Okay, I know I promised two weeks of corona-free content, but now that most of us are working from home, I’m seeing a lot of articles out there on how to work from home. As someone who has been working from home for nearly two years now, I can tell you with complete confidence that 90% of these articles are complete and total bullshit. Today I’m going to debunk some of the most popular tips I’ve seen online that I know for a fact do not work (or at least don’t work for everyone).
1. “Don’t lounge around in sweatpants! Dress like you’re really going to work!”
This sounds really good, like it should totally trick your brain into going into work mode, but if I’m being honest, it only helps a little bit, and definitely shouldn’t be a top priority when working from home.
I have a few problems with this advice. First, at least for women, getting ready for work can be time-consuming. You’re saying I should get up an hour early so I can do my hair and makeup and put on uncomfortable clothes, and that is somehow supposed to make me work better? At first, I gave this a shot, but honestly, all it did is take time away from my work. After a while, I found out that I could be spending that hour doing, like, actual work, so I cut it out.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t work in my PJs (usually), but there is absolutely no need to put on mascara or slacks.
The Truth Behind the Myth:
Okay, so even though I don’t buy into this piece of advice, that doesn’t mean it came completely out of left field. In every myth, there is a nugget of truth. The truth behind this problematic tip is this: to work from home successfully, you need to have a “work mindset.” Personally, I just don’t think this is inherently linked to my attire. What has helped me the most is to create my own little routine. It doesn’t have to be the same routine you had when you were going into the office, and it definitely shouldn’t be elaborate, lest you invest more energy into the routine instead of the actual work, but having a routine that signals “we’re working now” can definitely help.
Remember, there are no “get rich fast” tricks to this. Personally, I get up, feed and change my son, grab a shower, make a cup of coffee, and get to work. Simple, practical, straightforward.
2. “Have a designated workspace! Keep it clear and don’t do anything besides work in this space!”
Again, this is another piece of advice I tried to follow religiously for a long time, only to discover that it just didn’t help as much as I thought it would. There were a lot of signs this tip wasn’t for me, like the fact that tidying up my “workspace” was a prime source of procrastination, and the fact that no matter how neat my space was, I still got on social media constantly.
Personally, I became a lot more productive when I gave myself permission to work wherever I felt like it. It’s already a huge internal struggle to force myself to sit in my home and work for several hours at a time when I know I could be doing laundry or watching Netflix or scrolling through Instagram, why add to that struggle by forcing myself to work somewhere that doesn’t feel “right” for whatever reason?
The Truth Behind the Myth:
The idea behind this is that you want to limit distractions. However, restricting yourself to one designated workspace isn’t always the best way to do this. For me, forcing myself to work in the same space every day actual increases distraction because I get used to it and get bored. By changing up where I work, I limit the mental distraction of boredom.
3. “Work your normal hours! Act like you’re really at work!”
Okay, this is actually secretly good advice, but the way it’s typically used makes it far less useful than it could be.
Here’s what this advice typically means: sit at your computer/phone and work a full 8 hours without taking time to do laundry or tidy up or prep for dinner. You wouldn’t do those things on a normal work day so you shouldn’t do them now just because you’re at home.
Here’s the thing though: you are home. And right now, so are your kids. Holing yourself up in your office for 8 hours straight isn’t just difficult, it’s probably straight up impossible. So why bash your skull against a brick wall, trying to force a reality that simply doesn’t exist? In my experience, the key to working from home is a delicate combination of discipline and flexibility. A lot of the tips going around online are all about discipline, but I’ve found that without flexibility, discipline simply doesn’t work.
The Truth Behind the Myth:
Even though this advice is used to suggest that people working from home should sit at their desks for 8 hours straight, I prefer to take it literally: act like you’re really at work. On a typical work day, you take time to walk to the copier, you chat with coworkers, you check Facebook every now and again, you listen to music while you work. Don’t suddenly strip yourself of those luxuries just because you’re at home.
Instead of chatting with coworkers, Snap a friend who lives alone and is social distancing all by themselves. Instead of walking to the copier, take a walk around the block. Break up your day, because the truth is, no one works 8 hours straight when they’re at work anyway.
The One Tip That Always Works: Time
The only tip that I can guarantee will apply universally to everyone working from home is this: give yourself time.
It takes time to adjust to working from home, especially right now when you’re trying to work from home, and so is your spouse, and your kids are trying to go to school from home too. It’s an unprecedented time, so forgive yourself if you aren’t a perfect productivity machine right from the get-go. Sometimes, the only way to get better at working from home is to just keep doing it poorly until, gradually, it’s not so bad.
I know, I’m sorry. I wish it was as simple as “dressing for work” or “having a designated workspace,” but working from home is really freaking hard, and there are no quick tips that will suddenly make it normal. But give it time. If I can do it, so can you. And you aren’t the only one struggling to adjust; the whole world is suddenly working from home, and even if it doesn’t seem like it on social media, it’s hard on everyone, I promise.