With the advent of the pandemic, many people are finding themselves in an unfamiliar and unsettling workspace–their homes. I’ve been working at home for over thirty-two years and I’m always surprised by people’s misconceptions. People often say things like “Wow, you can watch television whenever you want” or “You can do the dinner dishes and laundry at your leisure” which are true in one sense but not in another unless you want to end up living under a bridge. In truth, working at home isn’t a good fit for everyone because it takes a fair amount of discipline and flexibility, especially if you are someone who thrives on a set routine as many people do. Most people need some time to decompress to leave home life behind, especially if you have a family, in order to immerse themselves in work.
There’s also a built-in insolation if you work at home and if you’re the kind of person who really needs and likes the exchange with colleagues during the course of the working day, this could hit you hard.
Perhaps, most important, those who freelance all the time and work at home have actually chosen to and you haven’t. That is a key factor.
By the way, I’m not dealing with dealing with kids at home while you work because that’s a whole other problem.
7 Things You Should Do to Make It Easier
While I’m neither a therapist nor a psychologist, it doesn’t take a professional to figure out that unwanted change is the hardest kind of shift to deal with. When life throws you a curveball, your resilience and inner resources are tested and, while working from home may seem like the least of our worries during the pandemic, it may still present a legitimate crisis for some.
So, drawing on long experience, following are some hopefully helpful hints.
1. Decide on a workspace
If you already have a home office, then good on you but many will not; in fact, some of you won’t even have an area in your home that isn’t already dedicated to another use. If you have children and the schools are closed, you will probably need to be in a room with a door since it’s going to take some time for everyone to get used to the fact that Mom or Dad isn’t really “home;” it just looks that way and she or he is actually at work. Do what you can to make the space—even if it’s just a table in the corner—as comfortable as it can be; in the best of all worlds, you’ll have a window to look out of or something beautiful to rest your eyes on.
2. Decide on the length of your work day, and set hours
Look at what you need to do and how many hours are required and set your work day accordingly. Because I’m a writer and don’t really have to communicate with colleagues, I begin very early in the morning and end before 5 o’clock but the fact is you need to set your own hours just as if you were in an office.
Do take a lunch hour, either to eat or to take a walk or get some exercise. Many people in offices eat at their desks but it’s actually counterproductive when you work from home.
3. Do get dressed and showered
It’s tempting to work in your p.j.’s or bathrobe but, trust me, it’s not a great idea. You have to switch into work mode even if you haven’t left the house and getting dressed is one way to do it. No, you don’t even need to dress as formally as you would for a casual Friday but you need to get your head into a working space. You have to create routines that mimic what you’re used to in order to gear up and work. (Most successful freelancers, including myself, have pretty set routines to maximize their productive time.)