If there’s one thing I’ve struggled consistently with over the last few years it’s been working from home. Who would’ve thought the amazing idea of not having to go to an office on someone else’s time schedule would have a downside? As it turns out, there are lots of things people who work from home don’t share. The reality is that for a lot of us, it’s actually a struggle to effectively work from home. One reason? Distractions galore. One of the things I quickly found out from working at home after I left my HR job was how easy it was to spend hours mindlessly doing God knows what – I mean that. I could stay busy for hours, and at the end of it have no idea what exactly I had accomplished or did. It’s a phenomenon I can’t understand. 

With everyone suddenly being shoved into working from home, I’ve seen lots of different responses. Some absolutely love it, some hate it, some are just besides themselves because they can’t figure out how to make it work – especially those who have animals or children who are now at home with them as well, or parents who have never been stay at home parents, and now kind of are. Yes, as numerous people have mentioned, keeping your same time schedule and getting dressed helps, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg. From this entrepreneur to you, I thought it might be helpful to share some insights from my 2+ years as a stay at home worker in hopes that it might help you navigate this transition with a little less stress and anxiety. 

#1. Let go of what life looked like in your office, because you’re not in Kansas anymore Toto.

Yes, you heard me right. Working at home most often will look nothing like working in your normal office or work setting, especially now that we don’t have the option to go anywhere other than our homes. This brings up a few things – first, some may feel delight. For those of us who loathe heading into the office, the thought of working from home in your pajamas sounds most amazing. Second, it could bring up a little anxiety for those extroverts that actually thrive on being around people and may feel completely lost and uncertain on how to do this work from home thing effectively. The thought of being holed up in your house for days could trigger a bout or two of anxiety. What I’d like to invite you to here is to consider that you’ll need a new normal as a work from home human. Your home life will most likely not allow you to keep your head down and work for 8 or more hours straight like you might be use to. You can keep your same schedule, but what you do in that schedule may need to look different. This could actually be a good thing. 

  • Combat getting a bit stir crazy. You may need to be more diligent about taking a break every hour or two to get up and stretch your legs, maybe move some energy by doing some jumping jacks or push ups. Disconnect from your screens (which is a great habit to get into once you head back into the office by the way). You’re use to going from home, to work, maybe to the gym, maybe to happy hour, maybe do some errands, etc. and then going back home again. Right now, you’re going from home to home to home to home back to home. Maybe to the grocery store a couple times a week in there. It’s different. The more you can understand that your old routine isn’t going to fly in this new normal right now, the better off you’ll fare – create the new normal. 
  • Ever try having a conference call or a meeting with a dog or kid in the room? It’s not easy. If possible, what I’ve found to help is to go in my truck to do the call – somewhere away from the noise and distraction where you can actually hear yourself think. 
  • Bargain with your kids/animals to give them what they need so you can have what you need. Let me explain – if you’re like me, you likely have a very needy and excited animal (or human) that thinks because you’re home, it’s playtime. All the time. So much so that when you sit down at your desk to work, which oddly is far enough away from them to cause a panic attack, all hell breaks loose because what they actually want is to be near you. Instead of playing tug of war and trying to force this situation to work, how can you roll with the shift? How can you give your kid/animal what they need while getting what you need? For me, this looked like bringing my desk to the couch, where my dog could lay next to me while I worked, instead of crying and dang near screaming by my feet because he couldn’t get to me.  If you have kids, maybe you clear off a space on your desk or table for them to draw or color or play games while you work, promising to take a 10min break every hour to hang out with them. 
  • Beware of all the distractions in your house including but not limited to the dishes, the laundry, the TV, the ringing doorbell, trimming your nails, etc. Like I mentioned above, you can spend hours on all of these things only to end up a bit frazzled at the end of the day when you realize you didn’t get the work done you needed to. If you feel yourself sucked into these things very easily like most people, maybe consider setting up your desk or makeshift office with your back facing all those things. Sometimes out of sight out of mind is a blessing. Try to keep in mind that just because you’re working from home doesn’t necessarily mean you’re working on your home 24/7. There is absolutely ample time for all your home care, self-care, etc., but keep it within your “off” or break times throughout the day. 

#2 Beating fatigue

Unless you routinely work from home, our houses are like our fortresses. They’re our place to rest, to connect with our family, to just be. Now that you’re needing to bring the energy of work into your house, it can really mess with your psyche. A friend recently told me working from home makes her want to nap all the time, and I get that. To be truthful, it’s really really hard for me to work effectively from home. I’ve begun using services like Deskpass to encourage myself to be more productive when I’m around other people doing the same and in a space that isn’t comfy and cozy with a million other things to do than work right at my fingertips. I’m feeling the burn there too, believe me. If you find yourself getting tired at home while you need to be working, consider a few things I’ve discovered to help:

  • Get out of the fluorescent lighting if you can. Artificial lighting wreaks havoc on our nervous systems as it is, couple that with being in front of a computer, TV and our phones – bad news bears. Try working by a window in the natural daylight as much as you can. If the weather is nice outside, go work outside in the fresh air. This should be a lot easier on your eyes, but also the connectivity with nature can bring some life into you as well.
  • Take a movement break. When the yawns start, get up and move. If you have stairs, take a few rounds up and down the stairs. Jog in place. Do some jumping jacks or burpees or push ups or sit ups, take a few sun salutations, put on a great song and dance, do whatever feels good to you in the moment that will help to get your blood pumping
  • Pay attention to what you’re eating and drinking. When we’re at home, it’s easy to have access to all the things and we can easily find ourselves eating and drinking not so great stuff in excess without realizing it. Sugar, in particular, will tank your energy levels after that initial spike (we know this). Try water or playing around with some herbal teas. I actually just made my sister a blend of tea to help with fatigue, it had holy basil (great for your adrenals), peppermint (naturally energizing) and jasmine green tea (green tea has a better source of caffeine that’s easier for the body to process than coffee). 
  • Drink more water. Dehydration can cause fatigue. 

#3 Feeling disconnected and lonely

This is a very real thing that happens when you work from home and something not many people tell you about or warn you about. At first, working from home is great. No annoying coworkers, you don’t have to talk to anyone when you don’t want to, all is well in the world. After a while though, you start to miss the interaction. After even longer, you realize that it’s harder to connect with people in conversation because you have no common ground (like being coworkers) with most people. It can make you feel like you’re on an island by your lonesome. During this social distancing and quarantine time, consider getting creative with your connection desires. Some things you can arrange via an online conferencing platform like Zoom:

  • An online book club 
  • Happy hour with friends (everyone brings their drink to the meeting!)
  • Coworking time together
  • Coffee/tea dates
  • Game night via an online gaming platform
  • Start some kind of group around a common interest – have some friends that want to learn Italian with you? Your coworkers are all intrigued on how to start cooking Mediterranean dishes? You can arrange this in Slack, Facebook, Google Hangouts, any online group platform where everyone can come together and share.

#4 What to do with all that alone time

Solitude is something that terrifies a lot of people. I know it did for me a few years ago. You’d never know it now, but up until about 2 years ago I never so much as sat down in a coffee shop to have coffee by myself. The truth is, learning to be comfortable in your solitude is a journey, and one that right now everyone is being shoved deep into the depths of the waters with. Instead of filling your time with to-do list after to-do list, start having some times in your day where you literally disconnect from everything and everyone to just sit and breathe for a bit. This could be as little as 5 minutes or as long as you’d like. I strongly believe this is something kids should be learning to do as well. With the influx of tech, especially right now, teaching them to disconnect and exist in the world with only their thoughts for a bit is a huge advantage. If you’re into meditation, you could even teach them to meditate with you. It could be a really amazing bonding experience – albeit one that might take a few tries to stick, but kids learn by watching those around them. If you start doing these things, chances are they’re going to start wanting to do them too – if only to spend more time with you =)

All in all, you’re going to need to find the groove that works for you. What works for you may not work for others, and that’s ok. For example, a friend recently suggested to new at home workers to have background noise so they don’t go crazy. I hate background noise, it grinds on my nerves and I find it completely distracting. Understand that this is going to be a journey and be open to this being evolutionary – saying that to mean what works today may not work next week or 3 weeks from now. Allow the flux and flow and change accordingly, after all that’s one of the perks of working from home!  

This will be an adjustment and you’ll figure it out. 

PS – If things get overwhelming, disconnect from tech, close your eyes for a little bit and breathe. Take a pause. 

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