Working from home is not all it’s cracked up to be (AKA spending all day in pajamas and sleeping in: two things that I can tell you from personal experience are not reality). When I moved to California almost a year ago, it meant leaving behind my beloved friends on The Everygirl team in Chicago, our pretty office space, and a dope snack drawer to work from home full time.
Besides just personally missing my coworkers that I also count as some of my best friends and greatest career idols (if we’re being honest, I also miss the office snacks), I had to learn a lot about holding myself accountable and staying productive so that I feel like I’m making my bosses and team proud from miles (and states) away.
Whether working from home is the norm for you, or “work from home” is simply a catchy Fifth Harmony song because you’re an office girl when we’re not social distancing, here are nine tips to help you impress your boss, even while working from home.
1. Get dressed before you start work
I am so not recommending you put on your work trousers and a blazer (unless you have a Zoom meeting, in which case, a blazer might be wise), and I personally hard pass on jeans while staying at home. However, don’t stay in your pajamas all day. Changing into something else before you start your workday (even if that “something” is just as comfy and cozy as your favorite PJs) sets the tone. Perfect your work-from-home uniform, or change into leggings and a sports bra if you’re planning on working out at some point during the day. Bonus: being already dressed will make it easier to work out at the end of a long day when all you want to do is watch Netflix.
2. Keep up your normal morning routine
A tempting factor about working from home might be to set your alarm for two minutes before starting and roll over in bed to open your laptop. Tempting, yes, but productive? Not so much. Instead, think about the factors of your usual morning routine that you enjoy the most or made you feel the best throughout the day.
Did you love listening to motivating podcasts on your way to work? Wake up early enough to listen to an episode as you take a walk around the block or fold clean laundry before your workday starts. Did you look forward to catching up on the news while you ate breakfast before heading off to work? Make sure you’re giving yourself time to make and enjoy breakfast before starting your day. Would a pre-work workout give you energy? Fit in movement before you sit down at your laptop. Try to fit in morning skincare, chug a big glass of water, and do whatever else is crucial for you to feel your best during the day before your workday starts.
3. Stay out of the bedroom
We can’t all be lucky enough to have an at-home office at our disposal, but give yourself a designated space that’s your new “office,” no matter how much room you have (FYI, I live in a tiny studio apartment, and if I can do it, you can do it!). Set up your laptop at the kitchen table or clear the clutter off of the coffee table and give yourself room to make an office space by your couch if you prefer to be more comfortable. No matter what, do not work on your bed. The bed is for sleep (and sex!) only. Working in bed will make you tired, and can even train your brain to associate bed with stress rather than relaxation.
4. Schedule “coffee chats” every week
If you miss the buzz and collaboration in an office environment, it’s common to feel disconnected, or even feel less overall motivation, while you’re at home. If you’re used to going on a coffee break with your work wife to brainstorm a project, or love chats around the water cooler that kept in you in the loop of what your coworkers are up to, schedule virtual “coffee chats” at least once a week with a coworker to exchange ideas, catch up on projects, or just reignite motivation. If you have a relationship with your boss, reach out to ask questions. They’ll appreciate the extra effort, and you’ll feel connected to your work environment while being isolated.
5. Prioritize accountability
To truly impress your boss, show them that you hold yourself accountable, even without structure like the office environment. For example, set deadlines and micro-deadlines (or deadlines to finish smaller pieces of one task). Don’t waste time, and record every task you do throughout the day (including five minutes of Instagram scrolling here and there or sitting down to pet your dog). Having an understanding of how you spend every minute of your day will help you identify when (and how) you’re wasting time. Some breaks (like petting your dog) might be a necessary break to refocus, but scrolling through social media might just be a waste of time.
6. Keep a notepad and pen by you at all times
One of my favorite perks of working from home is that when I’m alone, more ideas pop into my head than if I’m at the office and focused on other things (like the box of donuts calling my name). Make sure you keep a notepad and a pen by you at all times so that you can immediately scribble an idea that pops into your head or jot down notes if you get an unexpected call from your boss or a coworker. You may think that typing out ideas and notes on a Google Doc would be just as beneficial, but never underestimate the power of putting pen to paper.
7. Know when you’re most productive
If your work-from-home hours are flexible, this means that you get to work during the hours that you work best. Not everyone is most productive during the 9-5 window, so consider which hours of the day you have the most energy and concentration. Maybe you’re most productive in the early mornings, so you work from 7am-3pm, or your best creativity comes in the evenings, so you work from 12pm-8pm.
However, this also means that your work time is just for that: work. Take breaks when you need them (more on that below), but don’t get distracted by personal to-dos like your laundry or hanging art on the wall. Make sure you stick to a schedule (don’t get distracted or lazy by the flexibility), and communicate with your team what times they’ll be able to reach you.
8. Time batch your emails
Hack your brain into focusing by time batching tasks. For example, get your mind ready for the day by emptying your inbox first thing. Getting your inbox down to zero (or as close as possible!) is like decluttering for your mind. After your batched time to answer emails, resist the urge to check your inbox again throughout the day to help you focus more on each task at hand (rather than feeling scatterbrained from multitasking). If you do need to check email multiple times throughout the day, try scheduling about 30 minutes of emails first thing in the day, and 30 minutes of emailing at the end. You’ll be much more productive than if you checked sporadically throughout your work time.
9. Practice workday self-care
Sometimes working from home can feel stressful and can even cause burnout due to isolation, feelings of unmanageable workload, or lack of connection with the rest of your team. Make sure you’re practicing workday self-care every day, so you’re able to show up as your best self, even in this new normal. Listen to background music that makes you focused and energized (I’m biased, but I love our Office Playlist on Spotify or the Ratatouille soundtrack TBH), diffuse essential oils or light a candle, and take breaks when you need them (that means no lunch in front of the computer screen).