Previously published in Medium. Updated for Appirio on March 31, 2020.
Still getting used to working from home? It’s a huge cultural shift for a lot of us, but there are others who have been doing it for years. There’s no better time to tap into their experience and wisdom. Appirio writer Hilary Gallaher has been working remotely for several years and below she shares some of the things she’s learned about staying and sane when “WFH”.
True life: I live in a 750 square foot apartment in Washington, D.C. and work remotely. Some of you might be wondering “but, how?” and some of you (where are my NYC, San Francisco, and LA friends?) are thinking “yeah, so?” Nonetheless, it’s a small space that I both live and work in. And in my 2+ years of working remotely, I’ve really come to master how to be as effective as possible, small space and all.
Pro Tip 1: Space For You
Yes, maybe my “office” is in my dining room, which also happens to be my kitchen and living room, but it works for me; let me tell you why. Most importantly, I still have a dedicated space: one area that is for work and work alone. This space is organized, free of clutter, and surrounded by things that bring me joy (a la Marie Kondo).
My desk is near our three big windows overlooking the treetops of northwest D.C. I’m not the only one that loves natural light — indeed, it is the top requested office perk, according to the Harvard Business Review. Also, my husband and I were thoughtful with how we arranged the rest of the space, so that, say we’re both home during the week or we have guests, there are still other places for me to work.
Pro Tip 2: Structure Your Day
Start the day like you would if you were going into the office. Meaning, get dressed. Drink some coffee. Work out. Start your day off in a productive way. Even though you aren’t physically going into an office, dealing with traffic or the metro, you still need to show up. This can set the tone for your whole day.
Besides meetings, my day is broken up by dog walks. The first thing I do when I wake up is walk Kobe (my 12-year-old female dachshund named after Kobe Bryant. Makes complete sense, right?). The first break I take in the day is to walk her again. Not only does it give me a stopping point, but it also gets me outside, recharged, and out of my small space.
Also, know when to stop. Because you work where you live and live where you work, it can be hard to know when it’s time to put the work away. My rule of thumb: adopt the business hours of your office, which helps you feel like part of the team and overall culture.
Pro Tip 3: Support Yourself
Research has shown that working remotely can make you more productive, but it also requires you to be self-motivated. One way of achieving this is by eliminating distractions. In my apartment on a day-to-day basis, I may hear construction, loud neighbors, dogs barking, sirens, people serenading the empty alleyway, you name it. There are several ways to combat this but one item we invested in was a sound system. Whether I just play white noise or opt for the “focus” playlist on Spotify, it’s all helpful to drown out the noise.
Before the current shelter-in-place advisories went into place, I’d often go to a local coffee shop for IRL face-to-face interactions. Unfortunately, that’s no longer an option, but we can use some of the same technology we use for work to be social. Zoom isn’t just for meetings, you can also schedule a coffee break with colleagues There are also virtual yoga classes, book clubs and more popping up. They might not get you out of your home, but they could be a great way to recharge inspire some new creative ideas.
So, I may not have a dedicated room labeled my “office” with a big oak desk and a library full of books. But, I have a dedicated workspace. And at the end of the day, I still get shit done. That’s the goal, right? As a lover of the city-living lifestyle, I wouldn’t trade it for that office or the big oak desk in a heartbeat.
About the AuthorMore Content by Hilary Gallagher