After working from home for almost ten years, interacting with colleagues who WAH, and having direct reports that work remotely, Your Office Mom has some advice, hence this article. Quit trying so hard to prove you are actually working in your home office and get some work-life balance instead. There is definitive data that indicates you work hard. It’s mostly nonsense that people who work remotely aren’t doing their fair share of the work. In fact, their productivity and performance are often higher than their office counterparts. Many are so hunkered down in their confined little work world on high alert, being responsive and available that they don’t notice the passing hours. I’ve shared work at home tips before, but here are Your Office Mom’s tips to find work-life balance.
1. Get up and move
If you were at the office all day, you wouldn’t sit in your chair and go nowhere. You would get up and walk around. You might go to a conference room, stop by someone’s desk, go downstairs to another floor, grab a cold drink from the break room. But, many of the work at home crowd tend to stay in the same spot all day long. Just because you work at home doesn’t mean you should be tied to your desk or confined to the walls of your home office. Staring at the same four walls can be maddening, even if your place looks like something straight out of West Elm or Crate and Barrel. So get up and move around, often.
2. Add visual or audio stimulation
Colleagues working in the office see people, interact and watch things happen all day long. Why shouldn’t you? I’m not suggesting you watch binge-worthy shows on Netflix all day, or crank up your sound system, but you can have television or sounds in the background. Whether it’s a news channel, Travel, HGTV, or Discovery, it can provide much needed visual stimulation in your workday. You may want tunes, tranquil spa-like sounds or white noise to drown out distractions of a noisy neighbor or street traffic. I turn on 70’s Disco music when writing or replying to emails. You know the conditions in which you work best, so choose accordingly.
3. Have multiple workspaces
If you are part of the WAH crowd, you need a functional work space with a desk of some sort. I have a comfortable, fully functional office with a view. But if you think I spend 10-12 hours in my dedicated office space every day you are mistaken. My formal workspace is where I hang out during conference calls, online meetings when I’m presenting or doing some serious work.
I also like to stand and work. If you don't have the bucks for an elevated setup, use your kitchen bar, or get a plastic storage bin for your desk (10” high for average height professionals like me) and improvise. Beyond that, I take my laptop outside to the patio while I have morning coffee and do my daily planning. Weather permitting, I may be out there again, sans laptop for a mid-afternoon break. If it’s boring, mundane tasks (expense reports, or editing) I often work from the sofa and put my feet up. If you have an outdoor space at home, or common areas in your apartment, condo, use it. Starting your day outside is the perfect way to appreciate nature and life before the workday kicks in. Find your spaces and use them as your tasks warrant and your mood dictates.
4. Interact with humans
People who work from home often feel lonely or isolated from others, and it can affect performance, productivity, and overall job satisfaction. Whether it’s virtually or face-to-face, there are a few adjustments you can make to keep the loneliness at bay and feel more engaged with the world at large.
Obviously, reaching out to your peers online and touching base each morning is a good practice, but it’s not enough. If you can, grab a beverage at a nearby coffee shop and work awhile, or head over to the library. Make time for a weekly lunch with a friend or co-worker. Or, schedule a virtual lunch with WAH colleagues via Google Hangouts. You’re likely carrying a camera in your pocket, so FaceTime it to interact on a more personal level. The point is, there are many options to engage with others, so consider yours and schedule the time!
5. Set home office hours
Working at home can be exhausting. Before you know it, it is late afternoon, and you want to finish up one little thing. Next time you look up, it’s after 7:00 p.m. Or, you decide to check email before lights out, and then it’s 1:00 a.m. It’s easy to get caught up in that work mode when you work from home. Think about your work days and make some new rules. Unless you’re on call 24/7 reconsider checking email at 10 pm. When you are not chasing a deadline, give yourself a rest and power down at a reasonable hour. The point is, set your work at home hours so you can rest, and have greater work-life balance.
Which tips can help you? Give one or two a try and see what a difference it makes. Do you have other suggestions? Either way, a new outlook can be motivating. And, whether you are on the sofa, at a desk, or on a patio, let your results speak for themselves.