WFH Can Be a Challenge – Here are Some Practical Tips to Save Your Sanity
Working from home has suddenly become a reality for many of us and it can feel like quite an adjustment. As a freelance writer, I’m used to working remotely, I even wrote a part of a Pimsleur Language course while traveling abroad, but I still had to make some changes because my housemate is also working from home. I also spoke with some friends and colleagues about their struggles and successes and compiled a list of tips for ensuring your productivity, and your sanity, remain intact during this challenging time of systemic change.
Create a Dedicated Workspace
I have enjoyed seeing how my friends have been thinking creatively to make workspaces in their homes, even given space restrictions. All of them agree that having a dedicated workspace is key to keeping your work separate from your relaxing time.
Many of my friends have turned their dining room tables into desks. One of my friends even turned part of her kitchen into a living room and turned her living room into a dual workspace for her and her partner.
Others need to have separate workspaces from the people they share space with and this can be a challenge in a small space. Even if you’re limited to just your bedroom, try to turn a corner of your room into your workspace.
Clean off the surface of anything not related to work. Keep a coaster handy for hydrating beverages. Hang a curtain from the ceiling to define the space further, or provide a nice background for your video calls. Bonus: the curtain can hide a messy room or pile of laundry! Hang a calendar on the wall, and keep sticky notes handy to make lists.
Many of my friends are reporting that they are more productive when they get dressed for work as they would any other day. It helps them set boundaries on work time vs relax time, and makes them feel more prepared for video meetings.
Get Organized About Time
Setting work hours seems to be very important for a lot of my friends. It can be hard to set boundaries around work when you’re not commuting. If possible, communicate with your co-workers and let them know what your hours are and ask them to respect those hours.
This means you have to respect the boundaries you set as well. Make sure to take an actual lunch break where you step away from your workspace. Make sure to stop working when you say you’re going to. Sometimes it helps to make a virtual dinner date with a friend.
Work can be a helpful distraction from current events, and it can feel disorienting to return to “real life.” Try to give yourself some time to adjust by doing a yoga practice, or connecting with a friend before checking the news.
Speaking of Distractions…
Distractions are the number one struggle all of my friends are reporting.
WFH Tips for Limiting Distractions:
Keep your space zen.
Clean off your physical and virtual desktops to only the things you need.
Disconnect from social media.
This may mean using a website blocking app on your phone or browser. Here’s a list of 8 blockers to improve your productivity: https://freedom.to/blog/8-website-blockers-for-studying-productivity-focus/
Discomfort can be a huge distraction.
Take steps to ensure that your workspace is comfortable to be in. Add a cushion to your chair. Consider creating a standing desk on your kitchen counter. Be sure to get up and stretch and move around, and stay hydrated!
Use noise-canceling headphones.
There are lots of great playlists on Spotify. I really love this one called Productive Morning. https://open.spotify.com/playlist/37i9dQZF1DX6T5dWVv97mp?si=HDyrXs7ER0mpn5J9oC29IA
Working At Home With Kids
Some distractions cannot be changed or helped. My friends with kids are really struggling right now. Most of them have had to go from full-time workers to full-time workers and teachers and childcare providers and school lunch workers overnight. It’s a real challenge for them to cope.
Many folks in my circle have stepped up and are offering to teach an hour or two of a video class for their friends’ kids. These classes can be anything from music instruction, creative enrichment, storytelling, or even math lessons. Think about offering to teach a class to help your parent friends catch a break.
For those with older kids, consider having a 10min breakfast meeting with your family every morning where you discuss the school & work schedules for the day. Analyze what worked or didn’t work from the day before. This simple act of checking in can make a huge difference.
I hope these tips are helpful, or that at the very least, you have been reminded that we’re all in this together, sharing these same challenges. When you’re really struggling, try to reach out to a friend or family member, or step away from your computer to just take a deep breath. All we can do is our best.