Learning to Work Remotely

I have always been eager to work from home. I had seen so many hip startups on the internet who had adopted working from home as their new normal, long before the pandemic, and wondered where I could sign up.

When things slowly started to shut down I was skeptical that my workplace would follow suit. The culture at my job is relaxed but also traditional. We work in a typical office building from 8am to 5pm Monday through Friday. After COVID became something that could no longer be ignored, we were told to pack our things and switch to remote work. I lugged my two monitors and a computer tower (what is a laptop?) home and thought it was going to be smooth sailing.

My work station right smack dab in the middle of our home (pajamas not photographed).

I was anxious to get started that first day. I logged in at 8am on the dot at my dining room table. I browsed my e-mails, all while in pajamas, EEK! Scandalous. I answered a few questions, got some things out of the way. I connected with some colleagues on a project we had to complete. Did my everyday tasks that needed to be completed, look at the clock at it was 9:30.

“oh no, a lull.” I thought. “I am not actively working on anything right now, QUICK, find something. Can they see me? Does my boss know I just looked away from my monitor? Should I go put some pants on? No that would be too much time away from my computer. The dog has to go out, am I allowed to take him out real quick?” All these crazy thoughts ran through my head. It never occurred to me that while I was at work I had lulls in between e-mails, projects, meetings. Because I was physically at work, I didn’t feel guilty. I was where I was supposed to be. I was accounted for.

I think, because my place of work had always resisted the work from home lifestyle, I was extra determined to make sure I “stayed busy” and proved myself. So much so that I chained myself to my dining room table for those first few weeks. I didn’t even like getting up to use the bathroom. I didn’t even take lunches. I was determined to prove I could work from home and be just as efficient as I am in the office.

Now that we are almost a year in. Wow, anyone else get nauseous reading that sentence? I’ve learned so much about working remotely and I’m so much more confident in myself as an employee who is getting it all done in pajamas.

Here are some of the things I do to ensure I am efficient and helpful while still being able to roam my home freely. (none of these things will be to GET UP AND GET READY promise).

Map out 4 Major Things You Want to Accomplish Each Day
A lot of my job is putting out little fires throughout the day. Things come up every single day that divert my attention from bigger projects. Sometimes, even when I am in the office, it is hard to have tunnel vision and accomplish what I need to. I always jot down the things I need to prioritize the next day. No matter what, I know I can’t get distracted from this list and feel accomplished when they are done. This is not to say my day is done if I happen to get these items accomplished before 5 o’clock. It’s just a way to focus and prioritize when you feel overwhelmed.

Make Yourself Readily Available During Working Hours
My complex of not being constantly glued to my monitors was not healthy. Who cares if you’re staring at your computer if you’re not actually doing anything? We have a great internal instant messaging system at work, and our phone calls are also through our computers. As long as I can hear a phone call come through, answer an e-mail promptly, and be available when I am supposed to it’s okay to unload the dishwasher.

Take a Break When You Need It
Man. There is nothing worse than back to back Teams meetings. Virtual meetings are just as draining as in-person meetings. At an office, you can stand up, stretch your legs, chat with co-workers and then resume work. Working from home is the same. Stand on your back porch for a second, pet the dog, grab a snack. It will all be waiting for you when you get back to your “desk.”

Truly Disconnect After Work Hours and on Weekends
It’s really daunting to have your workspace in your living space. It’s easy to sit at your computer after work hours or on a slow Saturday morning and just “get this done real quick.” You need to remember when you used to leave your work building you left all your work there too. I am guilty of checking my e-mails on the weekends but have remained steadfast in leaving my replies for the weekday. I always make sure my volume is off on my computer too because if I hear an e-mail come through I automatically want to check.

I’m not sure when we will all be back in the office and now that I am starting to get the hang of working from home, I’m not sure I will be super happy to go back. For now, Teams meetings are fulfilling my need for social interaction and work is just so much more comfortable in elastic waistband pants. One thing is for sure, my dog is the best co-worker I’ve ever had – he never heats up fish in the kitchen.

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