Our generation of Gen Y millennials is totally changing the way companies incentivize talent. It’s now less about the titles and the grind to get there, and more about offering quality experiences along the way. For many, that means newfound work-from-home (i.e. WFH) privileges.
Last year, my company introduced a new policy: full-time employees could now choose two days a month to WFH. And now, in my prego immobile state, I’ve been given the flexibility to WFH four days a week. (Words cannot express how grateful I am to work where I do.) But needless to say, I’ve kind of become a WFH expert.
As glorious as it sounds, working from home can be tough. Doing it productively and consistently requires serious dedication, especially if you work on a team. For me, the hardest part has been the lack of human interaction – I never realized how much I love coming into the office and catching up with my coworkers until I didn’t get to do it every day. It gets lonely!
But luckily, I’ve discovered some WFH hacks to keep me motivated, connected and happy all day long. Here are my five best tips.
- Take the time to set up your workspace – Find a quiet spot in your house that you can focus, write and think. (No, working in front of the TV is not going to fly.) I typically rotate between two workspaces: our “den,” which has a desk and chair, and our kitchen’s breakfast bar. Both are quiet with plenty of counter space. We also invested in a big computer monitor, which has helped the space feel more like a formal workspace.
- Initiate phone calls and video conferences – When you work remotely, you lose the ability to just lean over a coworker’s cube and ask a question. Quick clarifications that would take two minutes to resolve in-person end up in 10 minute email exchanges. Don’t hesitate to pick up the phone and call a coworker. And for meetings, I love me some video conferences! There’s something so much more connective about face-to-face conversation — even if it’s virtual.
- Give your day structure – Similar to how you would structure your day at the office, block out periods of time around meetings for meals and to-dos. This will also help you fight one of the biggest battles of a WFH lifestyle: not snacking all day long. Sticking to set meal times and planning your time wisely will help ensure you’re productive and not working until 7 pm every night.
- Email is so 2005 – For real though. Especially in my industry, we get a LOT of emails. For many of my teams, we’ve switched over to Slack for all internal comms, which has been life-changing. It’s so much more informal — allowing for true conversation — and it helps reserve your inbox for important client emails. The best part, Slack is FREE! It’s an adjustment for some folks, but one that is well worth it.
- Reward yourself – Unlike being at the office, you won’t get little breaks from conversations with coworkers. Working from home can be very isolating. Motivate yourself to power through big projects and to-dos by giving yourself a reward at the end: whether a snack, second coffee break or simply a change of scenery. Those little rewards can really help.
- If your WiFi sucks, fix it – A good internet connection is probably the most important asset to working from home. Without it, your team will have trouble reaching you, and you’ll miss out on modern communication options like IM and video conferences. Upgrade to high-speed if you need to — it’s well worth it.
- Know when you need a change of scenery – Sometimes you’ve just gotta’ crunch on something. My husband, Dan, who works remotely 80% of the time, swears by going to coffee shops in times like this. You’re less likely to be tempted by snacks or even just lounging on the couch, and more likely to get a coffee and power through. Though I’m not really doing this in my current state, there are definitely times that I wish I could!
- Get dressed – This one seems funny, but when you WFH consistently, it’s SO tempting to stay in your PJs. Especially for me, being pregnant, this one’s been tougher than I thought. But I’m much more inclined to do great work and get down to business when I feel like a boss vs. lazy bum.
- Avoid team communication outside of work hours – Just because you have the flexibility of being home all day doesn’t mean your coworkers don’t still want to draw boundaries. In my industry, we kind of have to be on 24/7, but I always like to think that’s for clients – not internal comms. So I try my best to avoid emailing or messaging my team before 8 am or after 6 pm. I think it helps encourage them that it’s time to go home.
- Eat breakfast – For obvious reasons, breakfast is king. It kicks off your metabolism and is such an important way to start your day. But I also think there’s something about the ritual of that first meal that kicks you into work mode. For me, I’ve now got the routine of starting each day with breakfast and a beverage (sometimes coffee, sometimes decaf tea). Once I have those things, I check my email, make my to-do list for the day and begin.
Do you WFH? If so, what are your tips? Challenges?