I shared a variation of this post a couple of years ago, and I thought it might be appropriate to revamp it now with so many of us working from home during the current coronavirus crisis. As someone who has an office on campus, but also works from home, I can tell you that it is often challenging to work from home, especially as others are working from home as well.
Right now, my son is upstairs on Zoom listening to lectures from Widener University; my husband is on conference calls regarding business at the Orioles; my daughter is working on her sign language project, learning new vocabulary words; and I am in the home office making VoiceThread lectures for my classes.
There are some tips that I typically try to follow when working from home. I should also mention that I write all of my novels from the comfort of my home office (or back porch), and these tips have served me well over the last 10 years as I’ve cranked out five works of fiction and one textbook.
Thus, with this experience, Steph’s Scribe would like to share these quick tips to help you be as successful as possible as you work from home.
1-Shower and get dressed in the morning, even if you’re not going to leave the house. Psychologically, this works great for me. If I know I have a lot to accomplish that day, even if I will never move my car from the garage, I still shower, dry my hair, put on makeup, and start my day fresh. Just doing this simple exercise in the morning puts me in the frame of mind that I have things to accomplish, and I approach the day as professionally as possible. This does not mean I wear a suit and high heels, but I do NOT typically wear sweatpants and sneakers.
2-Set up a space that is your own. In my previous home, I set up my office upstairs, because when my children were little, I worked at night and wanted to be on the same floor as they were. I painted the walls a light blue, hung pink curtains, and, yes, I got a chandelier. I have to be inspired by a space, but I also have to know that when I go in there to work, it’s all about work. In our current home, it came with a built-in office on the first floor, so that’s where I work now. And yes, it used to have a ceiling fan, but now it has a chandelier. Again, I have to be inspired and everyone in our family knows that when someone is working in there, it is all about the work.
3- Take breaks, but don’t stray. Sitting for long periods at a time isn’t good for you either. Be sure to take breaks. When you have your lunch, move away from the work area and eat in another room in your house; don’t be compelled to eat “at your desk.” I’ve been taking my hour-long walks around the 1 p.m. hour; it will clear your mind and offer you a new perspective.
4-Make a “to do” list to prioritize tasks the night before. As a writer, sometimes my “to do” list may just say “write a chapter.” As a professor, my “to do” list may say “write the syllabus” or “draft an assignment.” Years ago when I had my own consulting business as a writer and designer, I aimed to tackle the administrative work first and left the creative endeavors for the afternoon. Whatever tasks need immediate attention, write them on your list and take pleasure in crossing them off so that the first thing you do is GET STUFF DONE. This will make you feel as if your day is off to a good start and you are on your way to completing aspects of your job.
5-Set time limits for yourself when your loved ones are around. If you work from home and have a family, you may want to set up some parameters. For example, you may have to work on a Saturday. Saying, “Mom will be in the office from 8 a.m. until noon, so I’d like to plow through my work in order to spend the rest of the afternoon with you guys,” may be a great way to communicate that you have to accomplish some tasks during a specific range of time. The same could be true in the late afternoons or evenings. Sometimes, while my kids are doing their homework, I’m working on my own work or projects, so doing it together is also an option.
6-Find music that inspires you…and play it! I’m always amazed at people who can put their ear buds in and work as music hammers away. I’m not one of these folks. However, I do enjoy background music sometimes, and I’m currently listening to the Game of Thrones soundtracks via YouTube as I work. The difference between working in an office and working from home is that you can play your music at your own desired level, and no one will tell you to turn it down (unless your kids tell you to do so…and that’s called irony!)
7-Try to enjoy spending time at home. While many of us may miss seeing our students, co-workers, colleagues, and business associates, being at home for a bit is a good time to find that space to do things you don’t normally do. For me, I’ve had more time to take care of myself and my back issues by walking and stretching, but you can certainly engage in other things as you work and spend time at home: do a puzzle, have video chats, watch a series you haven’t watched, do an art project, play board games, maybe even write some letters. In between working (and not commuting at this time), you may reconnect with something you loved to do, but never seem to make time for during our busy schedules.
Stephanie Verni is Professor of Communication at Stevenson University. She has authored five works of fiction and one academic text on Event Planning. Her character-driven books are set in beautiful Maryland locations and examine the realities of the human heart. Connect with her on Instagram at stephanie.verni or on Twitter at @stephverni. Or, visit her Amazon page at Stephanie Verni, Author.