Hello lovelies!! I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy during this time, and reminding yourselves that everything is temporary. As a lot of companies have transitioned to working from home during these “stay at home” orders, I decided to share my best tips for working remotely, and staying sane while doing so, since I have quite a bit of experience working from home.
Being a girl in tech, I’m very familiar with working from home. Before I moved to LA, I worked remotely for about 8 months in the Midwest. Even here in LA, I’ve been working from home about once a week, but work frequently with our off-shore team, so I’m used to collaborating with people remotely and not ever meeting face to face.
I’m hoping some of you find these tips helpful. I know working remotely can be a huge adjustment if you’re not used to it. It can be hard to be productive, do your job effectively, and separate work from home life. In my 5 years of working in tech, the tips below have helped me learn to love and get the most out of working remotely.
1. Don’t skip your morning hygine routine.
I’m not saying you have to do full glam and get dressed every day like you would if you go into the office. I personally don’t like “wasting” my makeup if no one is going to see me during the day, I’d rather let my skin breathe and save myself extra work taking off my makeup at night. But, I find myself more productive and energized when I put in a little effort rather than just rolling out of bed and walking to the computer. I hate showering in the morning, as showering is a “wind down” activity for me, but I do try to make sure I brush my teeth, wash my face and put on all my yummy skincare products that make me feel fresh, put some dry shampoo in my hair and brush it out, and do something with it to make it look like I didn’t just roll out of bed.
2. Try to wear something different each day.
The days are blurring together enough as it is. I realized that it helps when I wear something different each day. Even if it’s wearing the same leggings but just switching out the top. It helps to separate the days and also not make me feel like a bum wearing the same clothes three days in a row.
I’ve also been investing in some cute “loungewear” or athleisure outfits to make me feel like I’m still put together and could go out in public, but also comfortable enough to be sitting at home. Wearing cute clothes instead of just scrubby sweats make me feel more productive and less lazy. Lately I have been really into matching lounge sets – their cohesiveness makes them look less casual even if it’s loungewear. Follow my Pinterest board for ideas 🙂
3. Take at LEAST 30 minutes to yourself before you start working in the morning.
Try to create some kind of morning ritual that you do before work. Make yourself some coffee and drink it on your patio. Read, journal, do some yoga, look at your vision board, or meditate for ten minutes. Organize your workspace. Have a quick breakfast or smoothie. If I don’t take some time for myself in the morning and just start working right away, I’m so much less productive and motivated. My sleepiness drags on throughout the entire morning. Taking some time to clear my mind in the morning makes me more alert and energized all day.
Currently I am re-doing the exercises from one of my favorite books, “Thank & Grow Rich” by Pam Grout as one of my morning rituals. It consists of around 30 exercises, or as she calls them, “party games” to do – one each day. Each party game is only a couple pages of reading and includes a “game” or intention that you practice throughout the day. It’s a nice way to start my day on a positive note, and have a fun intention to follow for the day.
You can find the book here:
4. Take a lunch break, even if you have nothing to do.
Try to take a lunch break, or at least a small break at some point in the day, every day. Our eyes (and our brains!) need breaks from screen time. Our bodies need breaks from sitting at a desk. If you prefer to eat your lunch while you’re working or don’t have time for a proper lunch break, here are some other beneficial things you can do during your breaks that really make a difference:
- Stretch or do yoga for 10-15 minutes
- Read a PHYSICAL book for 10-15 minutes (not an e-book or article on a screen)
- Go for a quick walk
- Spend a little time with your pet or child
Try to stay off screens during your breaks. TV, Netflix, social media, etc. Your eyes and brain will thank you!
Another thing I love to do is take mini stretch breaks throughout the day. Try spending a few minutes stretching or do a couple yoga poses each time you get up to use the restroom or refill your water.
5. Delete or set limits on your social media apps.
If you have trouble staying off social media during the day, it might be worth it to either set time restrictions on the apps with your phone’s Digital Well-being settings, or just delete the apps off of your phone completely. Staying away from reading the news during the day won’t hurt either. This way you can remain focused on YOUR life and be present with what you are doing, rather than focusing on what everyone else is doing. There are also some good apps to set timers and schedules for social media as well, such as “App Detox” on Android.
6. Keep your workstation clean and organized.
It’s easy enough to get overwhelmed during all of this. Keeping your workstation clean is a simple way to help keep your mind clear and be more organized. When my desk gets cluttered with papers, coffee mugs, etc, I am more overwhelmed, have more difficulty focusing and procrastinate more.. sometimes without even realizing my environment is what’s causing it. There’s so much going on in my environment around me, it’s harder to stay focused on work. I’m always more calm, focused, and productive during the day if my workspace is clean.
If you need some organizing help, here are some ideas for super cute desk organizing tools:
7. Invest in good equipment, and set up a workspace that is aesthetically appealing to you.
If you have the means to, it really helps to invest in good equipment. (Might be worth asking if your company will reimburse for some work-from-home equipment) I recently upgraded my workspace by replacing my old clunky monitor that I got for free from a previous job with a newer, better quality, prettier monitor (the improved graphics quality alone makes my eyes so much happier, not to mention the monitor is all shiny and white and matches my apartment). I also got a matching white wireless keyboard and mouse set. It just looks so much better than the old black equipment I had, and having a wireless mouse and keyboard looks way cleaner than having cords everywhere. I also try to hide the cords from my monitor and laptop dock as well as I can.
Decorating my desk is another must for me. I NEED to be in a space that inspires me. I keep it minimal because, remembering my last tip, the cleaner and less cluttered my workspace, the better I work. But find some things to put on your desk that inspire you and look aesthetically pleasing to you. For me this is a cute plant, a pink Himalayan salt lamp, a picture frame with a quote that inspires me, an essential oil diffuser (I love to have peppermint oil diffusing during the day to keep me alert) and a few crystals. I even have a marble print stainless steel tumbler cup that I use for water, cuz it’s pretty. And spill proof. Make your workspace pretty so that you smile and are proud of it when you look at it.
My “aesthetically pleasing” office setup:
8. Use a notepad or planner to keep track of your daily tasks.
I do this religiously, both at the office and in my personal life. But especially when working from home, I find it really helpful to jot down my tasks for the day and things I need to follow up with as I’m going through my morning emails. Even if one of the tasks is something as simple as “respond to Nancy’s email.” It helps me to stay organized and keep track of everything since your workday structure can be different at home. I can look at my list at the end of the day and make sure I’m not missing anything, and also look back on yesterday’s list to make sure everything was done. It also helps me keep track of what day I did something. That way when I have a weekly meeting with my manager, it’s easier for me to tell her the status of something from earlier in the week instead of scratching my head to remember when something happened. Seriously, the days can blend together and something that happened two weeks ago can feel like it happened two days ago. On top of that, there have been studies proving that there’s a connection in your brain with feeling more accomplished when you physically cross something off a to-do list.
For work, I just use a regular top-bound spiral notepad to jot down my tasks every day, because I like the separating line in the middle to separate my task list from notes, or even fit multiple days on one page(I really like these ones that come in pretty pastel colors).
For my personal life I also like to be very organized and I am (and always have been) pretty obsessive with my planner. I bring it everywhere. My theory is, if I need to do something, even something really small – if I write it down then I don’t have to worry about remembering it, and there’s more room in my brain for other thoughts to float around. If someone asks me what I need to do after work, I’ll probably say “I don’t know, but my planner does so I don’t need to worry about it.” I’m not worrying about remembering my grocery list and all the chores I need to do when I get home because I know they’re written down, so my mind is more clear during the day.
Currently I’m using the Klarheit Planner. I like that it’s undated, and it also helps with short and long term goal setting, mind maps, coaching, and reflecting. The pages are in a weekly format. Next I think I’ll try one like this panda planner, because it has pages for daily, weekly, and monthly planning, AND the daily planning pages include sections for writing down your gratitude list, affirmations, priorities, exercise, etc. If you don’t need a planner that in depth (like I said, I’m a little obsessive) a cute one like this is a good option.
9. Focus on the things you like about your job.
It’s important for your physical and emotional well-being to limit as much stress as you can and remain positive during this time. For a lot of companies, working from home might be a big adjustment. It might be really difficult to continue your daily work as you did in the office, or more difficult to collaborate and communicate with your team. Or maybe one of your coworkers or manager has been really on edge and making your work day really stressful(try your best to have some empathy and remember this is a really difficult time for some people so maybe they’re just stressed out – everyone deals with this differently) . It’s normal for working during this time to be a bit more difficult than usual. We all need to remember this time does not define your job as a whole and it is TEMPORARY.
For me, when my job is really stressing me out and I’ve had it up to here… it really helps to find things I do like and appreciate about my job and focus on them for a few minutes. If there’s not much at all that you enjoy, a good way to do this is to think about the value you bring to other people in your job. Say you’re overwhelmed about how heavy your workload is; can you take a few minutes to think specifically of who you are helping by completing each task on your plate? Are you fixing someone’s problem? Doing them a favor? How would their job/life be more difficult if your job didn’t exist?
It sounds backwards, but when I try to focus on how the things that I’m doing benefit OTHER people rather than myself, I find my job way more enjoyable. Doing this especially helps if I’m feeling like my job is just sucking the life out of me and not benefiting me much, because I’ll realize at least I’m helping other people, and I feel really good when I am helping people. It helps to bring meaning, make me feel needed, and realize how important my job is.
If you can’t find anything at ALL to appreciate about your job, then try to spend a few minutes appreciating the fact that you HAVE a job, especially during this time. Appreciate the fact that you work in a field that your job can be performed at home. Appreciate the fact that you are getting paychecks to buy food. Appreciate how fun it is working from home, getting a nice break from having to drive to the office every day, saving money on gas, getting some extra sleep, whatever you can think of that you like about working from home.
If things are just really really challenging working from home for you, maybe you’ll find peace in repeating one of my favorite mantras that I heard in a podcast and use when I’m faced with a frustrating problem: “Everything is figure-out-able.”
10. Check in with your teammates and manager regularly.
Communication can make or break a relationship, no matter what kind. It’s typically better to over-communicate while working from home to keep expectations clear and avoid misunderstandings. Also, having phone calls, video calls and screen-share sessions could help with not feeling so isolated and make communicating more efficient. For people who aren’t used to working heads down (or rather heads to screen) by themselves on a daily basis, this quarantine might be a big adjustment. It’s okay to ask your manager or coworkers to have a call or have a “screen-share working session” together rather than just messaging back and forth.
11. Get outside at least once a day.
Depending on where you live, this may or may not be an option given that we are under “Stay at Home” orders. I live in a somewhat crowded area of LA with busy streets and very narrow sidewalks, so going for regular walks outside is not really an option for me right now because of the social distancing requirements. I know of a few people in LA getting tickets for being outside doing things like hiking and surfing. Many of the hiking trails parks, and beaches are closed.
The point is, it may not be easy to get outside on a daily basis right now. But if you can get outside while still following social distancing regulations, please do so. Even if it’s just a walk around the block. If you’re in an area like me and can’t really walk outside, sit out on your balcony for a little bit each day if you have one and weather permits. If it’s not raining or too cold, I have been trying to eat my lunch outside, or just sit outside for a little bit at some point during the day to quiet my mind and take in my surroundings. Being outside, acknowledging and appreciating nature and wildlife, and seeing the beauty in your environment is so good for the mind, body, and soul.
12. Have a non-work related conversation with someone daily.
If you have a job like mine where you work mainly alone and sometimes go a full day without talking to anyone, this is crucial for your well being. I’m not the best at keeping in touch with my coworkers that I don’t work with directly, and don’t have many that I know well enough to just “shoot the shit”, so this doesn’t mean you have to have a conversation with someone you work with.
Call a friend or family member over your lunch break. Reply to someone’s Instagram story and start a conversation with them. Respond to a text that you have been meaning to respond to for days. I’m kind of an introvert so I do pretty well with extended periods of time alone and I don’t need to talk to many people regularly to stay sane. BUT. During this time especially when we’re cooped up and quarantined, it’s been really helpful for me to find ways to get a little extra digital human interaction that brightens my day. Today, I had a full blown conversation about plants on Instagram with an old friend from Minnesota. It was great and really brightened my day messaging back and forth telling each other about our plants and geeking out about something we’re both excited about. I try to call my Grandma around lunch as often as I can just to chat for about ten minutes.
Finding ways like this to connect with people helps bring more joy and meaning to your day when every day can feel the same.
13. Create boundaries or guidelines with whoever may be home with you while you are working from home.
If you have roommates, significant others, or kids that are home while you’re working, it’s important to establish clear boundaries, communicate your needs, and respect your fellow housemates schedules and routines. If you have younger kids… I’m not going to have much advice for you (sorry!) but if you have older kids or roommates it’s better to have a conversation about this up front to avoid interruptions and issues later. My boyfriend and I are both working from home and our workspaces are not far from each other. We’re usually good about letting each other know when we have conference calls or video calls, so we can plan things like breaks and cooking lunch around them and make sure we don’t interrupt each other or end up in the background of a video call. This might not be an issue if you have a bigger place, but in a tiny apartment, it takes a little planning 🙂
So there you go! Some of my best tips for working remotely – and staying productive, organized and sane while doing so. If you need more advice related to working from home or something that I didn’t cover, feel free to drop a question in the comments. This is a strange time for sure, but I honestly think we can all make the most of it. Work teams are growing stronger by finding new ways to communicate and collaborate more effectively. We have a chance to slow down and connect with the people we love now more than ever. It’s a great time to focus on ourselves and look within to do some reflecting on how our life is going.
Remember, this is only temporary! Stay healthy, and make the most of it!! Much love!!