Successfully Working From Home

Hello, and happy Thursday everyone! Today is April 9, and it has been three weeks since the first “stay-at-home” order was issued in California due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Tomorrow, New York will hit the three week mark as well. It’s hard to describe what the last few weeks have looked like, especially since it has impacted each of us in so many different ways, but the two words that come to my mind – roller coaster. It has been a roller coaster of emotions, with constant news updates and changes to policies and regulations. On top of all that, many are now are adjusting to a new normal, working from home. As someone who regularly works at home, I know that it can come with it’s own unique challenges and distractions. However, I also know that working from home right now is even more difficult – whether you are transitioning your children into online learning, adjusting to having your significant other as your coworker, or are trying to cope with the loneliness of social isolation if you live alone. Whatever your circumstance, I hope this blog can help bring some ease to your day to day. We will get through this together!

As many of you might know, I already work from home and have done so for almost two years now (it’s actually pretty crazy to type that out!). Although, to be fair, I used to visit Alicia’s home office a few times a week while living in New York, so I guess it’s more accurate to say that I’ve been exclusively working from home for around eight months, beginning when we moved last August. During this time, I’ve picked up some tricks and habits that have helped me succeed while working from home. Keep in mind that these are what work for me, and it’s not a one-size-fits-all recipe for success. But I hope that you’ll be able to take a few of these and craft a routine that works best for you!

  1. Establish a routine. This one is HUGE for me. Have a set time to wake up everyday and give yourself time to actually wake up, whether that means before you log on to work that you move your body, have breakfast, journal, read the news, have a cup of coffee on your porch…the possibilities are endless, but it’s important to give yourself some “me” time before logging on. As the saying goes, you have to fill your on cup first. Another equally important aspect of any routine is establishing a time to log off. With smartphones, it is far too easy to allow ourselves to be “on” 24/7, but setting these boundaries will help prevent burnout and increase your happiness and productivity at work.
    • PRO TIP: Make sure to plan breaks into your daily routine! Take a lunchtime walk, call your mom during your afternoon coffee. It’s okay to break up your day, and if those things are scheduled in already, you won’t feel guilty for taking the time to do them.
  2. Make lists. This will look different for everyone, and there are several different methods that people use successfully (I actually employ all of the methods discussed here, depending on the day and my mood) One version is a schedule where you write down each thing you need to do by the hour, which is great for keeping yourself on track when you have a lot that needs to get done, but none of the tasks are particularly time intensive. Some people prefer “batching” or time blocking, which essentially means setting aside days or larger blocks of time for particular tasks. This allows more flexibility in your routine. Another great method is establishing a “Big Three,” which involves listing the top three things you need to do each day and then crossing each of those off before doing anything else.
    • PRO TIP: Whichever method you go with, I think it’s best to write it out at the end of each work day for the *next* day. This way, whenever you log on, you’ll be able to jump right in!
  3. Have a dedicated working space. Whether you have a home office or live in a studio apartment, establishing that one area where you work will help you transition in and out of work mode easier. If you are someone who works from home long-term, it’s likely worth your while to invest in a solid desk and chair, but if this is only temporary and you don’t have a home office, your dining room table can work! Just make sure to unplug and “break down” your office if you can do so easily. It’s a small task that can help you transition out of “work mode.”
    • PRO TIP: If you can, establish your home office in an area that receives natural light. It’s good for the soul 🙂

These are my three biggest tips for working from home, but I also know that these are unprecedented times, so I wanted to share some links of resources that may help you get through our current situation.

Working from home with kids? Depending on their age, where you live, their teachers, you may or may not have activities and lessons planned out for them. Feel free to checkout this blog, where we linked several resources to bring NOAA into the classroom (or in this case, your home!). Here are additional resources that may be helpful to you and your kiddos over the next few weeks. This is stressful for everyone, but hopefully these can make learning fun for them (and easier for you!)

  • The Oxford Owl has free E-books, math games, and activities for kids aged 3-11
  • The Children’s Museum in Houston has free weather and science videos (Pre-K to 5th Grade)
  • BrainPop Junior is offering free access to families who have been impacted by school closures. They have learning tools for STEM, Social Studies, reading and writing, heath, and arts (Kindergarten to 3rd Grade)
  • The Space Foundation has a multitude of STEM lesson plans for almost all ages! (Pre-K to 20 years old)
  • Carnegie Mellon University offers a interactive computer science curriculum for middle and high school aged students
  • CommonLit is sharing reading and writing lessons for students in grades 3-12.
  • CodeAcademy is offering data science and coding lessons for high school and college students
  • STMath is providing resources and math lessons for those in Kindergarten through 8th grades
  • National Geographic Kids Lab offers science experiments, videos, and articles
  • Breakout EDU is offering their immersive learning games for students from kindergarten through 12th grade

“I don’t have kids, but my roommate/fiance/wife/husband/_____ is driving me crazy!!!”

I’m not going to lie, I actually was pretty excited when I heard my fiance would now be working at home too (hey lunch dates!), and so far, it hasn’t been a tough transition for us (other than a few conference calls accidentally scheduled at the same time). My only advice for people now working from home with a new coworker is to keep communication open. Take a few minutes in the morning over coffee to discuss your schedules, re-evaluate what worked yesterday and what didn’t, and also talk about things that aren’t work related. Your home is still your home, and it shouldn’t feel like an office. And my favorite tip I’ve seen for couples working from home together? Blame your imaginary coworker.

Lastly, I want to share some ideas and/or resources for those that might live alone and are starting to go stir-crazy (because I know I would be!). My number one tip for everyone (if you’re able and allowed) would be to get outside once a day. Sunshine is good for the mind, body, and soul (check out the several benefits listed in this article), and even if you can’t visit anyone, it’s good to get out into the world and see nature. This is also a great time to re-invest in yourself by reading new books, listening to new podcasts, and starting new projects and hobbies (or jumping back into that one that you were *dying* to start, but then let it fall to the back burner….it’s okay, we’ve all been there). Missing that social connection? Did you know that Google has a free extension for the Chrome browser that lets you stream movies and TV shows from Netflix in sync with friends? You can also use FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, or Google Hangouts to virtually hang out with friends and family. Want to work on your fitness? This article shares a plethora of free home workout apps and videos!

As I wrap up this post, I want to thank our readers for welcoming this blog that is out of our norm. One of the hardest parts of this unprecedented situation is the unknown, so my hope in writing this was to share a little guidance (and if nothing else, some light reading!) in navigating this new normal. I’d like to end with this last bit of advice…Remember to give yourself, your loved ones, your coworkers, and even strangers (should you encounter them while safely social distancing!) grace. Someone snappy with you in a work email? They may have a toddler that won’t stop crying unless they are holding them. Take a breath, and give them grace. Did someone take the last toilet paper at the grocery store? Maybe they were picking it up for their neighbor who can’t get out. Have grace. This is the time for flexibility, for understanding, and for grace.

Everything is upside down for everyone right now. Embrace the inherent slowness of this time, choose to be hopeful instead of afraid, and choose to be proactive instead of reactive. Sending you all love and light, and I promise that our regularly scheduled programming will be back next week (with an exciting new edition of Third Thursdays!) Take care, y’all.

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