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I have spent an untold number of hours thinking about having more time to be at home. I would fantasize about working three or four days at my desk in the store and studio and then having two or three full days working from home. I dreamed about how I would get so much more accomplished at home – uninterrupted time to work on client projects or create new blogs while also whipping up fabulous meals and keeping caught up with the laundry.
Now that COVID-19 has forced most of us to Shelter-In-Place and working from home has become a stark reality, it has proven not to be the idyllic lifestyle I had imagined. I am distracted – jumping from task to task. What once seemed a luxury – lounging all day in my pajamas – now just feels lazy and unmotivated. I do have to admit I love being able to linger over coffee in the morning and having the freedom to wander out in the garden when I take a mid-day break from my computer screen. I also like to stop occasionally and listen to the birds chirping right outside the window where my desk sits, or snuggle with Charlie our rescue dog that never leaves my side. These little new found joys help me fight off the creep of anxiety that hovers right at the back of my thoughts these days.
Working from home can be like “Beauty and the Beast”. We have to learn how to tame the “Beast” so that we can delight in the “Beauty” of working from home.
1. Establish a routine: You have so much more flexibility with your schedule when you work from home but it doesn’t mean that you have less responsibilities or more time. Setting a consistent routine will help you stay on task and to achieve what you need to accomplish each day. Get up and get dressed, have a morning ritual that sets the pattern for the day and have a schedule or a simple to do list.
2. Designate a specific work space: It is tempting to sit on the sofa with your laptop and the most recent Netflix show running on the TV in front of you – but don’t! Establish an “office” – which can be as simple as a designated work surface, a good comfortable chair, sufficient lighting and ideally near a window to provide natural lighting.
3. Share Responsibilities: Sharing responsibilities is critical if you are working at home with a spouse or partner and juggling child care and house hold chores (like my son Rob and his young family above!). When you are trying to work a full 8 hour day while managing small children or school age children with their school responsibilities as well as providing meals and fighting to keep some kind of order in all of the chaos, you quickly realize that this new normal is just as demanding as the world you just stepped out of. Make a chart and assign tasks for everyone in the family over the age of five. Split work time if possible with a 2 hour on 2 hour off schedule – the 2 hours off you do childcare, chores, and exercise. It will make your work day longer or force you to be brutally efficient with your work and your chores.
4. Set clear work and home boundaries: Go to your work space or desk only to work – make it an interruption free zone. Check work email and return or make calls only during your scheduled work hours. Outside of your work zone you are “home”. Consider this forced confinement a gift of time for you to really be with those you love. Have your meals at the table, play games, take walks, work in the yard or take on a joint home project. You will never have this singular time again, and the way you and your family remembers it will be based on the simple act of being engaged and mindful while you are together.
5. Make your work space inviting: If you have a desk that is cluttered, stuck in a forgotten room with no light and a desk chair piled full of clothes – change it up, NOW! Move the desk near a window in an area with good ventilation and light. Clear the clutter and organize everything you will need to be productive – pencils, files, a printer etc. If you need supplies Amazon is open for business 24/7, even during Covid-19. If you need to drown out the noises from the rest of your household invest in a good set of headphones or ear buds to use for music or when you are video conferencing.
6. Bring Beauty into your work space: If you are fortunate enough to have a yard – go out cut some fresh flowers or greenery and put it in a vase on your desk, or during your weekly grocery trip pick up a couple of bouquets of fresh flowers. Light your favorite scented candle – print inspiring quotes and then rotate them in spare picture frames (every bit of inspiration helps) – pin up pictures of the loved ones that you aren’t able to physically be with during this time, so that when talk to them you see their faces all around you.
7. Give yourself some grace: This is a tough time for all of us. Anxiety about Covid-19 and our personal and financial health as well as that of our loved ones and our nation is very real. If you are struggling to accomplish even the simplest of task – lower the bar. Celebrate one win a day and come up with one thing you are grateful for each morning.