Tips and Strategies from a Seasoned Telecommuter
Author's Note: Working from home the past five months has been rewarding, but also requires patience and understanding. While seeing my kids play provides perspective and energy boosts, I’ve also had to frequently remind them I am working and can’t stop to mediate a dispute. As we prepare for the school year, there’s uncertainty as to how education will work in our community. I worry about having to homeschool my children and balancing their needs with my work responsibilities. I know many families face similar concerns.
As COVID-19 continues to generate uncertainty in our daily lives, Pennsylvanians are voluntarily quarantining themselves in support of public safety and community wide health. Many are now working from home.
But for many “telecommuters” the concept of working from home is still a relatively new process. As a parent to three children myself, and someone with experience working from home, I’ve learned strategies over the years that are helping me navigate the current landscape in our society.
Designate a Work Space – Find a spot that works for you. Personally, as someone with small children, I’ve quickly discovered that I need a place that is out of the way and not in the middle of all the action. Some people may prefer being in the heart of their home, but I found setting up shop in the middle of the living room or at the dining room table was not a good option for me. I converted a former nursery into a small office and it has everything I need. As a result, I’m more productive and my family doesn’t have to tip-toe around the house.
Develop a Schedule – Every day I wake up at a set time and prepare for work as if I was heading into the office. For me, this includes showering, shaving and getting dressed to go outside. Even if I never leave my house, I find this approach gets me immediately invested in my day.
Show Compassion and Empathy – If you live with others, especially young children, do your best to remember that a lot of this may be new for them as well. Your kids might not be used to having you around, and they’re excited to see you. There’s also a very good chance they miss their friends and don’t fully understand why all of this happening. Likewise, when you talk with others outside your household, remember that they might be dealing with family health concerns, or stress related to the uncertain employment and financial matters. These are difficult times and people’s emotions are running high. Try to be understanding.
Give Yourself Breaks – Look, I get it, we all want to remain productive and no one wants to give the appearance that they are goofing around all day. But most people, whether they are sitting at a desk in their office, or hanging out in their living room, need an occasional change of scenery. It’s okay to get up and stretch your legs, grab a drink or a healthy snack, or even go for a quick walk. Allow yourself the opportunity to recharge throughout the day.
Be Flexible – The current working situation requires us to change gears quickly and adapt to new scenarios and situations. Some days may start a little earlier and end a little later. Other days may require patience as you wait for others to get back with you on subjects. My kids are home and they will need assistance from time to time. An ability to go with the flow is essential.
Communication Remains Essential – Just because you aren’t surrounded by people doesn’t mean communication is any less important. Whether it’s checking in with colleagues, clients or family members in another part of your house, stay informed about others and let them know what you’re up to as well.
Take Care of Your Mind and Body – It’s easy to binge on junk food in your kitchen cabinets, or even work right through lunch. But maintaining healthy habits is essential to your body, as well as your mind. As part of your schedule, including breaks, make sure you stay hydrated and give your body the fuel it needs to perform.
Establish Personal Boundaries – I can’t emphasis this aspect enough. While showing compassion, being flexible and communicating regularly are all important concepts. It’s also okay to establish boundaries with friends and family. Unfortunately, when you’re home, not everyone will inherently understand that you are working – especially your kids. You may to remind them of what you’re doing and let them know you’ll get back to them at a later time. Trust me, establishing boundaries will proactively mitigate misunderstandings and save you and your loved ones a lot of frustration and hurt feelings.
Keep Your Work Contained – One of the toughest principles to adhere to is keeping your work self-contained and not letting it spill over into your personal life. This is true when working in an office setting, but can be especially challenging while working from home. When your work day is done, put it aside and leave it alone. Your personal time and relationships are important. My family has waited all day to spend time with me, and after explaining that I will gladly join them when my work is finished, I owe it to them to keep my promise. This principle applies to single people as well – you’ve worked hard all day, now go and reconnect with your friends and loved ones. You’ve earned it!
While these approaches work for me, I know many of our readers have their own tips and strategies for working from home. Feel free to email our firm at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know some of your tips for telecommuting!
Michael Rodriguez is a Senior Associate in Ceisler Media's Harrisburg Office.