plus a tint of makeup and finally spritzing some of my favorite perfume. That’s all but it gives me the necessary mindset to start my working tasks.
At the evenings I take some time to fully relax and recuperate. The computer is shut down at 6 pm sharp and we start making our dinner so that we can have it as early as possible. This is followed by either a quick walk in the neighborhood, some of our favorite TV series, or a few pages of the book I am currently reading. Nothing too pretentious or interesting as our evenings are predominantly spent at home these days.
WORK IN A HOME-BASED OFFICE OR SPACE
I cannot begin to explain what a difference a designated office space in my home makes to my productivity. At the beginning of lockdown, I used only our dining table for my “home office” but I knew even then that this could not work in the long run. So I started searching for options how to set up a designated office corner in our living room instead.
Fast forward to a few months later after browsing both physical and online stores and managing to set up our first piece of furniture entirely by ourselves, I am more than happy to share with you my office corner at home. Kaloyan helped immensely to bring my vision to life and now this corner has become one of my favorite places in our home.
We bought the desk from the online store of the Bulgarian company Videnov (similar can be found here). There were three main factors that influenced our choice: the desk had to be max 1.20 m long as the space we had was quite limited, the colors must have been white and light wood, and there had to be at least one drawer to put all of my documents and stationary out of sight. I wanted a clean and minimalist look that would work well in the space allocated for my office corner and I think we did the best we could.
In terms of the chair, I really did not want the typical office chair. I wanted more of a dining room chair, something like this or this. However, after careful consideration and advice I got from Kaloyan, I decided to go for this office chair from the Bulgarian online store Emag (a very similar one here). Usually, I spend more than 8 hours sitting in this chair so I had to make sure that it was going to be comfortable for long-time sitting. Yes, the classic minimalist look was important for me but the practical aspect took prevalence in the long run.
MAINTAIN OFFICE HOURS AND BOUNDARIES/SCHEDULE WORK BREAKS
I have to admit and be honest with you – this tip has been the most difficult for me to follow. Many people seem to think that working from home means less work actually done, but in my case it seems that I work more than when I was in the office. I tend to forget to take my lunch breaks and there were a number of times when I either started earlier or finished later than my regular working hours.
So, for the past few weeks I have tried to maintain office work hours, as doing so gives me a sense of structure while making me readily available to connect with team members. I allow myself mini work breaks to re-energize and recoup – some of the activities that I have included in my routine are a smoothie every now and then for breakfast, a quick lunch prepared each day, a quick walk around the block, some stretching exercises in the afternoon, and some small home-related tasks like doing the laundry. This approach has helped me stay concentrated in my work tasks without feeling overwhelmed at the end of the day.
This will not come as a surprise but there are more distractions while working at home than at the office so you need to make sure that there is a system in place for you to avoid them as much as possible. For me what has really worked is the AppBlock application that I installed on my phone which made it possible for me to block apps and websites such as social medias (Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest) and video streaming platforms (YouTube and Netflix) between 9 am and 6 pm for every working day. In this way, I am sure that I will use my working hours as productively as possible without relapsing in a scrolling marathon every now and then.
Turning notifications off has also been a game changer for me not only in terms of avoiding distractions while I am working but also giving me a piece of mind in general. All of my notifications – Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, even emails – are in-app only at the moment and this has given me the freedom to check them whenever I feel like it. I was influenced to make this change after watching The Social Dilemma documentary on Netflix, which is a great resource if you are interested in finding out how the social medias are playing with our minds.
MAKE YOUR ROUTINE PERSONAL
The thing about personal routines is that they are, well, personal. So at the end of the day, working from home or not, figure out what works best for you. Try a few different things, see what would be the most appropriate approach for you, adapt where necessary, and I am sure that sooner or later you will get the hang of it. Don’t be so hard on yourself, take your time and enjoy your experience!
Do you work from home at the moment? Do you have any tips and tricks that make your experience a lot more enjoyable and stress-free? Let me know in the comments.