Blog Barista: Katelyn Cripps | June 17, 2020 | Workplace | Brew time: 8 min
KL&A’s leadership team closely monitored the COVID-19 crisis before any State-mandated Stay-at-Home orders were given to the public. In early March, KL&A announced that all KL&A employees would be working from home until further notice. I initially thought that I’d like working remotely—less commute time, comfy clothes, easier work/life transitions, more sleep and of course, endless amounts of delicious snacks. But after three months, I’m pretty much ready to go back to the office any day now because I’m missing the busy environment and my coworkers.
Despite my new found dislike for working from home, I’ve come to realize how paramount it is to stay organized while working from home. Staying organized is essential. It has not only helped give me structure, but it has helped me to remain focused throughout the day!
I am definitely not a work from home expert, but I thought I’d share the tips and tricks that helped me have a successful work at home experience (for the most part).
Create an Environment
Your work from home “office” is an important space. The environment you choose to surround yourself with during work hours needs to support you, not distract you. If you’re able to have that space be in a separate room, great. If not, (*internal scream*) that’s okay too! It’s just important to have a clearly designated space that you use solely for work. It’s what has helped me the most.
I would love an office where I can have privacy and quietness away from others, however my “office” just happens to be in my bedroom. It’s not ideal, but it works. Since my office is in my room, I make sure to always declutter my room and make sure that everything has a place. And because my office is in my bedroom I make my bed every morning. No exceptions. This has helped separate my personal space from my work space. No mess = no (or less) physical distractions.
In order to create a more functional work space, I was fortunate enough to bring my work monitor home with me. In the first few days while working from home, I found myself fumbling around for notes, papers and pens during Zoom calls which made me feel unprepared. So, I ended up Amazon shopping for things like a monitor stand and desk pad, and started keeping planners/notebooks readily available which helped my desk area feel like a legit work space. I also use my white board for a visual reminder of my To-Do’s and upcoming meetings. Visual representation is great for cognitive recognition that your work space is not a personal one.
Quick Tips for a Great Work-At-Home Environment:
- Declutter and organize your space. Chaos is not your friend here, make sure things are put away so that you can solely focus on your work—not the mess.
- Add elements of joy. Think of things like small house plants, lamps, candles, etc. This will help elevate your space by bringing warmth and comfort to it.
- Close your door. Whatever room you’re in, closing your door will help to add privacy for work sensitive documents and phone calls.
- Let people know you’re working. If you live with roommates or family, let them know when you’re working so hopefully they will be conscious and considerate of the noise level.
- Get dressed. Bumming it will not help you. It sounds weird, but I think it’s crucial to your environment. You can still be comfortable but put together. This will help to provide a sense of separation between work time and personal time.
- Make your bed. It starts your day off with something you’ve easily accomplished. If you haven’t read this book, you totally should.
Set Attainable Goals
If you haven’t guessed it already, I’m a list person. Goals are fantastic. Since my mind moves 110+ mph, it’s easy to lose track of it all. Which is why I basically try to compartmentalize everything. I set daily, weekly, and monthly goals to help me accomplish all of my projects and tasks.
With all this added time on my hands, I initially thought I could get so many of my outstanding tasks accomplished! However, in the first week of working at home, I had a difficult time transitioning from work to personal time. I had over 42 different tasks on my plate that I thought I would complete in no time. And I found myself working well into the evening because it was so convenient. But the reality of that? Unstainable. And I set myself up for disappointment when I didn’t finish them.
From what I’ve learned, it’s so important to take a step back to see the difference between your expectations and the reality of completing your tasks when setting-up goals. Ask yourself this, “is this actually possible?” Then give yourself a reasonable timeline. Setting up goals will look different to everyone. But, just make sure they’re easily accessible so that you don’t find yourself in the out-of-sight, out-of-mind dilemma. But it’s important to organize your goals so that you can easily access them, check them off, and revisit them.
By setting up multiple short-term and long-term goals that are easy to manage, you’ll have something to work towards each day. Whether it’s a small task or finalizing a big project, fulfilling your goals will help provide you with a sense of work satisfaction and accomplishment. This will help even more when working remotely.
Develop Open & Consistent Communication
When you think of organization, does communication come to mind? Most likely not. But, communication plays a massive role in how I organize and focus each day. Staying consistent with my communication to my team has been so important. Each day we start off with a Scrum meeting, we report out our individual progress made the previous day and what we plan to accomplish that day. These daily calls have really helped to shape my days during the Stay-at-Home order. Not only is it an opportunity to check-in with my team, but it also helps us to stay accountable. Each day, my team knows exactly what I’m doing and vice versa. This way, our projects still get done and our productivity stays consistent. Plus, it’s always good to have a little human contact!
Like anything, consistency and honesty are key here. I frequently have check-ins with my manager, if not every day. This may sound like communication overkill, but I can assure you it helps. By discussing tasks and projects often, I’m able to prioritize and shift focus easily if needed. And it gives me the opportunity to be open about how I’m feeling week-to-week. I’ve come to realize that one’s mental health can easily be affected while working from home as feelings of isolation, loneliness and anxiety can creep up on you.
Handle Distractions without Guilt
I’ll just say it, getting distracted is okay. I mean it, it’s okay.
There seems to be a lot of pressure to constantly perform, but while you’re working from home distraction is bound to happen. However, your manager hopefully should understand that. With that said, I’m not saying you should easily entertain distractions. I am saying that you shouldn’t be too hard on yourself. Working from home doesn’t come easily for some people, especially if you have significant others, kids, pets, roommates, etc. who are also stuck at home. And don’t get me started on those outstanding home projects or warm, sunny days!
The strategy that’s helped me handle distractions the best? Scheduling.
Scheduling your tasks will provide structure to your days. I actually schedule time right after my working hours to take a walk and accomplish some household work, not before and definitely not during. Scheduling time like this helps me transition from work to personal life. I think this type of “physical” transition is important for my sanity’s sake. I also plan and schedule Zoom video lunches with coworkers and friends which kind of feels like a distraction without actually impeding on my work schedule.
Take It One Day at a Time
We’re three months into this, and let’s be honest—I still lose focus sometimes. It doesn’t happen as often as the first couple weeks (being organized helps), but it does happen. And that’s okay, just take it one day at a time. Working from home is so different than working in an office. Some people really love it, even thrive from it! But for me, working from home is not ideal, especially long-term. So, I’m glad this is just temporary!
With all that being said, I think it’s important to recognize what works and what doesn’t for you when it comes to working from home. And that finding the right tools and strategies can take a while. Since this is pretty new for many of us, what works for me may not work for the next person. But, hopefully you’ll realize at the end of the day, focused or not, organized or not, everything will be okay.
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