It is 2021. At this time a year ago, we were just abandoning New Year’s resolutions, settling into the harsh reality of winter, and maybe dreaming of a nice getaway to take our mind off of another gray day. The news held murmurs of a weird flu on the other side of the planet, but nothing that might concern us in North America…
How innocent and wrong we were.
Now 2020 is a bad dream that we are struggling to wake up from, despite daily messages of doom and gloom on news feeds. Even marginal good news of dropping Covid-19 cases are countered with the looming doom of far more virulent variants. Screaming “Enough already!” does nothing to dispel the reality that masks and social distancing measures are here to stay for a lot longer than we ever realized.
So what does that mean for most people? Well, for starters, it means plenty of folks are working from home. Welcome to the club!
Working From Home
I have been working from home for over a decade. A lot has changed in that time, but after throwing my laptop on the kitchen table for many months, I decided I needed to take my little endeavour seriously. So with a burst of New Year’s aplomb, I bought a desk and carved out a corner of my living room for an office. It wasn’t much, but I felt like it was a step to taking myself seriously.
And you know what? Within a short period, a few more customers came knocking at my door.
I know that several people started working from home last year under slightly different circumstances. There was the whole covid thing; a global pandemic that shut down industry, commerce, and socialization on a massive scale. No one can forget it. But while many of you thought that work from home measures would be temporary, a shockingly large number of companies made the call to allow people to remain working from home. Some of you might word that differently, as you crave the proverbial water cooler talks, but the effect is still the same. You are at home and trying to eke out a living despite it all.
And what is this — “it all”?
Oh, you know. The cat walks in front of you during a zoom meeting, or the dog starts barking at a squirrel in the yard while you are on a business call. You get up to look for a snack from the kitchen and end up emptying the dishwasher, sweeping the floor, starting laundry, cleaning the toilet… and realize your two minute break lasted 45 minutes! So you buckle down and slam your butt in the chair, only to look up and realize it is dark outside. Then you remember you still haven’t made a plan for dinner and it’s now 6:21! Or worse, the report you normally would have left at the office, you return to after dinner, then find yourself working until after 11 pm. Aahhh!
Working From Home Mindset
First things first, you might need to change your mindset. For starters, when you work from home it is important to invest in a dedicated office space. It doesn’t matter where that is, but the point is to call that space “The Office”. Free up the rest of your home for what it is supposed to be—an escape for leisure, hobbies, family, and your own personal interests. Stop fighting for space at the kitchen table, where you constantly have to dismantle work at mealtimes and create a place where work can live. Carve out a corner of the living room, convert your guest room into an office, or cozy up a space in the basement where work lives. The rest of your home is HOME.
Carving out a space for an office is beneficial on several fronts. Not only can you leave the office, when you are done for the day, but you can leave it however you want. Don’t want to pack up an important file you are in the middle of? You don’t have to, if you aren’t sharing the space with your bed or kitchen table. If your office has a door, even better, but even if it doesn’t, make a point of leaving that space for work. I do my darnedest to not sit in front of my computer on the weekend and find I am happier and more present because of it. We need breaks from work, but how do you get that when you sit in the same space every day and just label it different; school bed/sleep bed, office table/kitchen table.
When you invest in a space, it also feels better to be in it. I recently repainted my living room and love the brighter colours that surround me. Last fall, I invested in a sculpture from an artist I’ve been admiring for years and showcase it on the shelf over my desk, along with several other special books, old journals, plants, rocks, and a clock from another artist I love. I also bought a new office chair in the fall, and a desk lamp this month. Proper lighting and a comfortable space make for better working conditions. If you have to work, make it pleasant, so you can enjoy it to the best of your abilities.
Build in Break Times
Now all that being said, sometimes you need to get away from it all. Working from home allows you the perk of being able to take much-needed breaks when needed. You can go for a walk around the block at lunch or pop dinner in the crock pot mid-morning. If you sneak in grocery shopping during the day, you can work longer later to make up for it. It all balances out.
Don’t forget about field trips from the home office! Not every day needs to look the same. Drag the laptop to a new room in range of your wifi on occasion. My back patio is a great remote work station in the summer, as is my neighbour’s backyard (where I can watch the kids swim, while I work on the laptop and cool off as needed). You can even mix it up by heading into the old office once in a while too, if possible. My favourite field trips usually involve visiting clients to see what their work world looks like (It fills my need for pictures, socializing, and getting a better handle on the overall picture of what they do). Sometimes we just need a change in pace to keep us grounded.
Looking the Part – Professionally
Whether you are going anywhere or not though, don’t think you can work from home in your bathing suit or pjs every day. Your space is important, but so too is the semblance of professionalism you exude. In theory, no one might see you from one day to the next, but I encourage you to still put pants on. It is the same idea behind creating a formal space you can be proud of. You are still working and deserve kudos for that. Give yourself that recognition and put an effort into you. Get out of your sweats and brush your hair. Maybe even get a haircut to make you feel better about your appearance. It’s amazing how feeling like you look good can make you feel better about yourself and in turn improve your overall attitude and performance.
Be ready for that zoom call, even if it isn’t written on the schedule! Show the world that you deserve to be taken seriously, in your bunny slippers. Give yourself slack on your down days, but keep working on making tomorrow better. The right attitude makes all the difference when you work from home, so own it. Be the boss you are!
Remember that working from home may have its challenges, but there are so many perks to it too. Treat yourself and the space you choose with respect. With the right balance, you just might come to love your home office more than you ever dreamed possible.