Happy Monday! It’s the beginning of the work week, but the rush hour traffic on the highways is eerily light. That’s because many people find themselves working from home today, whereas they normally work from an office or classroom elsewhere. Since I’ve been working from a home office for about 15 years now, I thought I’d share some work from home tips to help those new to this situation stay focused, productive and balanced. But even if you, like me, have worked from home for years, you may find some new tricks here.
And, since you’re at Dressed for My Day, you can count on some easy, functional outfits for working at home, too. Let’s get started!
The challenges of working from home
Actually, if you have the opportunity to work from home right now, count yourself blessed. So many people have been sent home from their jobs with no way to continue earning. And of course, working from home is becoming more common with the networking opportunities provided through technology. So you may have already opted to work from home before this pandemic hit.
But as blessed as I feel to work from home, I’d be lying if I said it’s easy. It’s challenging to work in the same environment where laundry waits to be folded, my cozy bed beckons, a kitchen full of food arouses my appetite and a television taunts me. Factor in kids or a spouse at home, and you might be even more distracted. I get it. For a little over a year my husband officed from our dining room table while I worked in my home office just feet away.
Not only do distractions make it difficult to focus and stay productive, but the home office presents another challenge at the other extreme. Sometimes it’s hard to stop working when your office is in your home. When I wake up on Saturday or Sunday mornings, my office is still just across the hall from my bedroom. And some days I find myself working ’round the clock, forgetting to stop for dinner with my husband.
While I offer these tips and generally work by them, I still sometimes go through seasons of less productivity, focus and/or balance. But when I practice what I preach, I feel healthier, happier and, subsequently, more fruitful in my work.
Tips for working from home and staying focused, productive & balanced
#1 – Create a designated work space…and stay in it.
If you work from home permanently, you definitely need a home office, in my estimation. Or at least a corner of a room with a desk and cabinet or two. But if you find yourself working from home only temporarily, create at least a space that will serve as your “office” for the foreseeable future.
I suggest you set up your work space at a dining table, card table, desk or at least the kitchen bar. Likewise, I encourage you to steer clear of your bedroom or the sofa. Those should be areas for rest and relaxation, not work.
If you find yourself at home with others who are also trying to work or “go to school,” you may share “an office” at the dining room table, but you might could still designate boundaries that serve all of you well.
Having a designated work space helps you to know when you’re at work and when you’re not. It helps you begin your work with the right mindset, stay focused and then leave your work behind when you move on to another area of your home. Likewise, if you can create a space with some privacy and seclusion, you’ll probably stay on task better.
But for the sake of productivity, I suggest you also make this area pleasant to be in. Gather around you a green plant, some framed photos, a pretty coaster for your coffee mug, etc.
#2 – Set your work hours and observe them.
Depending on your job, you may have some help with this. I know my son, who is a software engineer and works from home, has a daily conference call at a certain time with the rest of his team. He basically has to work when the rest of his team is working.
But if you find yourself with more flexibility, as I have, you may struggle to keep consistent office hours. Instead of working any and all hours of the day, I encourage you to consider your own productivity habits. Then set your hours accordingly. When are you naturally most creative, productive and excited about your job? Work around those hours, whatever they may be for you.
Share your work hours with your family and friends and let them know you’re not available during those times. Use the settings on your phone to turn off alerts, set reminders or redirect your phone calls to voicemail. If you have children struggling to understand why you’re in the house, but not accessible, consider posting your work hours on the refrigerator, using an “in office” and “done for the day” sign in your work space. Or you could turn on a specific lamp in the house that indicates you’re at work.
#3 – Plan your meals and snacks ahead of time.
Establish times for your lunch and breaks, and stick to those times as much as possible. But also plan out what you’ll eat for lunch and snacks each day. Otherwise, you’ll find that the accessibility to your own kitchen can be overwhelming. I get frustrated if I have to make decisions about food during the day when I’m already making multiple work-related choices. And that little frustration can actually derail my concentration for the rest of the afternoon.
So I plan out my meals and snacks either at the beginning of the week or before a day begins. That way I can use my break to quickly prepare the meal or snack and then do something relaxing like sit outside or take a stroll. I’ve also discovered that planning my food ahead of time helps me to eat a more healthy and balanced diet.
#4 – Pipe in music that works for you.
This is your office space, so you get to set the ambiance. At your normal office you may not have that prerogative. But here you can pipe in music that helps you to concentrate and be productive. Figure out what kind of music works best for you, and play it through your computer, phone, stereo or television.
#5 – Maximize your “drive time.”
Well obviously you don’t actually have any drive time. But that’s the point. Now you can use some of the time you normally would take to get ready in the mornings plus all of the time you’d use commuting to do something else. Don’t waste that time sleeping in.
Instead use that time to do something to benefit your mental and emotional health or to strengthen relationships. Maybe go for a walk, play with the dog, spend more time reading your Bible or breathe in some fresh air on your back patio. These activities could help you feel calmer about the circumstances in the world and more prepared to focus on work.
When my husband found himself working from home suddenly, we started using his “drive time” to visit over coffee. That way we had opportunity to talk and pray together each morning before heading to our different rooms for work. We found it easier to stay focused and leave the other person to their tasks when we’d had this opportunity to touch base first.
#6 – Schedule breaks in your day.
When you work around other people you’re probably more prone to pause your work and visit with others occasionally throughout the day. Whether you have meetings scheduled, conferences to attend, sales visits or operational duties that get you out of your chair and down the hall, you probably move more.
But working at home lends itself to staying glued to a chair…unless we plan to get up and move around.
I try to get up every hour to get a drink, use the restroom and maybe step outside for a few minutes. These breaks help with circulation, eye health and hydration. I often take these little breaks to send out a couple of texts or even make a phone call, too.
#7 – Get outside a few times during the work day.
Speaking of drive time, consider that when you work outside of the home you actually get outside of your home at least twice a day on the way to and from work. But I have days when I never ever step outside. And I’ve discovered that is not good for my mental health.
So when the weather allows I at least step outside into my yard or take a walk down my street a couple of times each day. And if it’s raining, I get in my car and drive to pick up coffee, mail some packages or run another errand…just for the sake of getting out.
This simple habit helps me feel so much more productive as the day goes on. And it makes me a more pleasant person to be around after work, too.
#8 – Schedule in family or house-keeping time.
Like I said, when James was working from home, too, we found it beneficial to have “family time” first thing each day. Then we knew we would cease from work at 5 p.m. and visit again. We found we were more productive during the day if we knew when our designated visiting times were.
As a homemaker, I’ve found it important to factor my housekeeping chores into my work day as well. Laundry, dishes and bathrooms have to be cleaned. I don’t have anyone in to do that…yet. And during this time of social distancing I’m assuming most people have cancelled their housecleaning services, too.
But when I don’t schedule days and times to do these tasks, I find they weigh on me during the work day. So instead I try to do certain housekeeping chores on certain days and leave it at that.
#9 – Set up accountability measures.
Depending on the nature of your job, you may have accountability measures factored into your day from the top down. But I don’t have that, and some of you may not either. Still, I find that I need some sort of accountability in order to be my most productive.
For instance, at one point I wrote several daily tasks (that I struggled to complete each day) on index cards and put them on a bulletin board in my office. I would turn the cards over as I knocked out each task. My goal was to turn over all of those index cards by noon each day. And if I did, I treated myself to a cookie with my afternoon coffee.
Look, that may sound silly to you. But it worked for me. And that’s the point. You’ll need to set up some accountability measure that forces you to get the job done…in a timely manner.
#10 – Establish beginning of day and end of day routines.
I’ve found that I’m more productive, focused and balanced if I truly keep my work within my set work hours. To do this, I’ve established routines that indicate the start of my work day and the end of work. For instance, I begin my work day by checking my analytics, comments on the day’s post and emails. Next, I take care of Pinterest and social media. Then I move on with a variety of work projects from there. And, if the weather allows, I end my work day sitting on my back patio with something good to drink. These little triggers help me shift in and out of work mode without a commute to and from an office.
#11 – Get dressed for your day.
This eleventh tip is actually where the title of this blog came from. I was working from home long before I began blogging here. During that time I realized the importance of getting dressed for my day, whether I left my home or not. Showering and putting on something clean and pretty each day helps me feel more productive. But this simple act also makes me feel more professional, which is key to achieving success while working from home. Especially when you’re driving your own business.
Here are three outfits to illustrate how I generally dress for my work days, especially when I’m not leaving home.
Work from Home Outfit #1 – Super Casual
This first look is indicative of how I dress when I plan to go nowhere else that day. And if I’m hoping to get outside during the course of the day, this fits the bill. Honestly, I don’t wear this sort of athleisure look very often, however. I don’t feel quite as productive or professional on these days, so I limit them.
Work from Home Outfit #2 – Jeans & a Nice Top
More often I dress in an outfit similar to this one or the next one. Both of these make me feel more professional and ready for whatever may come. If my husband calls and needs me to drop into his office for a joint counseling session, I’m ready to go. Or if I need to hop on a Zoom conference call with someone, I feel presentable.
Work from Home Outfit #3 – Casual Pants & Shirt
Do I do my hair and makeup every day? Hmm. Probably more like four out of five days, to be honest. But I also can tell a marked difference in my self-esteem and productivity when I do take the time to put on some makeup and freshen up my hair. So if I have serious work to churn out, I do get fully dressed and made up. The way I have my makeup in these photos is actually how I do it for a normal work day – light and natural.
Wow! This is a long post. But if you’re blessed to be able to transition to a home “office” while we wait out this spreading virus, I hope you found something beneficial here. Otherwise, I hope you discovered something – at least a cute top or pair of shoes! – that resonated with you as well. And if you have additional tips for working from home, please chime in in the comments below.
And, hey, let’s all have a good, productive, focused and well-balanced day!
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Blessed for My Day
Yesterday I did like many others and watched our church’s worship service online. I hope you had the opportunity to worship the Lord and hear from His Word, too. If not, I welcome you to view our church’s service on Facebook here.
In his sermon on Psalm 46:1-3 my husband reminded us that “living fearless is not knowing more about your troubles, but knowing more about your God.” I love that. Somehow I seem to think that if I know more about the situation, more about the plan, more about the future…I’ll be calmer and more capable of carrying on. But I’ve discovered in recent weeks that more information indeed does not make me more peaceful and confident. Instead, when I spend more time in God’s Word and less time watching the news, I’m more at peace.
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling. ~ Psalm 46:1-3