Working from home has become the new norm due to the Coronavirus pandemic. What was once considered a coveted benefit, has now become millions of workers reality due to hasty stay at home restrictions. The work from home movement does not seem to be ending any time soon either.
Facebook recently encouraged their staff to work from home for the rest of the year, while Twitter said they could do so indefinitely. The move to working remotely extends beyond Silicon Valley too. Research firm Gartner found that 74 percent of organizations plan to shift some employees to remote work permanently.
Our family is a "work from home" family. I have worked from home exclusively for seven years, my husband for five years, and we have four kids now at home as well. Over the years we've learned what works and what doesn't with having a home office.
Here are our five main tips for making working from home a success for your family.
1. Set up a functional, dedicated work space.
If you were hastily forced to start working from home with little more than your laptop, now is the time to invest in setting up a true home office space that uses ergonomics. You will want your space to function the same as your in-office desk. That means setting yourself up with a elevated screen, mouse/mousepad, headset, ergonomic office chair or any other office gear you typically use.
If possible, find a dedicated office space away from the bustle of family life. In our old house we used a spare bedroom as our office. When we moved, we made sure the new house had a dedicated office space. If you have two people working from home, invest in multiple work stations - even if they're in the same room - so you're not fighting over space.
2. Set aside uninterrupted blocks of work time.
We quickly learned that when you work from home and have kids/pets/distractions, it can be challenging to focus for long periods of time. When the pandemic hit and our four kids started being home full time with no childcare, this became even harder.
My husband and I created a system where we each blocked out large chunks of time to focus only on work while the other handled the rest of the household happenings. If you are at home alone, this may mean turning off your phone and blocking your calendar so you can focus only on your work.
With a bit of planning and scheduling, you can tackle those daunting work projects and set yourself up to maintain the same level of focus that you have in the office.
3. Make yourself and your surroundings comfortable.
There are some major benefits to working from home that you shouldn't shy away from enjoying. One of these is the ability to be comfortable in your space while you work. This may mean wearing sweats, having your favorite snacks on hand, breaking for a cup of pour-over coffee or blaring your music.
This also means investing in a good office chair for your home office. If you've been working in a static kitchen chair or bulky traditional office chair, it's a good time to buy a Swopper motion chair. Swopper's gentle movement will keep your posture aligned, back ache-free and joints healthy.
4. Set up a system for conference calls and Zoom meetings.
When you work from home, keeping your house quiet and your office Zoom-ready can be daunting. If you have kids at home, this can be even more impossible. My husband and I created a system where we share a calendar and if at all possible schedule calls at different times. That way one of us can break to keep the house quiet while the other is on the call. If worse comes to worse, we put on a movie and one of us will take a call in the car to ensure quiet.
For Zooms, if your background is less than ideal, we have actually in the past invested in a block of textured peel and stick wall paper we stuck on the wall behind us. This gave the appearance of barn-wood and elevated our overall visual presentation from just a plain wall.
5. Give yourself a break and enjoy as much as you can.
The reality is working from home can be chaotic at times. Give yourself loads of grace and know your colleagues are likely all in the same situation you are. Don't be embarrassed if your kid waltzed in during a Zoom or a coworker catches you in your PJs.
Working from home can also be amazing. Without a commute and those time-wasting water cooler catch up sessions, you suddenly have so much more time to do the things you love like working out, gardening, watching your favorite shows or cooking recipes you've always wanted to try.
Don't feel guilty if you find you're suddenly able to do many more things you enjoy than before. Personally I find I am way more effective with my work to-do-list when I am at home because I am motivated to have more free-time once work was finished.
The way the world works is changing quickly and it looks like working from home is here to stay. We hope these insights help you on your journey to mastering being a remote employee. Once you overcome some initial hurdles and set some systems in place, I'm confident you'll grow to love working from home as much as I do.