Given the pace of changes in today’s business and day-to-day environment, it is easy to fall into the trap of forgetting your core focus, maintaining your full potential, and creating a meaningful legacy. One of the biggest changes and distractions for a lot of professionals is mandatory work-from-home (WFH).
If you are new to working from home, be patient with yourself as you adjust to all the changes. If you are used to working remotely, be ready to face the new workflows as your customers, vendors, and colleagues transition to WFH.
There are many benefits to WFH, starting with the commute to the office. There can also be some challenges, such as no physical separation between work and personal life. Here are three steps to setting up or upgrading your home office to increase your productivity, reduce stress, and maintain your full potential.
1. Set up your space and environment
A daunting or interesting task is figuring out where to work at home. Some will have plenty of options, home office, extra bedroom, or open area with plenty of space to spread out, others will have to get creative. General guidelines are:
- Have a dedicated space with good lighting in a quiet part of the home where you will not be disturbed or distracted.
- You will need a desk and a chair that will be comfortable to work in for extended periods. There are products like Multifunction Laptop Desk by Neetto which are portable, easy to store, and can be used while sitting on the floor or on a couch or to create a standing desk.
- Remove as much clutter and physical distractions from the workspace area as you can. It will help you to concentrate on work tasks and keep a calm mind.
- Incorporate extra sensory elements such as background music to increase concentration, a scented candle, fresh flowers or a happy family picture to elevate your mood or a leather chair that makes you feel fully supported.
If you already have a home office, identify ways that you can improve and personalize it. Are there small inconveniences that you have been putting up with that can be easily addressed to improve efficiency and save you time? Do you need to declutter this space because you have also been using it as storage? What small touches would make it more organized and calming?
Optimizing your workspace will get you closer to working at your full potential, reduce stress and improve productivity.
2. Establish your work and life routine
The main thing to keep in mind while working from home or remotely is to focus on the outcomes you want to create for that day or that week, and set clear boundaries between work time and personal time.
- Consider what would be most beneficial to you, as a human being, to do with your “extra time”. For instance, your commute to and from work is now available to you for other activities. Is this time you choose to spend on your health, quality time with your family, or a concentrated period of work? There are no right or wrong answers, just what is optimal for you and your performance.
- Instead of counting hours, prioritize the most impactful and critical work tasks for that day, and do those first. If you have extra time, consider if you want to start another project or work on your personal to-do list. On the flip side, if your work to-do list does not leave any free time and in fact, you are more overloaded than before moving to your home office, take a strategic pause and consider new efficiencies, automation, and support you need to put into place to keep pace with the work demands and allow time for other priorities in your life.
- When it comes to prioritization, make sure to have your life “non-negotiables”, your commitment to yourself and your family firmly planted in your schedule. While working from home, it is easy to fall into the black hole: checking emails first thing after waking up and going through the entire day non-stop, forgetting to eat some meals, until it’s way past your bedtime. There is no one to tell you when to start or when to stop, so it is your responsibility to put in the boundaries for work time and downtime.
Children of course increase the complexity of work-life balance, especially when everyone is at home all the time. Many experts offer timely advice on parenting and engaging kids of various ages. However, spending quality time, playing, and laughing together are still key staples to maintaining strong relationships and a sense of harmony at home. These are the times your children will remember, learn from you how to reach their full potential, and create a legacy of quality relationships in difficult times.
3. Maintain your social interactions
There is a social component to working at an office, water cooler banter, group lunches, team meetings, and sidebars. These interactions do not spontaneously happen when you are working from home, so you make them happen intentionally. Have a virtual lunch with a coworker once a week instead of meeting in person, a virtual coffee with your mentor or manager, and a virtual happy hour with your team. Just because you are no longer in the same space does not mean you have to lose those connections, it just takes an extra commitment from all sides.
Working in a new space away from people you normally interact with face-to-face, your verbal and physical cues become super important when communicating. Rather than using email or text for conversations, go old-school and pick up the phone or jump on a video call. If you are feeling particularly stressed and overreact, which under normal circumstances you wouldn’t do, do not wait too long after you’ve cooled off to reach back out and apologize or mend the situation. Distance and prolonged time between interactions break up the relationships you have established, which in turn impact the teamwork and your ability to perform.
Lastly, be kind and patient, with others, as we all adjust to the new routines and additional complexities of family life, especially with yourself. Do the best you can given the circumstances and limitations, and give your perfectionist self a long overdue vacation.
Instead of worrying about what you can’t control, use these steps to enable you to stay focused on increasing your potential, uncovering new opportunities, and creating a meaningful legacy.
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