Is concern over the spread of Coronavirus leading you to work from home? As more and more businesses choose to close their offices for precautionary reasons, greater numbers of people around the world—such as yourself—may need to adjust to the realities of telecommuting.
That makes sense. Getting accustomed to working from home—particularly when that’s not your normal state of affairs—is a challenge.
The good news is that for almost 20 years, Mission Minded’s entire team has worked from home. One of our values at Mission Minded is “Live Fully,” which for us means that we strive to maintain a healthy life balance, professionally and personally. Working from home is one of the ways we bring that value to life.
One good way to live fully is to stay healthy—and that’s our wish for all of you.
To get your home office routine rolling, try the following six steps:
1. Set up Your Workspace
Take the time to define a space that will be solely set aside for your work, if possible. Make sure your chair is comfortable and supportive. Assess your ergonomics and make sure that your workspace is set up in a way to allow for good posture. Remember, what feels okay for an hour or two on a Saturday can do real damage over a whole week of work. If perfect ergonomics aren’t possible, remember to stand up and move around frequently to minimize the strain on your body.
You may be tempted to work from your couch or bed, but that would be a mistake. One of the ways to keep yourself happy is to draw a clear line between your work space and your personal spaces—even if they’re in the same room.
2. Respect Routines
Routines are very important for those of us who work from home. You’ll want to set a firm schedule and keep to the same hours every day. This will help you distinguish work time from everything else.
For the same reason, avoid working in your pajamas, and continue your normal morning routine. Shower and dress for work, even if no one will see you but your family or housemates. This reinforces your work mindset and will help keep you productive.
Another trick to making the most of your work day is to mimic your morning commute, even (or especially) when you’re going to work from the kitchen table. Before starting work for the day, walk around the block or maybe a little further. At the end of the day, be sure to walk in the opposite direction before “coming home.” It may seem silly, but it really helps your mind transition between home time and work time. And your dog will be overjoyed to tag along.
3. Set Boundaries
One of the biggest challenges of working from home is communicating to family members or housemates the sanctity of your work time. Be clear with those around you about when you can interact and when you’re off-limits. That may be as simple as putting a sticky note on your “office” door (or forehead, if you don’t have a door) to signal when you shouldn’t be interrupted. Then make sure you take that sign down when you’re taking a lunch break or are otherwise available for water cooler chat.
With little ones, you might even practice “Daddy/Mommy’s working” during a downtime, so that your kids know how it works.
You also need to be clear with yourself about when you will work and when you will take breaks. It’s easy to get distracted by housework and chores. Make up a break schedule and set an alarm so you stick with it. That way, you can get the laundry done, but avoid decluttering the basement when you should be completing reports.
4. Take Care of Your Body
You know exercise is good for you, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t prone to forgetting to leave the house when you’re a telecommuter. Whether it’s a half hour on an exercise bike, a vigorous walk around the park, or a lap up and down the stairs of your apartment complex, gift yourself a minimum of 30 minutes a day of exercise. After all, that’s time you just gained by not having to commute.
You also need to make sure to maintain a healthful diet. It’s easy to graze on chips all day instead of reaching for a piece of fruit or vegetable. Plan your lunches and snacks the night before, so you won’t be tempted to go on an all-cookie diet.
5. Stay Social
At Mission Minded, we use Slack to stay in communication with one another. Not only do we use it as a form of instant messaging between individuals, we also contribute to channels like #whatareyoureading to share our favorite books, #whereareyou to celebrate our adventures, #whatscooking for our favorite recipes, and #watercooler for the kinds of silly things we might stand around talking about if we shared an office. These social spaces preserve culture and community, and they keep you from feeling isolated.
We also schedule virtual coffee dates with each other, taking time to catch up via video. Just a 10-minute chat with a colleague can brighten your day and help you refocus.
You might also consider scheduling a brief check-in with a colleague at the beginning of the day to discuss your goals and/or to review what you accomplished the day before. Having one other person to whom you’re accountable can help you avoid unproductivity.
6. Start From a Place of Trust
For managers who normally oversee their employees in person, home-based work can be a huge challenge. Jeremy Neuner and Ryan Coonerty write in The Rise of the Naked Economy:
Frederick Winslow Taylor is credited as the father of modern management, and among his many ideas that shaped the structure and culture of the modern office was that workers naturally want to avoid work and thus must be closely supervised. You could argue, in fact, that the central purpose of the traditional office is, and always has been, management supervision. This notion has been heeded ferociously for decades.
Successful work-from-home culture, on the other hand, requires that managers do the exact opposite. They have to trust in their employees’ intrinsic desire to complete their tasks and maintain high-quality work. Most people, when entrusted to do a good job, rise to the challenge. That’s been our experience at Mission Minded.
As a manager of a team that’s working from home, set clear goals and expectations and—by all means—review work before it goes live, but avoid the temptation to manage HOW and WHEN your employees complete their assignments. You’ll find that practicing this with a remote team may eventually even foster greater autonomy once you’re all back at the office.
Do you have other ideas to make working from home more productive and enjoyable? Please share them here!
Related Content: At Mission Minded, we’re leaning into our brand values to help our communications and operations planning for COVID-19. Read our post here that explains how your organization can too.
Zach Hochstadt is a Mission Minded Founding Partner and runs Mission Minded’s Denver office, leading the company’s creative teams in the areas of message development, writing, graphic design, and web design and development.
See all posts by Zach Hochstadt