How to Work From Home Like a Boss

*A special thank you to local artist Hillary Butler, Serrie Fung, Founder and Nonprofit Branding & Communications Strategist at Zest, and Carrie Brady for their contributions for this post.

We’re staying #SaferAtHome, and for many of us, that means working from home full-time for the first time ever.

So how do we simultaneously pivot business plans, homeschool kids, take care of family members, and serve Memphians in need WHILE we’re home? I talked with some successful Memphians who were working from home long before COVID-19 became a common household phrase, and they weighed in with their top tips for being an effective employee from anywhere:

1. Set up your workspace.

You may not have a home study or office, but find a space (think dining room table, card table in your spare bedroom, etc.), and set it up right:

  • Be prepared by making sure that you have all the things you need for a productive workday in your space. Grab your water, chapstick, office supplies, snacks, etc. so that you’re not distracted by getting up to find these items.
  • Make sure that (when possible) you keep your workspace separate from from the stacks of mail, receipts, kid’s school papers, and other clutter of your home life.
  • Design for inspiration. Have things around you that make it an enjoyable experience whether that’s art, plants, a window, or just an empty space.

2. Schedule focused work.

Set a schedule that works for you (if you have that kind of flexibility with your work) and stick to it. That may mean 6:00-3:00, 12:00-8:00, or maybe even 8-12 and 4-8. No matter when you schedule your hours, stick to it so that it becomes a rhythm. Consider these “golden rules” on focused work from some of our contributors:

  • When you’re working, work. That means no laundry, no cooking, no texts to your mom, just work.
  • If you have kids, consider trading off with your partner in shifts, and plan for this before the day even begins. Just remember, no judgement if your partner (or you!) chooses to let the kids spend that shift in front of a TV or iPad (you can have them play outside or work on schoolwork later).
  • For those of us who live with others, noise from other rooms can be distracting. Turn on music that helps you focus or white noise that drowns the noise out.
  • Stay off your phone unless your work requires it.

3. Establish a startup ritual.

Rituals are repeatedly linked to successful and productive individuals. Singers warm up their voices, the Grizz have pregame warmups, and successful remote workers have their own rituals. The goal here is to prepare yourself physically and mentally by strategically doing the things first that will make your day better. First, what do you need to do for you, your family, or roommates each morning?:

  • If movement in the morning is most beneficial for you, take a run on the Greenline, practice yoga, or walk around your neighborhood to kick off your day.
  • Do you need to check in with your people? Have breakfast with your kids, watch your favorite morning show with your roommate, or check in with your family for a few minutes each morning.
  • Do the things that help you get in the right mindset for your work. Get up early, take a shower, get dressed, drink your coffee.

Then sit down at your workspace (on time!) and complete the tasks that best prepare you for your day’s work:

  • Write down the top 3 things you need to do that day in order to accomplish your goals. These should be your 3 non-negotiable activities for the day (you may be able to provide that report a colleague asked for tomorrow while you have to meet that writing deadline today!).
  • Catch up on industry trends, see if there are any emails you need to take care of immediately, or check-in with your team to see if you need to prioritize anything for them that day.  

4. Communicate well.

Every relationship needs communication, and during crisis, it’s even more crucial than usual:

  • Communicate with the people you share your home with about the times you plan to work and/or the times of day you have important calls so that they can be prepared to leave you alone.
  • Schedule daily or weekly calls with clients, colleagues, and leaders.
  • Talk with your boss about your priorities and goals so that they know exactly what outcomes to expect from you.

5. Take breaks and move.

This advice sounds the best but for most, it’s the first thing to go.  Research shows that taking breaks at work make us much more creative and productive workers, so don’t skip it! Here are some ideas for some great brain breaks:

  • Take a lunch and pick up your favorite Memphis grub (curbside of course).
  • Go for a walk outside and enjoy the sunshine while being reminded that the world is much bigger than your work.
  • Spend some time in meditation or yoga to get your blood flowing again.
  • Take advantage of the fact that you’re home on occasion! Unload the dishwasher during your morning break or change over that load of laundry during your afternoon break. 

6. Go through a shutdown ritual and transition to your home life.

Every contributor we talked to emphasized the importance of ending the work (from home) day strategically. This helps make the transition to being home in order to enjoy life and rest up for the following day:

  • Spend the last few minutes of your work day writing down the tasks you couldn’t get to that need to be completed the following day.
  • Clean off/organize your workspace so that it’s ready for the next morning.
  • When your laptop is right there on your kitchen table, it’s easy for work and personal life to get muddled and for your off hours to be filled with “I’ll just check that last email from my colleague…” To help discourage that, have one browser for personal use and one browser for work that you close out at the end of each work day.

Just like there is no perfect way to work in an office, there is also no perfect way to work from home. The tips above are a great way to set up a good flow, but give yourself grace while figure out which routines and disciplines work for you.

Got your own tips for working at home?

Let us know in the comments!

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