How to Work from Home in the New World

How to Work from Home in the New World
Claudette Pelletier-Hannah

I’ve been lucky enough to work from home for many years. It has its advantages. I get to wear fuzzy slippers, jeans and T-shirts to work (with lipstick, of course). I can start and end my workday when I choose. There’s no rush-hour traffic to contend with.

The downside? The view can get a little monotonous, and it can be a little lonely at times. But suddenly I’m not alone.

And maybe you’re not alone either. Not only are you faced with the new work-at-home environment and everything that entails, but you might also have kids in your milieu. I’ll come back to the kids.

Many people tell me, “I could never work from home. I’d be in the fridge all day.” Or “I’d never get anything done.” You’re selling yourself short. If you get things done in the office why wouldn’t you get them done at home? As long as you have a goal and/or purpose you’ll get ‘er done. Without an agenda, of course it would be easy to fritter away the day.

Like most things, it’s all in how you think about things. Trust me. Trust yourself. You can work from home. Here are some ideas that might help.

Manage your environment

  • Carve out a physical space that will be your office if you don’t have a designated office space already. A room with a door is ideal. Experiment with different alternatives to see what feels right. Consider the ergonomics of your setup.
  • Manage your headspace too so that you are primed to work in your new space. Is your attitude in alignment with what you need to do? Are you thinking of this as an opportunity or a threat?
  • Bring a symbolic token to work with you that reminds you of who you need or want to be in order to be successful in this space, e.g. a photo of a mentor or a hero, a souvenir of happy times, or a lucky pen. Use your imagination.

Create Structure

  • Maintain designated work hours until you’ve built trust in yourself to go with the flow.
  • Have clear goals about what you will do each day. Then pare it down – without judgment.
  • Create and/or maintain routines that will support your workday by scheduling everything you can. If you weren’t reading the news before work a few weeks ago don’t start now.
  • Use a timer to help you stay on task. Time your breaks too.

Set and Enforce Boundaries

  • Don’t get derailed by personal calls, laundry, etc. Educate your family and friends that you’re still working, if you are. You didn’t do laundry while you worked before. Don’t start now.
  • When you walk away from work, walk away.
  • If at all possible, don’t let your family share your space.
  • If you must share, have a hands-off zone.
  • Stay out of the fridge until mealtime. You’re working, right?
  • Don’t eat in your workspace. Eat in the kitchen – mindfully.

Working With Kids at Home

This changes things. If you’re a parent, remember that you’ve had to be resourceful and learn on the job every step of the way. There is no training for parenting, or for coping during a pandemic. Change your expectations about what you can accomplish in the way of work and/or being a model parent.

  • Create structure for your kids too. If they’re old enough you can designate independent play/study time so you can put your nose to the grindstone during that period.
  • Take time to be with them. Do your best to really be with them.
  • Triage your workload to the appropriate slots in your day. For example, use baby’s naptime for your hardest or most important tasks.
  • Be flexible.
  • Delegate appropriate responsibilities to older children.
  • Let things go. . . like housework, clean hair, or strict rules.
  • Reward your kids for good behavior. Get creative, or ask them what would be suitable. (Try not to use food as a reward.)
  • Maintain your sense of humor.

Your kids will pick up your energy. Try to remain calm. Spending quality time with them will help them feel more secure and consequently be better behaved. Quality time means you’re fully present with them. You’re not thinking about the work you have to do.

Above all, practice: letting go, compassion and forgiveness for yourself and others, and of course self-care. If deep breathing is all you can do, breathe deep. That will help keep you in the moment.

Don’t forget the lipstick!