The last two years have seen an unprecedented number of people working from home. And while the end of 2021 saw fewer people working remotely than during the peak of 2020, there is still a substantial number of office workers for whom remote work will become permanent. Going into 2022, over 17 million American workers are estimated to still be working remotely.
The demand for remote work is higher than ever, with many workers changing jobs and even industries in order to make remote work permanent. In the era of career-changing and the pursuit of remote-heavy work, new questions about the work/life balance arise: how to separate living space and working space in small living quarters; how to manage time so that every hour does not become a working hour; how to stay focused when there are so many distractions; how to collaborate when the spontaneous communications once taken for granted now have to be scheduled, timed, and expressed through a computer screen; how to keep from feeling completely isolated and depressed.
In customizing your home working conditions, one size does not fit all. Just as individual needs and working styles vary, so do the individual sacrifices that need to be made in order to get the most out of the home-work experience. Are you the kind of person that needs quiet, or are you most creative when there is noise and stimulating activity around you? Do you work better early in the morning or later in the evening? Do you need a structured business day with routine hours, or can you benefit from less traditional working hours? Do you need to put closure on your workday each evening by shutting everything off and closing your office door, or do you feel comfortable with a more blended routine of working and leisure?
The transition from office to home office can be tricky. If remote work looks like it will not be temporary for you after all, here are some tips to help make the long-term adaptation easier:
If working from home is to become a permanent arrangement for you, you will need a space in your home that is designated exclusively for work. This can be challenging if your apartment is very small or if your home is shared with other people, but a dedicated workspace helps psychologically to put you in the frame of mind you need to be most productive. A dedicated workspace, even a small one, creates a sense of routine and continuity, and gives you an exclusive location to store all items and documents related to your job. It will help you to stay organized and to shut out distractions so that you can work most productively.
One of the greatest benefits of working from home is the flexibility with your time. Use that flexibility to create a positive experience each day. If the weather is nice, take advantage by taking a walk or bike ride when you have downtime. Short, outdoor exercise breaks, when possible, help physically and mentally. Use breaks to do things you enjoy that you normally would not be able to do from an office. Some people find that using breaks to complete short household chores or errands during the day increases the amount of free time they have later to spend with family; others find that it disrupts the sense of “work routine” they are trying to establish because it blurs the line between home and work. Your lifestyle and personal responsibilities will dictate how your breaks are best used so that you can get the most benefit from an overlapped home and work environment.
You may have an office inside your house or apartment, but your home is—first and foremost—a home. It will continue to contain the myriad of distractions and temptations it always has unless you are proactive about shutting them out. People experienced in remote work recommend shutting out digital distractions, like social media and personal email, and relegating their use to set times so that they don’t interfere with your productivity. Planning your meals ahead of time helps cut down on frequent, spontaneous snacking that can distract you from your day. Finally, scheduling breaks to spend with children or family members who are also home will help reduce the number of unplanned interruptions.
Working from home can be challenging, but with the right modifications it can be very rewarding. The freedom to manage time according to individual preferences and lifestyles is cited frequently as the biggest benefit. Less time getting ready in the morning and commuting to and from an office means more time for both productivity and leisure. Planning ahead and customizing your space will guarantee that the opportunities gained from remote work are put to positive use.