By Paul Scott
People are working from home today like never before, thanks to the new global pandemic. I’m a consultant, so this is my normal. I’ve learned a few guidelines that make it easier for me, and I’m writing this to share them. I hope they’re helpful in the days ahead.
Make it a Place for Work
The thing about working from home is that it’s home. It’s where you relax, not where you work. It’s set up with all the things you use to get away from work: your hobbies, your games, your books, your Netflix.
To work, you need to set up a space separate from all that. Set up a space that feels like work, whatever that is. Best if it’s away from all those homely diversions. Put a door between all of that and you if you can, or turn your back to it at your kitchen table. But one way or another set up a space that is for work and work alone.
Dress the Part
It’s tempting to try to work in pajamas and bunny slippers, but that’s not the right mindset. You don’t need full office attire, but go for casual Friday. Be comfortable, but dress for work, not for home.
Create a “Work Day” Routine
Work gives you a built-in routine: Morning, lunch, afternoon, scheduled meetings. It helps you get things done, each in its proper time slot.
You don’t have to have the exact same routine at home as you do at the office. In fact you probably can’t. But build one of your own that works for you. Schedule email for one time, meetings for another (if possible). Make a slot in which to work on urgent projects and another to handle routine things. And stick to it as much as you can.
In a sense, all of this is about limiting distractions. The workplace, the clothes, the routine are all about keeping yourself focused.
You need to also limit distractions from outside. Tell friends and family that you’re at work from 9 to 5, or whatever your schedule happens to be. They should treat that as they would any other work day and minimize their interruptions.
This is one of the hardest rules to enforce. There’s a natural difficulty in taking work from home as seriously as “official work” in, well, an office. So you need to take it seriously yourself, and enforce your boundaries with others.
You’ll have your assignments from work, but to hit your targets you’ll need to be more rigorous than you are in the office. Businesses like having their workers in the office because it makes it easier to manage and supervise them. At home, you need to manage yourself, and one way to do that is to set measurable goals.
The details will vary depending on your projects, but divide them up and make the parts your goals. Set a timeline and stick to it. It will make you much more productive.
This is how I do it. Working from home is challenging, but after all of the current business has passed I expect we’ll be doing a lot more of it.
Paul is the new managing editor of IDeaL: Design for Learning and will take over as of the Q2 2020 issue. Welcome, Paul!