Alright, I say WFH Veteran and really what I mean is, I’ve been mostly remote since a few years before ‘Rona19 and in Covid times, that means forever. From agency contracts to FTE to side hustling, I’ve done it all, successfully AND unsuccessfully. I’ve been hired, promoted, fired, and laid-off throughout the past four/five years and I finally feel like I have a groove down. Now, with the addition of my partner also working from home – there have been some adjustments, I won’t lie. But I’ve narrowed down some ‘hacks’ (seriously, what is that word) and I want to share them. We all should work to be as successful as possible in this new remote work era because we all (workers unite) want this to stay. Maybe the next blog post will be about why – but for now, take a moment and think about these things that have really helped me throughout this journey.
Stay out of your bedroom
Yes, I know that this does require a little jiggering around if you have limited space, but hear me out. Bedrooms are for sleeping and sex, and getting clothes on yada yada… But the point here is to give your brain a clear divide between work life and home life. The more activities you add to the bedroom space the more you begin to associate byproducts of those activities such as stress from a long-winded and completely bonkers meeting, to that room. Which is really undesirable for a bedroom right? You should always be thinking about that comfy bed, and warm covers, maybe a some snuggles, maybe something more… The last thing you want is anxiety about whatever happened that day in your ‘office’.
Got a studio? Just have a bedroom to yourself? Not to worry, there are ways to separate the space using a physical barrier like a sheet strung from the wall to divide off a section, or a room divider. Hell, even a cardboard fort next to your bed will do the trick! Just remember, keep off the bed. Beds are for sleeping and sex! Not work!!
The ‘Dreaded’ 30 Minute Gap
We all have been in this place, at one time or another. There is a 30 minute gap between meetings on your calendar, maybe even multiple of them. I often hear from my colleagues about how it’s a frustrating type of schedule since 30 minutes makes it ‘impossible to get anything done in that time’. I beg to differ amigo! Sure, maybe it’s a bit of squish to get some super productive ‘work’ done in that time, but remember – since your home is work and work is home, that 30 minutes can become a powerful tool to keep you sane.
Abandon the idea that you have to be at your ‘desk’ (whatever form that takes) for the entire working day. Think about when you were at an office. Were you at your desk consecutively for 8 hours? No – you had lunch, got coffee, chatted with co-workers, surfed the internet or whatever you did to pass time. This is no different but now, the possibilities are endless.
Here are a few things I do whenever I have that dreaded 30 minutes between meetings:
- Take a walk. Immediately. Walk away from the laptop the minute that last meeting ends. Go outside, walk around the block for a full 20 or 25 minutes. Come back, go to the bathroom, and log on to your next meeting. Don’t forget a glass of water!
- Wash dishes. We’ve been using so many plates and whatnot in our house lately that doing dishes is now a multiple times a day activity and literally takes ten minutes. I know it’s not the most fun thing to do but I promise you will feel better when you are done working for the day and don’t have a pile of dishes to do.
- Play with your animal/child. They are one in the same right? Pets are obviously easier because their schedule is your schedule but it can work really well with kids too. Have them take a break from whatever weird distance learning they are doing and take a ‘nature walk’ with them (aka, walk around the block). Go outside and try to find bugs! Play a card game, hide and seek, patty-cake, anything! Put a timer on for 20 or 25 minutes and dance to your favorite music. Honestly, it gets me in a good mood every time and it can be a good teaching tool for your children to learn about the importance of balance in their days.
- Call that friend/relative you have been thinking about. Even if they don’t pick up or you have 10 minutes to talk with them – do it. You will feel more connected, socially engaged, and mentally refreshed (this applies to introverts too!) for the rest of your day. Maybe it’s not a call, maybe it’s a text or an email, all acceptable and worth while!
Schedule chat sessions with your coworkers
I cannot stress this enough. Without an office, you can quickly become disconnected from your coworkers which can cause a drop in team based metrics, speed bumps while collaborating, or plain old loneliness. Laughing and joking with the people you work with is vital to maintain a solid foundation for all members on your team to trust one another, give honest feedback to each other, help each other out – I could go on. In order to achieve this – there is one rule. You cannot talk about work. Come prepared for these chats with a list of questions like, ‘Tell me about one of your most happiest memories’. Is it awkward? Sure. To make it less awkward, add two people on to the call so it’s three or four people on to help relieve some social anxiety/pressure.
Also – put your video on. Talk with these people face to face; make jokes, laugh, listen to them talk about their hobbies or families. This type of connection between you and your coworkers can foster an amazing working relationship that can help to relieve any future friction or stress between you. Do this often and with a wide variety of people at your company. You work in marketing? Awesome! Go talk to a Finance person! Work in Engineering? Awesome! Go talk to Business Development folks. Yah get the idea. It might feel silly at first, but the more you do it, the easier it will get. And remember, keep these chats as standing meetings throughout the months. Keep connected and keep doing awesome work together.
Move. Your. Body.
Go thirty minutes? Great – move your body. Got ten? Excellent – move your body. Got two minutes?? Even better – MOVE. YOUR. BODY. Your body is by default, lazy. It won’t really do anything if you don’t make it do something – I mean, besides breathing and stuff. Physical fitness is not only a lifelong journey that I sometimes liken to chores, but it’s also a moving target. You don’t have to go to the gym on regular (Covid closed them all anyway..) or put out a 5 mile run every day to incorporate physical fitness into your WFH Life. Try to reshape these concepts into something tangible for YOU. If you are busting out those 5 miles every day, awesome job! You’ve got this one down already! But if you are anything like myself, working out IS a chore most of the time.
Through this WFH journey I’ve been on for a while now, I’ve learned that it is far more beneficial for me to add ‘chunks’ of fitness interspersed throughout my day. For example: the dread 30 minutes. Go up and down your stair case for those 30 minutes. Don’t have thirty minutes? Not a problem, do a Tabata. That’s a FOUR MINUTE high intensity timed based workout where you choose what exercise you do. It’s 20 seconds of physical work and ten seconds of rest for four minutes. There are lots of timers online free to use and really, pick whatever exercise you are comfortable with. Squats, Quarter Squats, Push-ups, knee push-ups, wall push-ups, knee-ups, arm raises, torso twists, neck stretches even! Anything, do anything for 20 seconds and rest for ten – for four minutes. You can do anything for four minutes, I know you can!
Don’t have four minutes?? I got you. Do five squats before you enter your next meeting. It’s okay, be late. Don’t turn on your video right away – five squats. Takes ten or twenty seconds – I know you can do this. Do it every day before one meeting, pick a meeting. Calf raises, you can even do that during the whole meeting if you want. You see what I am getting at here? Even if all you have done that day in terms of physical fitness is those five squats or push-ups – that’s an achievement and should not be overlooked. If you do it every day, three times a week, or once a week, it’s an achievement.
Fitness is not always about GO HARD GO STRONG FOREVER. I used to be one of those crazy OMG HARDEST WORKOUT EVER YES NOW I’M DEAD kind of woman. But that just wasn’t sustainable for me. Doing something everyday, no matter how little it may seem, is a victory for me. Your fitness journey spans the rest of your life and it’s crucial – critical even – to have a daily or weekly movement habit wherever and whenever you can squeeze it into your calendar. Got kids? Get them doing it with you. Kids can learn ANYTHING. Yes, that means squats and push-ups and sprints and whatever else you like doing – do it with them. Teach them how and make it a bonding activity. Frustrating at times? Yes. Will it pay off later when you least expect it? Most likely. Are you also teaching them valuable life-skills while achieving your own goals – Indeed you are.
In the end, I know this can be hard. It’s a huge life shift for a lot of us – majority of us. But take the time and make it work for you. It will get easier – and hopefully more rewarding. Seize this moment and make it what you’ve always wanted it to be.
What do you think? Share some of your tips and tricks that your WFH Life more awesome!