Many of us are hitting a stretch of work-from-home fatigue. We’re nearly six months into this and many of us have slim prospects of returning full time to an office this year, so I’m finding I need to amend the ideal work-from-home standards. If you are fortunate enough to have a job that can be done from home, productivity has probably gone in many directions over 2020.
First, a reminder that productivity isn’t just doing more work, faster. Getting “better results” during this time period is about producing whatever outcome is meaningful to your life. More time to get creative in the kitchen? Productive! Learning to let go of things we can’t control? Productive! These may not be the gold standard of work from home that make sense in normal times, but they’re more reflective of my personal work-from-home style. These are the rules I’m breaking to make it through this time of “Pandemic, but make it work from home.”
1. Dress for your work day
Along the way in 2020, dress for your day morphed into curating the perfect work-from-home loungewear capsule. While I definitely added in a few new pairs of joggers, I’m far gone from stressing over the perfect look for a video call. The last thing I need right now is decision fatigue over what to wear, staring in to a closet that was built for a business formal office life.
Instead, I’ve extracted five “Zoom toppers.” It’s my favorite mix of blouses, a sweater, and a knit blazer that fit the bill for any time I’m on camera. Outside of that, I’ve let go of the pressure to figure out a perfect work-from-home look. The non-negotiable tasks for me include a little bit of hair care and daily minimal makeup. Slim down your daily essential get ready routine, revel in this moment of not being coiffed to the nines, and spend that time elsewhere.
2. Set up a dedicated workspace
I am delighted for you ladies that have the room for a chic dedicated workspace. (Hello, home office goals!) A fabulous home office set up is a huge part of making work from home livable. But some of us are in smaller spaces, sharing home office space with kids and partners, or have decamped to stay with families.
A dedicated workspace that I can count on daily is a bit of a pipe dream. Instead, focus on the space you need for specific tasks. When I know I need to be on camera, I’m at the kitchen counter with better light and fewer background distractions. Emails happen on the couch and hard number crunching gets a few hours at the bedroom desk. This idea of tying tasks to spaces has helped me be much more deliberate with my time. It’s also giving me enough variety to feel not completely claustrophobic in my space.
3. Keep set work hours
I pop out of bed at 5:30am ready to go. Before I know it, it’s 9:30, and a traditional half work day is under my belt while others are just getting started. On the flip side, my productivity hits a major slump in the afternoons. Shifting my schedule around gives me the opportunity to destress with workouts or personal tasks, depending on my daily workload.
If at all possible, negotiate with your manager on your daily schedule and when you must be online or available. If you are leading a team, manage your employees’ outputs and outcomes, not how they get there. This is always a good leadership best practice, and it’s even more important as kids head back to school, care for family members changes, or to combat the fatigue of more months ahead of this type of balancing act.
4. Stay visible to your team
It is important to stay visible to your team and manager in any condition. It’s especially important now as companies are tightening expenses. In the beginning of this work-from-home period, you might have had a lot of check-ins or more team meetings. Some of us may have even been instigating those check points to win over work from home non-believers.
Now that we’re in a bit of a rhythm, my “visibility” efforts look different. Instead of getting burnt out from unnecessary task check-ins or an endless stream of zoom happy hours, I’m being more deliberate with how I stay top of mind. At the beginning of the week, I might drop a note to my manager of everything on my plate. I forward that note on a Thursday afternoon to let them know my progress, which gives me all of Friday to redirect or pick up any loose ends.
Visible also doesn’t have to mean “on video.” Now, I’m also much more deliberate about when I join on screen and I reply to meeting requests letting the host know my plan in advance. This gives them an opportunity to weigh-in if one option is preferable. I also now try to issue meeting appointments with that consideration. Sometimes I’ll include a note asking a list of the key decision makers to join on screen if possible, and encourage others to just listen in as needed.