Our Friend Adam McLane is a parent who has worked from home for almost a decade, and we think his insight might be helpful to those of you who may suddenly find yourself working from home. Enjoy!
Tips for Working From Home With an Active Household
Many people are going to spend the next month or so working from home. If you have children, you are also going to be managing working from home while trying to keep your kids doing schoolwork or otherwise being active.
I’ve done this the past 9 years so let me offer some tips to staying productive and making the most of it:
Lower your expectations.
A workday from home is a different animal than a workday in the office. You are not going to be more or less productive. You’ll find yourself more productive in some ways and less productive in others. But if you are expecting it to be just like at the office, you’ll be very frustrated. Yes, you’re going to get stuff done. But you can’t expect the house to walk on eggshells 8 hours a day because you’re working from home. Just understand you are going to be a different kind of productive.
Get dressed for work.
Listen to me, working from home is not working in your pajamas. It’s going to help you to get out of bed, go through your morning routine, and get ready for work. Maybe you don’t wear your full work attire. But it’s going to help you to get dressed and ready for work just like you were going in. Trust me on this. No PJs.
Get good, comfortable headphones.
Chances are you don’t have a home office. And even if you do your kids are going to be home and they are going to make noise all day. In order to concentrate, you’ll want good headphones. If you anticipate working from home the next 2-3 months do yourself a favor and buy over the ear, noise canceling headphones. Yup, they are a few hundred dollars. But you’ll thank me. Those free ones that came with your phone are fine a few hours here or there, but they get painful over time. In our house everyone has headphones and we all wear them when we are working, doing school work, watching YouTube videos, etc.
Establish work hours.
My workday is 8-5 but I tell people I’m available 9-3 Monday-Friday. Working from home does not mean you are available 24 hours per day. Do what you have to do. In my life, I have a home office, when the workday is done I literally close the door so I’m not tempted to bring my laptop into the living room and keep working. Establish work hours or you’ll lose your life to the job. You don’t want to do that.
Make voice calls, not video calls, whenever possible.
I have some conference calls I participate in regularly. When I can I really like to do audio-only. Or maybe we start off with the video part of the call and I’m able to turn my camera off. Why do I recommend that? You can stand up and walk around on calls. You can go outside. I frequently will walk around the garden or sit on the patio. This doesn’t work for every call but it’s really nice to be able to get fresh air while making calls. It’s fine, people really don’t care.
Take walks, go outside.
Seriously, take advantage of working from home. You’re going to find holes in your schedule. Maybe you are used to spending an hour commuting each day? Replace it with a walk. (Your dog will be STOKED!) Or go to a nearby park for 30 minutes with the kids at lunch. Go outside. Go outside. Go outside. Trust me, working from home can turn you into a hermit super fast. It can get depressing but it doesn’t have to. GO OUTSIDE.
Go out to lunch once a week.
This has been one thing I’ve tried to keep going, sometimes better than others. When you work in an office you might actually go out to lunch nearly every day. I find it’s helpful to go out for lunch once a week, literally just to get out of the house. My wife, Kristen, and I actually do a “lunch date” on Fridays when we can head to our favorite nursery, City Farmers. We actually don’t even eat… we just go “out for lunch” for an hour to a favorite place. It gives us something to look forward to and serves as a nice break-up of the routine. Speaking of food. Don’t snack all day. You’ll gain a million pounds. Trust me on that.
Notice all the stuff you never noticed before.
If you’ve never worked from home you probably have no idea how much stuff happens around your house all day… it’s going to be hilarious for you. In our area, you get used to the routines of the postal carrier, the delivery trucks, the water meter reader, what days gardeners cut the neighbors grass, the canvassers. I hear the school bells from the elementary school and know what times the wild parrots fly over in the morning and afternoon. Working from home will teach you things if you’re willing to notice.
Embrace it for what it is.
Working from home can feel like a prison. And it can feel freeing. If I’m honest, it’s both. But I love it and I think that millions of Americans are about to get a taste.