OK – let’s put a few things in perspective before we dive into this topic. Awful is getting sick. Awful is spreading illness unintentionally to others. During this time, there are many more awful things than working from home. Now onto my story…
A few years back, I got a divorce from the corporate world and began my full time “work from home adventure.” Regarding my workspace history, I was lucky in my corporate jobs because I typically had a lot of freedom. In addition to working from the office, which I did the majority of the time, I could work from home when I needed to. From cubes, to pods, to big offices to coffee shops and Barnes & Noble, I was used to all types of workspaces.
Working from home full-time for the first month was awesome. However, when the newness wore off, working remotely was distracting and frankly, really lonely. At times it felt like work was invading my ONE sacred, safe space – my home – where I usually did my best to detach from work. Under any circumstances, I’ve never been one who could sit in one place and work 5 hours straight staring at a computer. At corporate, I got energy from interacting with people and sharing ideas. I didn’t realize how much I liked the buzz of work noise until it was gone.
So working from home full-time was not only lonely, but it also wasn’t conducive to my being fully productive. That combo didn’t work well for me. I worked too hard to make a mess of things because I had too much freedom, freedom all of us have dreamed about at some point. So here’s what I did to make remote work go from “awful” to “pretty sweet” in no time.
- Keep Your Work Rituals. Make Mr. Coffee Your New Magic Mike. At least during the transition. For example, at my corporate job, for my sanity, I had to get out of the office for lunch. Many days I ate lunch while I watched Netflix in my car. You better believe I still watched Netflix from my car for the first few weeks at home. Yes, I’m a weirdo – but it worked. If I had done that from my couch, the couch would have sucked me it: day over. So, if your thing was a 3 pm coffee break at corporate, then still grab a cup of coffee from your home cafe at the same time. Make your Mr. Coffee your new Magic Mike.
- Get a Go-To Tech Person. For the love of all that is holy, I spent more time setting up crap, googling solves, trying to figure out why my wifi wasn’t connecting with my printer, or why my VPN was holding all my video calls hostage. If you have a tech guy at work – put them on speed dial, get them gift cards, offer to do their laundry. Whatever. If you don’t have a tech guy at work — then get thee to the Geek Squad, pronto.
- Set up Zoom video conferencing. Hopefully, your workplace already has a video conferencing system in place you can use at home. If they do not – then get Zoom. It’s the easiest and most reliable system (IMO) at this time. There are many other good ones too. When you work from home, you miss seeing faces – so this is a must. What about my Facetime? That is great, but not everyone has Apple products. What about my Google Hangouts? Again, not everyone is on Gmail. When you have a video conferencing program like Zoom, people you connect with don’t have to have Zoom to engage.
- Printer Cartridges Are Your New Alpha and Omega. If you don’t have to print from home, get on your knees and thank God. If you do, get a LOT of printer cartridges, now. Many of us forget about printer cartridges until we’ve got to print that important contract, that is due in 20 minutes, and our ink runs out. We usually don’t prioritize print cartridges right away because they are expensive. Most places carry the discounted, generic brands which will save you some cash. And if you are working for a company that has quarantined you, they should pay for that expense anyway.
- What ‘Cha Doin’ On Your Butt? The B-Gee’s were right > You should be dancin’, yeah (apparently I am now old AF). Trust me; you have got to move some. Exercise 10 minutes, twice a day, or more if you like. Here’s what’s great about “moving” around at home > you can get sweaty, and no one cares!
- PRO TIP > Grokker, a virtual employee health, wellbeing, fitness platform, is giving two months access free. Virtual training, exercises classes, cooking demonstrations, mindfulness practices are all included. I’ve loved what I’ve used so far.
- Do Some Laundry If You Have To. Every other “how to work remote” article will tell you not to mix work and “home.” Bullshit. You know you are going to get distracted with some of these tasks, so if you need to do it, do it. I mean, the rules have changed, so think differently. That said — if one load of laundry turns into three loads while you watch Oprah (or reruns of that Alabama Football championship from 15 years ago or five episodes of Ozark), you better pull your shit together fast. I mean, don’t blow your credibility with laundry. There are much more fun ways to lose your credibility!
- Make Sure You’ve Got Strategic Distractions For Your Pets. If you have a pet that always follows you around, scratches the carpet under your door if you close it, or tries to regularly make love to your computer screen while you are working, better find some things to distract them. This distraction really was a problem for me! I finally realized my bizarro cat loves to sit on a leather ottoman right by my office chair. She loves to be next to me and to lick the leather. Uuuuuh, well, whatever works.
- What about distracting my kids? I don’t have any kiddos – so that level is above my pay grade! Sorry, my friends.
- Talk, Don’t Text. Humans are wired for interaction. We are already in a loneliness crisis, and that phenomena proliferated at work with lots of people around. Do not isolate yourself from connection. If you are feeling lonely, reach out, schedule video chats, or virtual happy hours (after work). But please do these “live” or over the phone — not over text. Texts are cool, for sure! But talking is essential to keep you sane.
- Bring Your Second Work Monitor Home With You. Just do it. You’ll be lost without it.
- Take Advantage Of Being At Home. Home is still your sacred space, so enjoy it and use it to your advantage. For instance, I am a singer, so during my work break times, I use that time to sing (learn new songs, practice scales, do vocal warm-ups, write songs, etc.). I didn’t have the ability (or courage) to do this from my corporate work office, but at home, in MY sacred space, the sky’s the limit. Maybe you’re an artist? If you have an easel set up in your home studio, then paint for 30 minutes! You volunteered to make meals for people who’ve lost paychecks? Then prep those casseroles during your afternoon break. If it is an activity that will recharge you to get back at it – they do it!
I’ve got a million more things I could share to help with your transition, but this is plenty to get you started. You’ve always wished you could work from home (you know I’m right), so during this new norm (for now), lean into this opportunity. It’ll take a bit to get used to, but in the end, you may find you never want to leave! Either way, if you have other ideas, we’d love to hear from you.
Dawn Burke, VP of Talent Consulting at Kinetix and founder/advisor for Dawn Burke HR, is an HR leader, speaker, and writer specializing in new HR practices, engagement and workplace culture. Her HR/recruiting/leadership career has spanned the last 20 years, with past gigs including a foundational role as VP of People for Birmingham, AL’s award-winning technology company, Daxko (And yes, Kris Dunn and Dawn are making Bham the HR capital of the world! Who knew?). You can also check her out at DawnHBurke.com and a variety of other interesting places. Google her, it’ll keep you posted on what she is up to.
Most importantly: She is addicted to TV, knows most of the lyrics to Hamilton and West Side Story, loves to cry at movies (check out Cinema Paradiso for a cry fest!), thinks wine, a wheel of Brie and Milk Duds make a well-balanced dinner, and sings in her car daily. Her husband and cat are the Yin to her Yang.