I swear last February’s post on ten ways to cope with uncertainty wasn’t supposed to be prophetic.
When I hit “publish” on February 10th, I hadn’t even heard of Coronavirus yet. Honestly, I consume maybe five minutes of news per day. That’s about as much as I can handle and maintain my sanity and productivity. But since my partner and I are on day 46 of self-imposed quarantine and he’s a big news media consumer, I’ve been privy to regular news updates. For those who enjoy good content in 30 minutes or less like I do, I recommend Coronavirus, Explained on Netflix which features leading experts on how we got into this pandemic and what it’s going to take to get out of it. What we know is: COVID-19 is highly contagious and until a vaccine is developed, tested, and distributed, the best way to avoid catching it or spreading it is to stay home and practice social distancing. This mandate has a huge impact on people’s daily lives. And a lot of people have been asking me: how to work from home?
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A Room (or Corner) of One’s Own
Taking notes from Virginia Woolf’s brilliant essay, let’s talk about how to set up your physical space. I consider myself an expert on this because in 2018 I moved from a two-bedroom home that I shared part-time with my long-distance partner into a smaller one-bedroom place I share now with my live-in partner. He and I have traveled and shared several one-bedroom spaces as two remotely working people. Here’s some advice I have on sharing your living space with yourself and the people you live with to stay home and flatten the COVID-19 curve.
1. Claim Your Space
For those who live alone, rejoice! You need not negotiate your space-claiming skills. Set up your home office wherever you please. Do you find yourself digging the morning light in the living room? Work there. Loving the ergonomics of your countertop height in the kitchen? Fix yourself a cup of tea and reply to emails without worrying that someone might need to make breakfast.
To those who have a literal room of their own as a home office, take inventory of your space. Is it working for you? Do you need anything to make it more comfortable and productive? If so, take some time to assess what you really need. This can be done by looking around or sensing your body. For example, maybe you need a cushion to make your chair more comfortable, reposition a houseplant, or have a stack of Post-Its nearby to write down ideas.
If you don’t have a room of one’s own and live with other people: take a deep breath and pull your best communication skills. Prepare to discuss how to share your four walls for work, home, and play. If you are like me and sharing a one-bedroom house with another person, have a conversation about where you each want to work. Revisit this topic regularly if you find yourself migrating to different spaces. For example, I like to be near the windows, so sometimes I sit at my corner desk in the living room, or on the kitchen floor bathing in the afternoon sunshine, like a cat.
2. Tidy Your Space
Have you ever said: “I was supposed to be working, but I procrastinated instead and cleaned my house“? That’s not procrastination beauties, that’s preparing your space. The Harvard Business Review confirmed what some have known for years: a cluttered workspace leads to procrastination and avoidance strategies and even contributes to anxiety and depression. Whether you’re new to remote working or in need of an environmental refresh, take time and tidy your workspace. This ultimately empowers you to be less distracted and more relaxed and productive. If you really get on a tidying tear, consider going pro and reading Marie Kondo’s Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Let her guide you towards a living and working space that’s filled only with things that “spark joy”. If you work full time, you’ll be spending six to eight hours or more every day in your home workspace. Get it in order and make yourself jealous how joyful your home office is.
3. Set Up Your Ergonomics
It’s been a year since I transitioned to full-time remote work from home and after 12 months of neck and shoulder discomfort, I’ve finally invested in some tools to help me with ergonomics, or the study of people’s efficiency in their working environments. A few great resources on checking for functional ergonomics are offered by the Wall Street Journal and the Mayo Clinic. Ergonomic furniture and tech accessories ranges from cheap and cheerful to costly depending on your preferences and budget.
Two low-cost tech accessories that have helped to improve my ergonomics are a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard. When I’m not teaching yoga or coaching clients, you can find me keyboard jockeying and writing digital content. After a year of using my tiny laptop keyboard to do all my typing, I decided I needed a bigger keyboard that was rechargeable, durable, and could also come traveling with me if necessary.
The iClever Bluetooth Keyboard was a perfect alternative and a fraction of the cost of an Apple keyboard. I’ve used both and I’m very pleased with the performance, responsiveness, and quiet and efficient typing on the iClever.
For the mouse, I went with the Logitech M535 Bluetooth mouse. I’ve owned several Logitech products and I’m a loyal customer to them for their high-quality, long-lasting tech accessories, plus the blue color makes me so happy.
Don’t forget: if you’re working from home, you can often claim office expenses as business expense write-offs on your taxes, so save your receipts and consult your accountant for more details.
4. Your Space, Your Rules
Now that we’ve covered how to set up your physical space, let’s talk about how to set boundaries with the people in your home. Well-intending roommates, family members, and colleagues not to mention phone notification ding sounds and screen pop-ups can all derail productivity. A study conducted by George Mason University determined that interruptions do more than take up time; they also degrade the quality of work. In fact, 96 percent of participants performed worse on a writing task when interrupted. I’ve heard people say that they don’t want to set boundaries for fear of hurting others’ feelings or be perceived as a mean partner, parent, roommate, friend, colleague, or even pet owner. I understand that sentiment, but I also know that I do better work if I honor my time and energy.
Set Your Schedule
I won’t insult your intelligence here. Decide what your schedule is for the day. Use your paper or digital calendar, a journal, or whatever your preferred planning method happens to be. If you don’t know your schedule, decide on some time in between any meetings or other commitments you have going on during the day. Don’t forget to schedule a lunch break with your people; they’ll like having time with you and you’ll get a break from eye strain from staring at screens (that is unless you’re scheduled for a Zoom lunch date).
I gotta say: schedule autonomy is my love language. l love being able to decide how I spend my time. It is incredibly liberating.
Once a day, I take or teach an online yoga class (come practice yoga with me on Thursdays!) Connecting with my community and breath, and body is a great way to break up a workday into manageable time chunks rather than work a solid eight-hours straight.
Communicate Your Boundaries Clearly
Before you begin working, be sure to communicate your boundaries clearly to the people you live with. If it helps, you can follow this formula: place both feet firmly on the ground, fill your heart with love, and state what you need. Say what time you’re working, and the circumstances under which you can be interrupted, and ask if you can have their support.
For example: “I need three hours to focus on my tasks this morning. I’m going to work from eight o’clock to eleven-thirty today. Unless the house is on fire or you’re bleeding and losing consciousness, please don’t interrupt me. Does that work for you?”
Remember: don’t give your people mixed signals by asking them to not be interrupted and then insisting that they see the latest funny cat video.
I invite/urge you to take your boundary-setting work one step further and turn off any email programs, chat notifications, phone sounds, or other distractions. Look at you, communicating your boundaries to others and to yourself like a champion!
Invoke the “Nunya Clause”
The “nunya clause” is advanced-level boundaries work. It comes from one of my favorite entrepreneurial thought-leaders Marie Forleo who has a video about how to deal with interruptions when working from home. Let’s say you’ve set your schedule, you’ve communicated your boundaries clearly, and the people you share space with get it and honor your requests. You might think you’ve achieved work-from-home nirvana, right?
Consider the “nunya clause” as an extra layer of protection from stray judgment and righteous rule-followers. If anyone sees you doing something that could be considered “unproductive”, like back bending over a yoga ball, or trying not to laugh too loudly at my new favorite Instagram accounts and tries to police your work time, you say: “Nunya business”. Reason number 901,541 working remotely from home is the best.
Speaking of distractions, my new favorite Instagram accounts are @incorrectmethod featuring memes for Ashtanga yogis, @nancy.birtwhistle a Great British Bake-off winner who inspires me to bake and clean my home office with natural homemade products and also dances in her kitchen, and @iammoshow, a.k.a the Cat Rapper, no further explanation needed for him, just do yourself a favor and check him out. In the event that I actually manage to avert my eyes from my laptop, these are all my favorite ways to take small breaks during stated work time.
5. Celebrate Your Work From Home Wins
I hope these boundary-setting work from home tips help you find peace and efficiency in your home office. Being a working person is hard enough as it is, so set yourself up for success with a peaceful and productive working environment If you’re staying home to slow the spread of Coronavirus, thank you. To those who work as essential personnel and are required to be at work right now, deep bows (no handshakes at this time!) of gratitude to you. Do your part to stop the spread of COVID-19: stay home, practice social distancing, and wash your hands. Follow the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines as well as recommendations from infectious disease specialist Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Did you find this post helpful or have any other work from home tips to help people stay home? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.
Breathe and believe, beauties.