Tips to Survive a Transition to Remote Work
Several years ago, I made the switch from working each day in a manufacturing plant to working from home as a consultant. My home office was a dramatically different environment, and I wasn’t prepared. As a consultant, I readily give technical advice to my customers about everything I’ve learned over the years, but I’ve also learned some lessons along the way about working remotely.
When I work on-site, I see a number of individuals every day, as well as a stream of customers on their way through. There’s lots of talk, small and otherwise. Little stories from home, triumphs, jokes, and worries. And there are meetings to attend, and donuts and coffee. All that changed when I began my journey as a consultant working out of a home office. With my wife working, my days were spent alone, and only the occasional phone call or online meeting kept me interacting with others until my wife returned in the evening.
Too, the codes, written and otherwise, for personal dress and hygiene were no longer enforced by company or public opinion. So, I found myself, among other things, sitting in front of a computer in my boxers, wondering about the date of my most recent shower, and making sure the video camera was shut off during meetings so no one would see my free-spirited appearance (not exactly reflective of my constitution as a consultant). For many (many) years, part of my identity was bound up in the daily routine. It’s difficult when your identity suddenly changes, as mine did when I became a consultant.
So, here are a few recommendations for your new office stay (may it ever be temporary):
Keep Your Routine
I try to get up about the same time each morning. It’s a little later than if I had to drive to work, but still consistent. I get dressed for work. It’s blue jeans and boots instead of slacks and dress shoes, but I’m dressed, nevertheless. Then the dogs get potty time, and I get coffee.
I’m “at work” by 8:00, whether there’s a scheduled meeting or not. I try to take a lunch break but sometimes I grab a sandwich while I’m working. (I probably need to work on that.)
My day as a consultant while working at home ends in the style of a normal office work routine. It’s tempting to just keep going when there’s a project that has work left on it, but I try to trim the evening work to a minimum when it’s not urgent. Just like for the coyote and sheepdog, there’s a whistle at the end of the workday for a reason.
Have a Place
For several years, I commandeered a bedroom for my desk and accoutrements. I recently built a small office in my shop and opened that bedroom up for grandkids. Whatever choices you have, set aside some space that is your work area. When my grandkids are here during work hours, I have to let them know I’m “at work” and can’t pay them as much attention as I’d like. You’ve probably seen videos of parents embarrassed by their kids, dogs, or husbands in their undergarments wandering into view of the video camera during video chats, or even newscasts. Secure your place. And laugh at the unexpected.
Get Some Exercise
Early on while working at home as a consultant, I started trekking to the bathroom at the other end of the house—a routine enforced by large quantities of coffee. At least I get a few steps in. Since acquiring a couple of dogs, I get outside at least a few times a day. You can vegetate in your home office chair if you aren’t purposeful about stirring.
Communicate and Recreate
If you don’t get enough time with people otherwise, take a break from work to call a friend. It’ll do you both good. Find something you enjoy. If you can’t leave the house, watch a good movie or read a good book. We had a video chat recently with all our grandkids and a story visit from “Grandad the Pirate.” (I hope there’s no recording of that loose on the interwebs.)
Be Thankful and Find Your Rhythm
You’re working. That’s a good thing. Rinse, repeat, and do it all again tomorrow. As a consultant, I eventually found my working from home rhythm, and I hope I’ve helped you find yours.
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