Mar. 20, 2020To help stop the spread of coronavirus, many face a new reality: working from home. Here are a few tips to stay productive.
In an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus, millions of Americans started working from home this week. Welcome to your new office! Yup, it has a lot of perks. No commute! No ties or pantsuits! Proximity to the pantry! Dogs!
But working from home is also a huge adjustment. For many, especially extroverts fueled by the energy of being around others, it can be really hard. Some find it isolating and lonely. Others have a hard time focusing.
I’ve found that I am far more productive when working from home, but it took me a couple different tries to figure out what works for me. Here are few things to keep in mind.
#1 — Create A Space
I used to work wherever I could find a table or a couch. I’m a lot more productive now that I have a dedicated workstation. It isn’t much — a standing desk made out of a scrap of plywood screwed to 2x4s in the gear shed in our backyard — but it’s my space, and when I go there, I know it’s time to work. It also helps me create boundaries. At the end of the day, when I go back inside my home, my work day (with, okay, a few Slack check-ins) is over. The true pro move is to have multiple spaces. My boss has stations for standing, sitting, and being on the floor with a yoga-mat. After standing all morning, I often move my laptop to our picnic table to enjoy some afternoon sun. For something a little more polished than my DIY set-up, these Jarvis desks are extremely popular and made by a B Corp company in Portland, Oregon.
#2 — Get Dressed!
Every morning before work, I take a shower and get dressed just like I would if I was going to the office. I’m not exactly wearing a blazer and chinos, but I don’t want to look like a slob, either. This isn’t just because I tend to have daily video calls. I think it helps prepare me for the day ahead and feel like a legitimate professional. I take my work seriously, and it’s hard for me to feel that way while wearing sweatpants.
#3 — Take Breaks (and Don’t Feel Guilty About It)
At a previous job, working remote was a new privilege, and I felt like I needed to prove that I was always available and online. I had a hard time letting go of Slack and email, so if I took a long break, I felt guilty. This helped nobody. It created unhealthy expectations for my team, and it made me less productive.
The science is clear how important breaks are to staying focused and productive. When I stare at a computer for too long, my entire body, not to mention my focus, starts to droop. Writing one sentence can feel like climbing an endless mountain. With a few exceptions on particularly crazy days, I always take breaks. I don’t like eating lunch, since it puts me to sleep. So I usually snack throughout the day and take a few 15 minute breaks, ideally around 11, 1, and 3. I’ll mediate, swing a kettlebell around the office, walk the dogs, go for a short run. Sometimes in the winter, I chop wood, which is very stimulating!
Occasionally I do get distracted anyway — by the news, my dogs, or Agador — but I try to be gracious with myself when that happens. Traditional offices are full of distractions, too.
I also recognize that it’s when I’m moving outside that I am able to process and have my best ideas about work. My brain starts churning again. I solve a troubling paragraph or think more clearly about big picture challenges. And I rush back to my computer, energized and focused for another productive session.
#4 — Embrace Video Calls
I can’t believe how many huge conference phone calls I’ve wasted in my life. At Avocado, we use the video service Zoom — for quick five-minute meetings to company-wide town-halls. Because we can all see each other, meetings are more personal, engaging, and productive. Our team has members I’ve never actually met IRL, but seeing them via video a few days a week makes me feel more connected to my cohorts as well as the mission of the company as a whole.
#5 — Make Sure Your Wi-Fi Is Dialed
I live in a rural community in New Mexico with no cell service. When I first started at Avocado, our internet used to drop entirely almost every afternoon. It drove me bonkers to have to move my location mid-meeting, or drop a video chat entirely, while I once again restarted the modem. Two things helped: I had our provider come out to optimize however it is the internet works here. I also bought this wi-fi range extender, which seemed to make a huge difference for my backyard office. I also have this wifi-hotspot device, which I always travel with since it works anywhere with a cell signal. It recently allowed me to do some work from a ski area parking lot.
#6 — Emojis Are Your Friend
I’ll admit it, I used to be an emoji agnostic. It’s true. I didn’t understand them. I quickly realized that when so much communication happens on Slack, where it can be hard to understand tone, they are a fundamental tool to help clarify what you mean. Using them is a legitimate skill. Our social engagement manager is an absolute master, always able to find the perfect emoji for the moment. They are often hilarious. I’m still learning, but I have the basics down. My favorites are “man-facepalming” and “flushed.” I seem to use those a lot.
#7 — Be Positive
I feel incredibly lucky to work on a team that is unfailingly positive. It’s a testament to the culture our leadership has deliberately fostered here, and to my colleagues who choose to make that their default disposition. When you start to expect that your colleagues are going to treat you in a positive and supportive way, it builds trust, which is essential and a little trickier when you’re working from home. It also makes work more productive. I’d also add that it is infectious. When your teammates treat you that way, you want to treat them and others the same.
#8 — Be Grateful
It’s a privilege to work from home. One invaluable benefit is having more time. Compared to my last job where I did wear chinos and a blazer and commuted to a traditional office, I have an extra hour and a half every day. I don’t take that time for granted. I use it to meditate, hike, go for a ski or a mountain bike ride, or to call my mom or make dinner for my wife. Essentially, my job working from home allows me to be more me. That’s something for which I’m incredibly grateful.
Do you have a tip for working from home? Tell us what keeps you focused on Facebook and Instagram, and tag us in the post! @AvocadoMattress.