Even when you aren’t in a traditional office, it’s still important to create a dedicated work space. This may take a variety of forms depending on what your day-to-day workload looks like, but there are best practices that will help you get the most out of your at-home workday.
- Have a dedicated workspace
- Ensure it’s quiet and free from distractions
- Create routines
A Dedicated Workspace
If you’ve been thrown into working from home, this may be easier said than done. But whether it’s a corner of your studio apartment, or a spare bedroom, it's important to create a dedicated workspace. Be proactive in separating work from life (and in turn, preventing burnout).
This can be the most difficult hurdle to clear, particularly for new work-from-home employees who have family or other co-inhabitants at home around the clock. Have a conversation with those you live with to help them understand that just because you're home, it doesn't mean you're available.
A shortcut to boundary setting is this: "If it's important enough that you'd commute to my usual office and come to my desk, then it's important enough for you to visit my home workspace." You may also consider a busy/available indicator.
Sprucing your workspace up with a plant, favorite photo, whiteboard with reminders, etc. (similar to what you would do in a traditional office space) makes it easier to feel like you're "at work" and then get into flow faster.
"I get dressed and ready as if I am leaving the house, make a cup of hot coffee and bring it into my home office. I turn the lights on as well as quiet background music (think elevator music but way better) and make it a point to sit at my desk, rather than my couch or bed. I am at work. Not allowing myself to get cozy kicks me into productivity mode." - Lizzy Bannister, Coordinator at Avra Talent
Quiet and distraction free
This is one of the most important aspects of allowing yourself to get into the “flow” when you’re working from home. It's easy to think you’ll not be distracted by the TV, kids running around, the buzzer on a clean load of laundry, or a spunky kitten—but even those of us who have worked remotely for decades are fanatical about minimizing distractions and noise.
Noise-cancelling headphones help but nothing is better than a closed off space as distractions come in all forms, from having a refrigerator nearby to family member who struggles to understand that you’re working while you’re physically at home. Proactively address when you’ll be done with work so that family, particularly children, will have something to look forward to.
Commuting, saying hello to in-office teammates and grabbing a coffee in the break room builds pathways in our brains that say “okay, you’re at work now”. When you begin working from home it’s vital to create new routines that let your mind know you’re in “work mode” and also when it’s time for a break.
Your "new" commute
One approach is to proactively fill the space that once held your commute. Consider using this time for self-improvement whether it's exercising, resting, bonding with family, cooking, reading, studying, etc. Making concrete plans for this "extra" time you now have will help make sure it's not squandered and will create routines that differentiate your work-life from home-life.
New versus old routines
While embracing asynchronous workflows is a significant benefit of an all-remote team, temporary work-from-home arrangements may be less amenable to massive swings in time zone adoption. If this is the case, it's wise to formulate a routine that aligns with your prior routine.
However, do not feel too beholden to a previous routine. A perk of remote is the ability to experiment with unconventional working days. It's understood that not everyone shares the same peak hours of energy and focus. If you feel that you work best in late evenings, for example, have that conversation with your team and experiment with a non-linear workday, a term that describes the splicing of life and work in a deliberate stop-and-start fashion to maximize one's quality of life and work.
Work routines in the wild 🦁
"Each morning I walk to the same coffee shop to do 1.5 hours of ‘deep work’ at the beginning of my workday; this lets my body and mind know we’re in work-mode. When I can’t leave the house; I pace for a bit - to give me a similar feeling of walking to work then make myself a coffee and begin my same routine, just indoors” - @marenkate, Founder @ Inde.co
“I make a weekly Goals to Accomplish list, then on my daily schedule I block out time for activities that will help me obtain my goals for the week (scheduling lunches and stop times—otherwise it doesn't happen). I also have a flex window that allows me to stay on top of things that pop up, so nothing is missed. Before I sign off for the day, I review where I am, communicate progress with my team and adjust the next day's schedule as necessary. At the beginning of my next workday, all I have to do is check overnight communications and I'm ready to have a productive day.” - Kym Vasquez, Interviewer at Avra Talent
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**This post was generously contributed to by Darren Murph, Head of Remote at GitLab.