Dr. Laura Hurtienne
t this moment in time there are five people “working” in our home - one college professor/assistant dean, one college professor/middle school teacher, two college students, and a high school senior. (Did I mention the unemployed goldendoodles, fish, and hedgehog?) Our internet is about as powerful as the goldfish, the high school student wants to eat as much as the goldendoodles, and our college students are about as motivated as the hedgehog during daylight hours. (For those who are not aware, hedgehogs are nocturnal.) Zoom meetings consist of finding an appropriate backdrop, only to have the perfect office façade ruined by the sounds of dogs barking, teenagers arguing, or the singing coming from the bathroom shower.
Any home across the world has a story these days, whether it be the woes of attempting to work in less than ideal conditions, not having available work at all, or stories of hospitals and fear. No one is immune to the effects of the virus contaminating our world, but we must all find a way to adapt as best as we can. Although I cannot provide advice for every situation at hand, I can suggest a list of ways to overcome the trials and tribulations of the concept of “working” from home. For my complete checklist and explanations, please provide your name and email address.
Have you struggled with the concept of working from home? Do you have a household of homeworkers, all trying to create a new normal? These six steps will help you, and your new workmates, find a way to work and live under the same roof, all while attempting to keep your sanity.
1. Find a space to work. I started my days as a nomad, wandering from place to place, not able to land in the perfect working conditions. This caused anxiety, frustration, and a few confrontations, only mounting the stress of the situation. After a few days, I determined I needed the ability to wander, but with the necessary materials easily at hand. This resulted in some online shopping (not helpful for short-term productivity, but sometimes necessary in times of struggle), and ultimately a carrier for my materials. I was then able to move, when needed, but travel with my office easily. I set up an area in the house for video conferencing, an area where I could spread out my work, and had the flexibility of moving to my favorite workspace, my bike desk. Finding the perfect place to land might not be a one-stop-shop, but with patience and perseverance, you too can find a productivity spot.
2. Determine how you work best. What do you need to feel most productive? Music? Feng Shui? Candles? Peace and quiet? Five computer monitors? Slippers? A professor once had me engage in considering similar questions, prior to writing my dissertation.
Consider all of your senses when determining your work environment. To this day, I still recall my top “ideal” working conditions; silence, comfort, and a candle or fire in the fireplace. If you feel your ideal conditions are unattainable, be creative. Invest in noise cancelling headphones, diffuse oils, lock the bedroom door, put a coffeepot on your desk. This is your opportunity to make your working experience exactly what you want and need. Take the time to figure out how to use your senses to be most productive and make it happen.
3. Create a schedule/routine. Plan a waking time and take a shower, people! You might not leave the house, but you will feel better and more productive if you take the time to create some normalcy. What daily routine do you need to implement? Take time out for lunch. Go for a walk, run, bike ride, in the middle of the day. Think of all of the steps you are missing out on your Fitbit or Apple Watch right now, and pile them into at least one part of your day. As much as it is important to be productive, it is essential to be human, and humans need routine.
4. Plan. Something as simple as documenting your goals on a Post-it Note, will at least create objectives for the day. (Disclaimer: Do NOT use toilet paper for this purpose…) You should have an attainable task list every day. This will ensure you stay on track and don’t get distracted by laundry, animals, kids, and online shopping. While you might need to plan ahead, to some extent, times are uncertain, and simply planning for today is enough.
5. Make changes as you go. Have you found something you planned isn’t working the way you thought it would? Reflect on each day and make adjustments to better suit your needs. Consider the littlest of things. Refer back to your productivity spot, using your senses, routine, and planning for today, to determine what changes you need to make. Reflect to find what does work and keep doing it.
6. Stop working. What are your work hours? In order to be productive, you have to take time to unwind and rejuvenate. Having work and home combined blurs the line of stopping responding to emails and phone calls and starting to relax.
As an educator, I had to apply this lesson even when leaving the house for work. Now, it is even more imperative to stick to an end time to avoid burnout. Determine what your work hours are and try, as best as you can, to adhere to them.
These times are uncertain. That uncertainty can bring many emotions, but have faith in yourself. With patience and persistence, you can, and will, find your way in the chaos that is working from home.