There is something to be said about working in physical location. The atmosphere, the people, even the coffee, is all there to stimulate you into your work mode. However, as more and more people transition to remote work, many find themselves lacking motivation, communication, and focus, to name a few. In addition, the lack of separation between home and work means that people are more likely to let their work-life balance teeter heavily on one side or the other. This post will share my personal thoughts on all of these things and more and how I choose to correct them for myself to create a productive work space in my home. *Note: At this time in history, I am still social distancing and working 100% remotely. I don't go to the gym during this time or participate in other high-risk activities. Please remember to follow social distancing guidelines, wear a mask, and keep others and yourself safe!*
The topics I'll cover today are:
You can click on a specific section or continue scrolling to read them all!
1. How to find motivation when it's lacking
Motivation can be hard even at the office. When you're constantly staring at the same space day in and day out it can get a little boring. Factor in that there's no coworker to distract you with what they did over the weekend and that printer runs don't really exist anymore, it can be hard to stay motivated on your tasks. As a type "A" personality, I found that making lists can help me a lot with staying on task and remaining motivated to finish. Yes, lists. Like the ones I would make back in school to force myself to finish things in order to gain the satisfaction of checking things off. Triggering your reward center can cause your brain to associate finishing tasks at work with a boost in happy feelings and increased productivity. I like to make big tasks with small tasks under them. This way, I can cross off milestones throughout a larger task without getting discouraged for seemingly making no progress.
If making lists isn't your thing, creating other rewards systems can also be beneficial. Set a alarm that goes off every two hours for your "snack break" or other reward. Creating a deadline to the work before a break can help limit extra breaks without working you too hard. Sometimes it feels like the word day can go on forever so breaking it up into sections can help you get through until lunch, and then until end of day!
2. Focusing with distractions
Distractions. The devils of productivity and focus. From snacks to children to phones, distractions are a part of life, even in the office. However, I firmly believe that there are infinitely more distractions at home than in the office. While I lack pets, children, significant others, and really anything that's probably a big distraction to people, I still think we all have what is the "siren's call" of distractions: the cellphone. In an office, I actively try to stay off my phone. Not only is it inappropriate to always be on it a work, but it's also very easy to get caught staring at that little screen when you have dozens of coworkers walking by you. At home, it's a different story. A notification, might as well check it. A text, might as well answer immediately. Maybe I should check my Instagram or make sure my Facebook is updated. The phone is a black hole of lost time and the killer of focus for me.
To counteract this main distraction I turn off notifications for non-vital apps, including my social medias. Not having a pop-up every time I get a like on a picture or my aunt posts on Facebook decreases my likelihood to check the phone. I also put in place "screen time" to track my time on apps and stop me from going too far.
I make use of my phone so I have to leave it be. Usually that's playing music or an audiobook over the speakers. Listening to something can give me something to have on in the background so I don't feel so lonely (because let's face it, we're all lonely now). It can also help lessen distractions from other sounds like children, traffic, and neighbors.
Finally, sometimes my body just needs a break. Focusing for 8 hours straight never did anyone any good. Our bodies were meant to move and sitting in a chair for that long can have short and long term health affects. Normally I just wait for a real head-banger to come on and I dance my little heart out for 2-3 minutes. The physical exertion is short and sweet and leaves me feeling happier and ready to focus again. The time the brain gets to reset helps you relax a little more and can increase productivity in the long run.
3. Creating a work-life balance
Work-life balance was already hard before we all got stuck in our homes. Now, with the computer only a few steps away and bedrooms become offices, we have even less barriers between work and home to help us separate our time. My overtime increased when I started working from home than when I was in the office. I used to leave exactly when 4:30 hit in order to avoid traffic, with a lack of needing to care about traffic, I often spend 1-2 hours extra at my desk because "I just want to get one more thing finished". This mentality, while helpful when deadlines are fast approaching and your project is on the verge of late, is not sustainable and can be damaging to your mental and physical health in the long run.
To help with this I make myself schedule things, whether it be visiting my parents or running to the grocery store. Physically leaving my apartment helps break the time and I come back home ready to relax. Understandable, some have more difficultly breaking up work and home than others (*cough* my dad *cough*), but forcing yourself to stop working, even for a hour or so to eat, say hello to your amazing children, and petting dogs, can help your mental health. If you still feel like you need to work more after taking a break then go for it, but don't forget to make time for the things that matter the most!
4. Keeping up communication and community with co-workers
Communication is key. With lack of in-person communication, keeping up with co-workers is suddenly a lot harder than walking across a hall. Communication, especially communication outside of official work business, takes more effort and planning. However, it's totally worth it. Fostering and maintaining a community with others that you work with can help increase communication during business and connections with your coworkers that can cross into the office.
A few of my co-workers and I have lunch meetings where we just talk about life, no business, no work, just pure, hot tea. The calls give us time to talk to those not in our households and give us a break from work during the day. These communications help us be more open when we need help at work or need to discuss something. Start by just messaging co-workers in the morning, ask about their weekend, their holiday, whatever. Starting a conversation over chat is the easiest way to interact and doesn't require face-to-face communication!
Of course, all of this is only my personal experience and definitely won't work for everyone. Finding out what works for you is part of the fun though! When you know, you know. :)