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Working From Home: Lessons I’ve Learned In 22 Years

The Coronavirus pandemic has changed our lives and how we work. More and more companies are asking their employees to work from home. Whether you’ve never worked at home or you’re an old pro, it’s stressful for all of us.

I started working from home in 1997. My first child was born, and I wanted to be home with her. Since then I’ve had two more kids, and now they are 22, 19, and 16 years old. Much has changed – especially technology – from when I first started working remotely.

Here are the lessons I’ve learned over 22 years of working at home, with a husband and three kids also demanding my time:  

Create a dedicated workspace

I’ve worked in my basement. I’ve worked in a glorified closet. And, I’m currently working at my dining room table. A dedicated workspace gives you a professional zone where you can slip into “work mode” whenever you sit down. You may even want to replicate your office workspace to make if feel more familiar and comfortable for you.

Maintain regular hours

I make myself available from 9am to 5pm – five days a week. However, I often work for marketing agencies and start-up companies, so I tend to be more flexible with my schedule. If I work after hours on a project, I may start working later the next day. Just determine a schedule that work best for you based on your workflow and stick to it. 

Develop a morning routine

I am not a morning person. I drag myself out of bed when the alarm goes off, put on my fluffy purple bathrobe, and head for the coffeemaker. I make my breakfast and sit on the couch for about 30 minutes watching Netflix. At the last possible minute, I get dressed and start working promptly at 9am. Create your own morning routine so that you’re ready to sit down and get to work – right on time.

Set guidelines for your family

In my early days of working from home, I had three small kids in different states of going to school, to Pre-K, or to the babysitters. It’s distracting when people are coming and going from the house. Small children needed naps. My husband came home for lunch thinking I would fix him food. (That stopped very quickly.) My mom liked to stop by and chat. I still don’t think she realizes that I work from home – full-time, after 22 years.

Deal with unexpected distractions

You need to set a daily routine and stick to it. My husband and children were told the only way you’re allowed to interrupt me is if someone is bleeding or throwing up. That came back to haunt me when my oldest daughter knocked on my office door to tell me there was a snake in the living room. I came upstairs and found a 6-foot black snake lying on the window seal watching Sponge Bob on TV. The unexpected will happen at home, just be prepared to deal with it. And I amended my rules to include snakes.

Show up and participate in virtual meetings

I was technologically challenged for many years. I live in a rural area with very few internet options. I would still participate in calls and web meetings, but often had to turn off the video feed. Now days most people have fast internet. Make sure you show up to virtual meetings – with clothes on – ready to participate, collaborate, and be heard.

Take breaks

It’s important to take lunch breaks and other short breaks during the day. Get up and walk around. Two years ago, I had a pulmonary embolism which was partially due to sitting at a desk all day. Now I have an Apple Watch that tells me to stand up and move. If it’s nice outside, take a 15-minute walk to decompress and destress.

Check in with your boss and coworkers

One thing I’ve learned while working from home is “out of sight, out of mind.” It’s up to you to check in with your boss and see if everything is going smoothly. If you have coworkers who are still in an office, check in with them to find out what they’re doing and if they need anything. It’s more important than ever to communicate frequently.

Use technology to stay connected

When I started working from home, cell phones were brand new and the Internet had only been around for a few years. Talk about social distancing. Now, we have some many options to connect – FaceTime, Skype, Slack, Zoom, Google Meet, social media, and so much more. 

Stick to your goals

We’re all a little panicky and anxious about everything that’s going on. But stick to your goals and deliver on what you’ve been asked to do. If you find you need additional resources, technology, or tools, let your boss or manager know what you need. It’s in their best interest to help you be more productive.

Cut yourself some slack

Things are going to go wrong. Technology will challenge you. Your family or kids will drive you crazy. You’re not going to be as productive and efficient at home as you are at work. You may feel out of sorts at first, but you will get into a routine and be a rock star again!

Stay in touch with family and friends

Make it a point to touch base with family and friends who may also be working from home, even if it’s just a phone call or video chat. Use social media channels to connect with those who are isolated. We are all in this together, and they will appreciate that you are thinking of them. If you have neighbors who are older or families with small children, offer to run errands or pick something up at the store.

Be positive

Keep a positive and upbeat attitude. It’s a breath of fresh air in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic. Be kind and lend a helping hand whenever you can. It not only benefits the person you help, but it helps you, too!

ALSO READ: 8 Tips For Nurturing Your Remote Workers

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