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A Home Office for the Long Haul

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Whether you’re used to working remotely or you’ve never worked from home (WFH) in your life, most of us are now “home” indefinitely, and are faced with a sudden, twofold challenge: (1.) working productively from home, and (2.) separating “work life” from “home life” during a time when people, by and large, are not leaving their houses.

How do you separate your own “work life” and “home life?” What is one “best practice” you are using that is helping you to be productive in this WFH world? We’d love to hear (email us at psminfo@docs.rutgers.edu)

In the meantime, here are a few tips I have gathered:

1. Establish a regular routine: Get up at your regular time, make your bed, get dressed, and practice good hygiene—get ready for work as if you were actually leaving the house.

2. Create dedicated workspace.  Not all of us have a spare room or home office. However, you do need to create defined workspace and a setup that lends itself to productivity. Working from the couch in sweats might be comfortable; however, it is not the most productive way to operate. (See sidebar: Carving Out Workspace When You Have None)

3. Be visually ready for virtual meetings.  (This means you and your surroundings.) Go formal on top and casual on the bottom if you feel like it. Just make sure that whatever image the camera captures—the one of you and your background—is neat and visually appealing.  

The background should be uncluttered. Try and find a blank wall, and— if at all possible—a space where a bed is not visible.

NOTE: Many web-conference software programs allow participants to preview how they will appear to viewers—giving them time to adjust how they will be seen. Show up “early” to the virtual meetings to prep for the best visual presentation possible.

4. Create mini breaks. Get up and stretch every hour. Walk around for a bit; if you can, get outside and take a deep breath. This is VERY important.

Not everyone can concentrate at home for 90-minutes—and that is a long time. It is more like 45 to 55 minutes, and we glaze over for that extra time – whether in an office or at home. 

Set a reminder on your phone if you need to. One break each hour, for five minutes every hour, sneaks in movement for 40 to 45 minutes a day!  Maybe your five-minute movement is putting on a load of laundry – it all counts.

5. If you live with others, communicate your schedule and create signals.  Now more than ever, it’s important to be present wherever you are—this is not a time to multitask. If necessary, create a system to communicate clear boundaries. Example: “If there is a sign on the door, it means I can talk in an hour.”

But then stick to that message exactly—after precisely one hour (ready or not), make yourself available or come out of the room. This sort of consistency (and matching actions with words) helps with setting boundaries and setting expectations. 

6. CREATE SOME FUN IN YOUR DAY! A daily dose of levity can work wonders for our mindset. During this challenging period, life is still giving us many things to laugh about. Either be the creator of some humor or ask others to send a good laugh. Most of us are not professional comedians, but we don’t need to be. Smiles and laughter can come from sharing positive stories. Make sure you are creating these stories daily for yourself so you can share—all about you.

Author(s): 
Kathleen Cashman
Published On: 
03/26/2020