The New Normal: Tips for Working from Home

March 22, 2020

With the pandemic comes a whole slew of new vocabulary words and practices which have all become the "new normal": social distancing, self-isolating, quarantine, flatten the curve. In an effort to do all of these things, many businesses and places of work are now either closed completely or have adopted a policy of working remotely. With that comes many challenges, depending on your situation. Got kids? Hah, it just got 10x harder (I speak from experience), but it's 100% manageable. 

Working from home is nothing new for me. When I was on maternity leave for 3 months, I often still logged in to my work's system to help out with the heavy load of tax season billing & client setups that had to be done. At the time, Lilly was a newborn and slept a lot, so it was easier then to log hours back then vs. when she got older (ie. mobile and wanted to run around the house like a banshee). Once maternity leave was up, I eased back into the office setting by working from home half the time and the other half from the office when Lilly started daycare (I cried. A lot. But it got better!)

I often have to juggle a random work-from-home day here & there when she gets sick, or if she gets really sick (like a bout of pneumonia last month) or is highly contagious, then it could be up to a week at home caring for a sick child + trying to log my hours for work. It's tough. Even if you don't have kids, it can be hard to stay focused, motivated, and organized when you're not in your normal work environment. So I thought for today's post, I'd share some of my top tips for working from home!

1. Work with what you have
Designate a space where you can get into full work mode. I don't have a home office, but I do have a huge craft table in my kid's playroom (notice the sewing machine & tons of craft supplies under the desk)! This works for me because Lilly can play while I work (when she's not clinging to me for attention). I have an extra monitor from work that I can prop up against the hatboxes to maximize my screens & make my home setup similar to my office setting. When I'm at the mercy of my toddler but still want to get work done, I use a TV tray table in the living room as a makeshift desk when she wants to watch Frozen on an endless loop (moms, y'all feel me?), but a dining room table or kitchen table also can transform into a great temporary office in a pinch.

2. Get dressed & do your usual morning routine
I feel 1,000x more productive & ready for the day if I get dressed in actual clothes, put on makeup, and do my hair as if I were about to get in my car & drive downtown to work. When you stay in PJs or sweats all day, it really puts a damper on your work-mode-mood. I think that sticking to your normal workday routine is key to maintaining a good workflow at home. It's a mental thing & sets the tone for the day.

3. Stick to a schedule
With kids, this can be challenging, but I've found that if I set a schedule where I know certain hours of the day are dedicated to working, I'll feel a whole lot better knowing my work will get done. I force myself to get up before Lilly does so that I can guarantee at least 1 or 2 hours of work before I have to tend to her needs. The rest of the day revolves around caring for her and I squeeze in hours where I can - usually naptime (but that's a big IF) and 30-minute blocks here & there during freeplay. Any hours I didn't log while she was wake, I can usually fit in right after she has gone to bed. But even if you don't have kids - the same still applies. Block out hours of your day for when you will work and when you will take care of other things you still need to do.

4. Hydrate!
This goes for any type of work setup, but it's good to keep some water next to you at all times. Then you're not tempted to keep getting up & making runs to the kitchen for various things. I'll have my cup of coffee first thing in the morning (for those wee early morning blocks of time - hello 5:00 AM...) and then the big Tervis tumbler full of water comes out, and I'll refill it a couple times a day.

5. Use a planner
At work, my monitor is covered in post-its and I have a "to-do" notepad next to me at all times. So at home, I keep a notebook with me to write down tasks I need to do for the day so I can keep track, and I can cross them off as I do them. There's something about seeing a physical list of items that I can manually cross off one by one to help me visualize the rest of the day's workload.

6. Take breaks
Just like you would take breaks at work, be sure to do the same at home - maybe even moreso because you're cooped up inside and probably devoid of your usual social interactions. Go outside for some fresh air; FaceTime a friend; take a long lunch break. You don't want to burn yourself out!

7. Minimize distractions
It's so easy to get distracted when working from home. Put the phone away and set up your workstation as far from distractions as possible. If you have a laundry list of items to do and your mind is wandering, then lean on the schedule you've set for yourself & rest easy knowing that there will plenty of time to do all that "other" stuff later.

I hope that you found some of these tips helpful! This is a stressful time for everyone, but I think that by creating a clear plan for your day and blocking off which hours are devoted to family/home life and which are for work life will help alleviate some of the difficulties that come with working from home.

Stay healthy, y'all! And happy working!

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