Changing How You Work from Home

When I’m not on the road, I don’t work out of a physical office.  I do have a physical office, but I only commute to it about once a month.  (Well, right now, I’m neither on the road nor commuting to an office).

Right now, a lot of people are suddenly finding themselves working from home more permanently as companies make the decision to create more of a remote workspace.  I’ve been seeing articles upon articles about how to adjust to working from home, but they all seem intent on helping someone make their home environment exactly like their work environment.

But these articles seem to miss all of the huge benefits to working from home if you are just a little creative about how you set things up.  You can be more efficient, productive, and happy in this environment.

Here are my tips for working from home from a seasoned work-from-home-er

1. It’s Not About the Clothes, It’s About the Routine

One big tip I see out there is to still “dress for the day”.  They recommend putting on a suit and going to work because it feels like going into the office.

I think that’s missing the point.  It’s translating an office routine directly into a home routine.

The part that makes “work from home” feel like “work” is a routine.  Have a time you start work.  Have a tradition you do when you start work.

Do you get a fresh cup of coffee?  Do you fill up a water bottle?  Do you grab a comfy lap blanket? Do you review your to-do list?  It doesn’t matter.  It’s up to you to define what the routine of the start of your workday is.

I do recommend setting up a routine without distractions.  For example, you may think you are doing a good job knocking out emails on the couch in front of the TV, but did you notice it took you two hours to do?  I call this type of thing “snow day” type behavior vs. “work from home” behavior.  Remember that you are trying to set a new normal, and your normal shouldn’t involve being slightly (or more) distracted throughout your workday.  That’s how time disappears and mistakes happen.

I tend to work in yoga pants because I find it easier to create an efficient routine.  It’s also much easier to clean than my business clothes, which are currently hanging in the closet until I can travel again.

2. Embrace Your Regained Hours

You just regained a bunch of commuting hours.  When I lived in DC, I’d wake up at 5:30, rush to the gym, rush back home to shower, rush to work, and sit in an hour of traffic, hoping to get to work somewhat around 9 (okay, by 10am).

Now, I wake up around 6:30.  I walk the dog, make breakfast, and then grab a cup of coffee and go to work around 7:30am.

A lot of you night owls are probably cringing at that, which is okay!  It is my way of working with my most awake and efficient hours.  I was previously using that energy running around like a lunatic.  Now I get my two most efficient hours of work from 7:30am-9:30am.

If you are a night owl, you can crank out some work late at night, sleep in until 8:30-9, roll out of bed, and not be late for work.  Again, this is about finding the right efficiencies for you.

The gym used to be something that took so much energy and time out of my day just to get there.  Now I use my lunch to lift and go for a run.  Back when the gyms were open, I did Orange Theory three times a week after work, but I didn’t have to rely on it for all my exercise since I built in a lift/run routine into my day.

3. Have “Office Supplies”

It will make your life so much easier to have paper, pens, checklists, etc., that are “work” items”.  They live wherever you work and they are only used for work.

When the work pen becomes a grocery list pen and a birthday card pen, and you find yourself running around the house trying to find items.

Make a rule–everything at your desk lives at your desk.  Your work pens are only work pens.  And if Grocery-List Jeanne takes one, she is stealing from Work-Day Jeanne. 

I consider everything in my office to be “office equipment” and I don’t touch it.  Once my door is closed, my office is off-limits and nothing moves from there.

I do occasionally print off documents and boarding passes for Grocery-List Jeanne, but don’t tell my manager.

4. Take Breaks

In the office, there are natural breaks when someone walks by your desks or asks you to grab a cup of coffee.  

It is easy to feel burned out when working from home because there are no natural breaks.

I cheat a little–I have my dog and I occasionally walk her throughout the day, but even with that, I need a moment to rest my eyes from the screen,

Find the small breaks that refresh you. I might do a quick yoga pose in between meetings or do a stroll around the house. Just getting up for a little bit refreshes my brain and helps me work better.

How about you? What tips would you recommend for working from home as a more “permanent” set up?

Edit to add a picture of my coworker:

a dog looking at a keyboard

About Jeanne Marie Hoffman

Former bartender, still a geek. One equal part each cookies, liberty, football, music, travel, libations. Stir vigorously. +Jeanne Marie Hoffman Jeanne on Twitter

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  1. Iolaire McFadden

    Good article, Twitter shows an image of the dog and your monitors – those are not in this post from what I can see 🙂

    One thing I feel is overlooked in many remote work articles is they are from the perspective of writers who are already remote workers who basically use a laptop to do their work. I feel like many of those are out of touch with the legions of workers who are now “remote” but have 2 plus monitors and other workstation stuff that doesn’t fit on tiny ledge desk or on their lap working the couch. My wife an I are midway through a month in Asheville and a majority of the packing was worrying about how to not damage our four external monitors over the 8 hour drive. We are “remote” but its not fancy free and ready to work anywhere well we travel. And the two cats are enjoying things much more since they came with us.

    • Jeanne Marie Hoffman

      That’s a really good point! I’m a “stationary” worker too, so while I have a laptop for emergencies, I really can’t function too long without my whole workstation.

      I am definitely not a can-travel-while-I-work thing and treat my home as an office. (In non-covid days, I traveled a lot for work, but I still had my remote office set up at home that I was always desperate to get back to so I can get work done!)

      Moxie is in the featured image on the post-preview on the main LeChic page, but you just inspired me to upgrade her to be in the post!

  2. I have taken personal trips, brining work with me, after getting vaccinated and simulated the work from the road a little bit. I’m more productive working out of airports and hotels, less distractions than if I was just at home in the ground hog day that is work from home

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