10 Tips for Working at Home Without Losing Your Mind
I have always said I didn’t want to work remotely/work from home. For years. I didn’t think it was a fit for me. However, like many business professionals, the global pandemic had other ideas — and suddenly a large portion of the business world was working from home, myself included.
I have to admit that it hasn’t been easy. My husband’s job is in person (he’s an elementary physical education teacher) and we are empty nesters, so I’m at home alone during the week. In the early days of working at home, it was a bit of a novelty. But that quickly wore off and there were some days I REALLY struggled to be motivated and fulfilled. Particularly on slow weeks at work. By the end of the week, I just wanted to get out of the house…and go anwhere! I found myself being really sick of looking at the same four walls.
Two years later, I think I’ve made the adjustment, but there were definitely some challenges along the way. One of the most important realizations was to ensure I was acting intentionally to manage my activities and set a schedule of both regular and special events.
Here are my best tips for working from home and not losing your mind!
- Be intentional about keeping relationships outside of work going. If you’re not naturally extroverted, it can be easy to let your relationships lapse when working from home. Spend some time thinking about which relationships you want to continue to nurture and make a plan to do just that! I get together with several different friend groups regularly to catch up, usually for lunch or dinner.
- Be intentional about building relationships at work. I started a new role at a new company during the pandemic. I devoted a good deal of effort to making sure I understood other people’s roles and how they fit into mine and my team’s. I also asked for and set ongoing meetings with individuals and teams to ensure we stayed connected and had good conversations. In these meetings, I asked a lot of questions to understand the context of how my new co-workers felt about various topics at work and focused on understanding the culture of my new company. I gave a good deal of thought to making sure I knew who I needed to know and made sure I reached out to set time to get to know one another. Even if you’ve been at your job for quite a while, this is still a step you can take to build deeper relationships at work.
- Be intentional about spending “social” time at work. Something I realized a few months ago was that I wasn’t getting chances to get to know my team. The casual hallway conversations that I used to have with my group were no longer an option. To combat this, I set up a weekly 30 minute call with my team that I call “Good Thing Thursday”, which is purely focused on sharing one or more “good things” that happened to everybody. I’ve really enjoyed hearing the things that everyone is excited about, both personally and professionally, and I think it’s been a morale lift for our group as well.
- Set scheduled events weekly. My work calendar stays relatively static with standing meetings and due dates, but I have added a few regularly scheduled personal activities to my weekly calendar. One of the main things I’ve added this year were personal training appointments at the gym on Mondays and Wednesdays. These are scheduled on my calendar, including travel time, and have definitely been a great addition to my life.
- Get a pet/foster a pet. I refer to my two cats, Alexander Hamilcat and Aaron Purr, as my co-workers and they often make appearances during my work video calls. They provide an ongoing source of entertainment throughout the day. If you don’t want to make the committment of having a pet full time, I have another friend who regularly fosters kittens and puppies as part of her personal ‘work from home sanity program’. I think this is a great idea and also has an element of service incorporated.
6. Get a hobby/learn something new. Since I had some downtime during the pandemic while between jobs, I spent time learning some new skills and trying some new things. I know a lot of people who focused on self development such as online courses, reading business books, starting a blog (I did this!), or learning to code. If social media is to be believed, a bunch of people learned how to bake bread, which I already have done for years. Since I’m an avid home baker, I tried making decorated sugar cookies (mine looked like Oompa Loompas, so it was a fail) and plan to try making macarons at some point in the future.
7. Start a side hustle. As mentioned on the previous bullet, I’m an avid baker, and I have been making my homemade gingersnap cookies for friends, family and coworkers for over 25 years. This year, a friend asked if I’d sell her some. After I initially said “No”, I thought “Why not?” That led to offering my gingersnaps for sale on Facebook to people I know…and having to take down the initial offer in less than an hour because I was overwhelmed with orders! By my estimation, I baked 375 dozen gingernsnaps during November and December of 2021. While I didn’t intentionally set out to start a side hustle, it’s been a lot of fun seeing how happy my freshly baked cookies make people! I have a number of repeat customers and plan to continue my side hustle as time permits through the year.
8. Plan events to look forward to. I try to make sure I always have some type of event on my horizon to look forward to each month or so. Some are bigger ticket items (a vacation, for example). But most are just planning time or activities for the future, like a group dinner outing, or a day trip with friends. Recently, I went with two friends to a Christmas tea, which was a lovely and relaxing outing.
9. Optimize your workspace. I’m very visual, so it’s important to me that my workspace be attractive and functional. I like to decorate for holidays and make sure that what surrounds me is meaningful to me. In my office space, I have pictures of my family, work-related gifts from co-workers, books and of course, my coworker cats are often in residence. I also make sure my office space is very comfortable. This winter, I added a small heater to keep it cozy as well.
10. Get ready for work each day. My company is video-first when it comes to communication, so each day, I get up, get dressed, and do my hair and makeup as I know that I’ll be onscreen multiple times each day. While this takes a little more time in the morning, it also helps me feel “ready” to work. I don’t wear business clothes, but I do make an effort to look my best, at least from the waist up. Leggings and tennis shoes are pretty much my uniform, with a nice top or sweater. After all, being comfortable is one of the perks of working at home, right?
Working from home or hybrid working (part time at home, part time in an office) are the new normal, at least for now. It’s also proven that many jobs that were assumed to only be effective in an office can be done remotely. The pandemic has caused what many are calling “The Great Reset” at work and this calls for all of us learning how to survive and thrive in our new environments. While everyone’s situation is different, these tips are ideas that may be useful in managing your new normal at work — and maintain your sanity while doing so!
Thanks for reading! Read more of my Corporate Adulting Blog series at https://monicaojendyk.medium.com/.