Google, Amazon, Nordstrom, Glassdoor and more are encouraging some or all of their employees to work from home to prevent the spread of COVID-19, also known as the Coronavirus. While many people may be looking forward to working from the couch while wearing pajamas, it’s important to create a productive work environment at home. Trust me, as a remote worker myself for the past 3 years, I’ve figured out all the tricks, hacks and best practices for working from my home in Boulder, Colorado.
If you find yourself being asked to work from home unexpectedly, here are my top tips for successfully working remotely.
Set Up Your Space
Create a workspace that closely approximates your office setup. Very few of us have the luxury of having a desk at home. If you do, good for you. For the rest of us, pull up a table. Be conscious of your ergonomics, you may be here for the long haul. Ideally, find a separate keyboard and mouse so you can prop your computer up to eye-level. With a quick raid of your kitchen and bookshelf, you can build an approximation of an eye-level monitor.
Do not, ever, work while sitting on your bed. This is both for psychological compartmentalization benefits and to help you avoid creating a sinkhole in your mattress. You’re welcome.
Fortify Against Distractions
Real talk: In my first three weeks of working remotely, I would find myself standing in front of my open fridge at least five times a day without really realizing how I got there.
Dig a bit deeper and here’s what happened:
- My brain ran out of juice after working for too long of a stretch without colleagues or other external events to help me reset.
- In its drained state, my subconscious gave me a little nudge to go find a dopamine hit.
- I followed my subconscious habit pattern and went to look for food.
There are two ways I’ve found to break this vicious cycle:
- Don’t let your brain get tired. Use the Pomodoro Technique of setting a timer for 25 mins of concentrated work blocks. Then take a quick 5 minute time out. Then repeat. Brains work best in sprints.
- Reprogram the habit cycle. When you notice yourself drifting towards the fridge (or whatever your kryptonite is) recognize that this is part of a habit cycle. Actively chose to do something else. Exercise is a great substitute that will still give you the dopamine hit your brain is looking for. Substitute the fridge for ten jumping jacks or push-ups. Here’s a gloriously inspiring seven-minute workout for your enjoyment. The key here is mindfulness.
Lunch Break: For Reals
Without colleagues around to sit down with for lunch, you might be tempted to work straight through. Avoid this as much as possible. What your brain most likely needs around midday is a refresh and change of scenery. Put your laptop down, go get/make lunch, call a friend, eat mindfully, read a book, take a brisk walk around the block, do something not related to work for a moment. You’ll thank yourself when the afternoon comes around and you still have some juice in your tank.
Find Your Why
Honestly, sometimes working from home is hard. You will likely see all of your strengths and flaws. And that’s ok. To help you soldier through the tough times, establish your driving purpose every morning before you open your emails.
Ask yourself: “Whose lives do I make better by through my work today?
Or if that’s not motivating, try simply: Why am I showing up today?
Write this down on physical paper. Yes, that flat, white stuff still has a purpose too.
When you feel yourself drifting towards your fridge, look at this piece of paper, do some jumping jacks and get back to it.
Good luck and go well!