It's Week 3 (generally speaking) of many companies around the world working remotely. To say it's been a collective adjustment would be an understatement. If you're still feeling unsettled or unsure that you're doing it "right", you're not alone.By now you're hooked up with all the necessary tools to stay connected with your employers and co-workers. You're Zoom-ing and Slack-ing all over the place. Your relationship with Google Docs has upgraded from 'stalwart friend' to 'intimate companion'. Perhaps you've color-coded your daily schedule and set up timers for optimal productivity and focus.
That's all fantastic. Keep up the good work.
But something still feels...off.
Working from home sheds the uniformity of a typical day at the office. Despite being in the comfort of your own personal environment, there seem to be more unknowns and less predictability. It can be more difficult to get your head into the “work zone”. How do you overcome these mental hurdles and remain productive?
Let Go of Expectations
One of the most important things you can do as a remote worker is be realistic. Your working routines and habits are now functioning in a new environment. Not only that, it’s an environment where you’ve established different routines and habits, those that pertain to your life outside of work. Now as everything comes colliding together, the resulting big bang creates an entirely different world.
It’s easy to fall into a pit of chaos. However, the only things down there are darkness, despair, and probably a rodent that wants to be more than friends. You don’t want to live there.
If you expect to continue on as you’ve always done, making no adjustments while maintaining higher than average levels of productivity (a common goal for remote workers wanting to prove their usefulness outside of a traditional office space), you’re either going to find yourself at a stand still or burn out.
If you expect to follow every rule laid out within the plethora of WFH advice blogs out there, you’re going to be overwhelmed and perhaps spend more time trying to cultivate a new way to work than actually working.
Stop. Take a breath. You know what works best for you. Focus on your goals instead of your (or others’) expectations on how you’re “supposed” to work from home. The progress you make is more important and your peace of mind even more so.
Let’s address the more common words of wisdom going around and look at them objectively.
Expectation: Get Dressed Everyday
Reality: Sweatpants Are Still Pants
Beginning your work day the same way you would when you were headed into the office is a good idea. Once you’re dressed, your brain says “Now I’m going to do something”. Most remote workers do this frequently. Good for them.
In reality, there will be days that you wake up early, put yourself together, and saunter into your work space like a boss. There will also be days when you barely roll out of bed and crawl your way to the computer, settling in for the day in the pajamas you slept in.
Fun fact: even when those days happen, you’re still a boss.
What we wear does affect our mood. Some people are more alert if they’re dressed for an actual office. Other people find peace in wearing clothes that help them relax, clearing their head for problem solving and creativity. When you send in that finished project you’ve been toiling over, your boss isn’t going to ask “what were you wearing when you made this?”and if they do, that needs to be reported to HR.
Whatever wardrobe direction you choose to go in, celebrate the work you accomplish in both a suit and sweatpants.
Expectation: Create a Concrete Schedule and Stick to It
Reality: Have You Lived in This World?
Everyone loves a good plan. They look so great on paper. Making a schedule adds structure to your day and builds work habits that help you get things done. When you always know what to expect, it’s easier to maintain productivity.
However, we all live in the real world. Your computer crashes. The internet fails you. Your boss throws a surprise project your way. Your dog eats your couch. Your kids start a small fire. Life happens.
It may seem like working from home puts your day more at risk for the unexpected, particularly in this unusual time where schools are closed, offices shut down, and it’s difficult to plan ahead. Or that it might be easier to fall prone to “spacing out” and allow any mental blocks to declare victory over your progress.
Let’s be honest. Has every day you’ve spent in the office been 100% productive and free of any distractions or unforeseen changes? If your answer is yes, then you’ve clearly been programmed well and are waiting patiently for the eventual overthrow of humans by your fellow robotic overlords. Or you are Beyonce.
If your day doesn’t go according to plan, that doesn’t make you inept, it makes you human. You’re doing the best you can. There will be days that you’re able to give more and days where you just barely scrape by. This isn’t a new curse because you’re now working from home. It’s something we all face, everyday, no matter where we are or what we’re doing.
Cut yourself some slack. Give yourself some credit.
Expectation: Have a Designated, Optimal Workspace
Reality: The Floor is Nice
Having a home office or a designated work area is, of course, ideal. A work from home benefit is that you can create that space any way you want to. If a room filled top to bottom with Nicholas Cage paraphernalia inspires you to do your best work, go for it. If you’re a hardcore minimilist, make Marie Kondo proud. Whatever works best for you and your process is the environment you should embrace.
Keeping that in mind, sometimes we’re able to jumpstart a lack of focus if we change our location. When you work from home, you have more freedom to do so. You can enjoy working outside if the weather allows, or take some time to work comfortably from your couch. Maybe sitting at a table is what you need, or lying facedown on the floor while typing with one finger is the only way you can get work done.
These options are all acceptable! You can make the most of any space that helps you feel energized and positive. There is no right way to establish or build your own working environment. It should be a reflection of what brings you confidence and ease, a space that is undeniably yours.
As everyone shares their workspaces, don’t worry if you feel like yours doesn’t ‘fit the mold’. You’re still working just as hard as your co-workers are. Work created in a home office set up with enough tech to shame the Bat Cave isn’t more important than work done on a single laptop in a small chair. Own your space. You have a great thing going.
That unsettled feeling we mentioned? That concern that something seems off?
We’re living through a once in a lifetime worldwide experience that’s difficult to process. On top of that, we’re all trying to move forward as responsibly and normally as possible. And despite our best efforts, we can find ourselves plagued with self-doubts. Am I doing enough? Am I doing it right?
Are you getting work done? Then you’re doing it right.
You’ve already proven yourself as an employee. Your talents don’t suddenly disappear when you leave the office. The reality is that you’ll always be great at what you do, no matter where you’re working from.
Trust yourself and take everything one day at a time. It’s all going to be ok.
Give yourself the time and space you need to work on your goals productively. If you're interested in completing one of INE's Learning Paths, discover your options here.