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5 Ways to stay Sane and Productive During The “World’s Largest Work From Home Experiment”

Bloomberg dubbed the COVID-19 Pandemic as the world’s largest work from home experiment. Now the question is: will it be a successful one for you personally?

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As someone who’s been working from home for over 5 years, I didn’t see much of a difference (except for being forced to stay at home for more due to stay-at-home orders). But some of my friends and family found the adjustment a bit challenging at first. Now, nearly three weeks into the experiment, I’m happy to report that most are hailing well.

But if you are still struggling to find your WFH mojo, here are several tested tips (both by me and others) to help you stay productive, and overcome the most common frustrations.

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1. Create a Commute Time to Start Your Day

When you work in an office or in the field, there’s a very clear boundary between work and home. When work is home, and home is work, that obviously changes. So to stay productive, and keep these two worlds separate, you need to draw a firm line between these two.

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The easiest way to do so is by squeezing in a ‘commute’ at the start of your workday. Your ‘home commute’ should be some ritual or activity that you do at the beginning of each day to symbolize the move into your work mood.

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Here are some ideas:

  • Listen to the same Spotify short playlist as you get dressed and settle in front of your laptop.
  • Always make a point of moving your laptop and coffee into your “office corner”, away from the rest of the house.
  • Create a daily to-do list while you are sipping your morning cuppa of tea.

Or you can create an entire checklist of morning activities. Then when you’ve finished all the items, you’ve ‘arrived’ at work.

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2. Dress For Motivation

Working from home means that you can wear whatever you like (unless there’s a video conference call coming).

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If lounging in your robe and pajamas works for you, go for it! For me, I’ve found that I work best when I dress in some sort of ‘casual Friday’ attire. That translates into jeans and a nice t-shirt. I feel clean and put together, but not uncomfortably stuffy.

Getting properly dressed creates another boundary between your “play” and work time. Plus, doing so can mentally prep you for a better day ahead. As Annie Ridout writes in The Guardian post:

“Psychologically, what you see when you look in the mirror matters, too. If you see someone dressed for success, in a considered outfit, this will inspire productivity. Conversely, if you see pajamas or sweatpants, and someone who isn’t ready to face the world, this might instill the notion that you aren’t ready to start work.”

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So if you are having a bit of a hard time starting your day, consider switching from comfy loungewear to something more presentable.

3. Get All the Tools You Need to Stay Connected and Organized

So many smart people have come up with great tools to help those of us working from home. It would be nearly criminal not to use them!

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While I can’t tell you exactly what tools you will need, I can point you towards different options that can help streamline the boring and routine tasks. Here’s a quick list of essential remote work tools that I’ve come to appreciate having:

Automation Tools

Personal Project Management & Task Management

General Productivity

4. Pimp Your Workspace

Don’t work from your couch. I can tell you from personal experience that it is not as comfortable as it seems to be at first. Previously, I wrote all about creating a good remote work setup.

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So I’ll just recap some basics here. If you have the money, invest in:

  • An adjustable office chair with wheels
  • A desk with plenty of “elbow” room
  • A dedicated light and good bulbs for an overhead light source
  • Wrist rests, mouse pad, and footrest if you need it

Don’t forget a fan or a small space heater if temperature control isn’t ideal for you. Yes, these items are expensive, but they are definitely worth the investment. Check with your employer, they may even be willing to allow you to expense some of the items you need to be productive.

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5. Don’t Forget to Socialize!

There are definitely social and emotional consequences of working from home. That’s compounded by the fact that most of us don’t have any other ways to get out of the house and socialize in person. Think about it. Even a relative homebody enjoys at least small bits of socialization at work. Losing that has both an emotional and health impact.

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So do allocate time for “socializing” whenever you can, both with your coworkers and friends. Here are a few things worth trying:

  • Recreate the morning coffee break: Talk some of your favorite work peeps to have joint morning coffee breaks over Zoom. Or encourage your boss to make it a team-wide weekly practice.
  • Have virtual lunches: Share some food and some conversation over video instead of having that sad sandwich all alone at your desk.
  • Throw virtual happy hours and office parties: Celebrate the big accomplishments with a virtual round of drinks. Organize informal after-hours hangouts with a beer at hand. Or even try hosting a virtual party where people actually dress up, play games, and do other fun stuff!
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Wrap Up

Working from home can seem like a major adjustment at first. But the key to making WFH work for you (pun intended) is to keep your expectations realistic. Remote work can be challenging and lonely at times. Plus, your productivity may plummet at first. That’s exactly why you’ll need to create certain boundaries, add new work rituals to your mix, and change your communication patterns. Hope the advice listed above helps you do just that!

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