Coronavirus: Making WFH Cool

"I have been preparing for this all my life" - Jacob | Social distancing is sort of how he has always preferred to live.

Coronavirus: Making WFH Cool
"I have been preparing for this all my life" - Jacob
Jacob loves working remotely and if he isn't skiing or hiking, he would prefer to be indoors with a nice beverage and book or video game. Social distancing is sort of how he has always preferred to live.

I've never had a "normal" work situation since graduating college. I've either traveled to a client site from Monday to Thursday and worked Friday at home or a local office or I have worked remotely and traveled as needed for work (once every 1-3 months). I remember back in 2015 when I was accepting a fully remote role with only occasional travel, the VP offering me the job said "remote working can be isolating, I don't know what the female equivalent of growing a big, scruffy beard is but I don't want you that to be you." I promised that I would take care of myself and have some social interaction in-person everyday. And 5 years later, I can honestly say, I absolutely love working from home!

I know working from home (WFH) isn't for everyone, I realize that first off, it's a privilege that I can work from basically anywhere with a good internet connection. I also realize that many people are being unexpectedly forced into this new way of working, with little to no time to prepare for this change. (Huge shoutout to all my teacher friends who are figuring out remote teaching, that's a whole different ballgame.)

Let's get right to it, here are my tips for working from home, aptly in acrostic poem spelling CORONAVIRUS:

Change your clothes

I'm not saying you need to sit in your empty house in full business casual, but change out of the clothes that you slept in. Even if you decide to change from pajamas to sweatpants or leggings, it'll make a difference and signify your day is starting.  

Own your time

Figure out how long your workday will be. You may have had a thirty-minute commute each way to work: congrats, you just gained an hour back everyday! Will you add that hour to your work or personal time? Determine your schedule and stick to it, consistency helps.

Reminders for when to eat

There are two types of WFH people when it comes to food: The type that end up forgetting to eat because they get sucked into their work and the type that ends up snacking all day. For both groups, I recommend setting alarms or blocking your calendar for meal time - this will both make sure you pause to get food and timebox your "eating time." I also recommend making your lunch and snacks in advance as if you were going to an office. That way you don't have to pause your day to make decisions and you won't end up just having a grazing lunch.

Orchestrate a home office

Since WFH has been a part of my life for a while now, I've always created a designated space in my home to be my office. I encourage you to designate a space in your home "your office" while you are working from home. It can be part of your kitchen table, a counter or an actual desk if you happen to already one. Do what you need to give it that office feeling - have pens, paper, maybe even a couple of photos, make it like your desk at work. If you have a box or some thick books laying around, maybe use them to make a DIY standing desk when you get tired of sitting.

Not the couch or your bed  

You may or may not have noticed, I didn't say cozy up on your couch or bed and work from there. While I know many consultants who work from their couch on their remote Fridays, doing it Monday to Friday is a terrible idea. Not only is it bad for your posture but you may even fall asleep mid-day. We all dream of a nap mid-day during a long day in the office, you by accident may make that a reality and sleep through your afternoon calls.

Acknowledge it's an adjustment

If you've never worked from home, it might be odd at first. You may want to clean the house, do the laundry, binge watch TV or maybe even crack open a beer - resist the urge to do these things during your designated "work" time. It will take time to adjust. If you slip up, just improve the next day.

Vocalize your needs

In my current role at work, I coach young professionals who are adjusting to their new career. Sometimes they mention having to much or too little work, we discuss how it's important for them to talk to their manager about their workload and ask when they need help. This is even more important when you're working remote: your manager (or team) won't be able to see when you have completed a task or are frustrated with a problem you're dealing with. It's especially important to articulate if you aren't feeling well enough to work. While sometimes there's the assumption that if you are remote you can work even if you are sick, other times you're too sick to work and really need rest. Ask for what you need.

Invest in yourself

Remember to take time for yourself away from your computer. Read a book, go for a walk (away from others), enjoy a cup of tea or coffee by an open window, or do an at home workout. Working from home should allow you a bit more flexibility, maybe read a book or toss in that load of laundry while you eat lunch. Staying active is so important while working from home since you will be much more sedentary than you are used to. Also, being active means you are likely to sweat which will remind you to shower because it's amazing how when you don't need to leave the house for work it's easy to go days without showering (maybe that's just me).

Reduce distractions

The only person I know who successfully works with a TV on is my dad and its often muted or something he has seen before. Most people can't do two things at once, so just don't try. If your social media or the news is distracting (especially with everything going on), turn your phone on airplane mode (as long as no one will be calling you on it for work) or there are apps to help limit your screentime. Don't try to do housework and work at the same time. If you need to do something personal during the day, time it and don't spend more than that amount of time, if it takes longer - you will have to finish "after work hours."

Use video

When my company first started to have video calls, I wasn't into it. I felt awkward and didn't know if it was appropriate to wear a t-shirt and have my hair up. Then I joined a team that explained that video was important to them but "come as you are", wear a t-shirt and have you hair in a pony-tail, they just want to see your face. Communication is so important with remote teams! Video calls ensure focus and allow for more meaningful conversations - you can read someone's facial expression and mood. Most video call software also supports screen sharing, which can be very helpful.

Helpful hint, while I don't care if you dress casually - please do be mindful about what's behind you, try to have a blank wall (or with a simple picture) or window. Your colleagues don't need to see your clothes hanging, kitchen or messy bedroom.

Stay connected

Social distancing or self-quarantining evokes images of isolation. People often ask me if I get lonely working from home. I don't get lonely because I make sure I have informal conversations with colleagues over the phone or slack, similar to a regular office. Have a colleague or two that you know you can reach out to whether its to vent, laugh or talk about something besides work - just a couple quick 5-10 minute conversations like this a day will help you feel connected. And after work is done, make sure to talk to someone outside of your company and not about work. If you live alone, call or video chat a friend - it's important to stay connected even when we can't gather in person.