When I first started working a “big girl job” five years ago, the ability to work remote was really at the hand of an individual organization and their preferred policy. In my time so far at two different companies, their preferences couldn’t be more opposite (One was pretty supportive, the other simply didn’t believe in it). So quite frankly, when I was graduating college and talking about jobs, “how to be productive when working from home” wasn’t ever a big topic of conversation, because work was typically correlated with the office.
And then a global pandemic shook the nation, and any non essential industries were forced to work from home temporarily (…is “semi-permanent” an appropriate term to change it to since it’s now 8 months later, and counting?) A lot of us had to adapt, and for anyone like me who really didn’t have much experience working remote for longer than a day, it was a huge transition, and sometimes still is.
Before all of this happened, I wouldn’t have thought I needed advice or tips on how to find motivation when working at home. But I genuinely believe once this is all over, remote work will be much more accommodated at every company across the globe, and it’s something that upcoming college graduates should definitely be factoring in.
So what are the pros and cons of working from home?
(Wow, my inner Rory Gilmore has been waiting for this exact moment.)
Top 2 Pros
1. You have more time in the day.
Let’s say you work a normal 9 to 5, 8 hour work day, but your office is downtown in a major city and you have to commute to and from work in rush hour traffic. (Same! Let’s be friends) So from the time your alarm goes off to the time you actually arrive at the office, that’s an extra 1.5-2 hours (give or take) added onto your day. But wait, you still have to tack on that same amount before you are actually home and can slap on those pj’s, pull your hair into a messy bun, pour yourself an oversized glass of wine and resume the episode of trashy reality tv you were watching in the bathroom stall during work hours so your boss wouldn’t notice (…no? just me? Awkward).
But guess what! When you work from home, you get all of those before and after hours back to yourself, giving you more time to sleep in or get shit done after you sign off, and still have leftover hours to relax at the end of the night.
2. You have more flexibility.
It’s definitely fair to say things are much more flexible and convenient when working remote. For example, you can extend that weekend trip an extra few days without using up any vacation time. The only difference in your work day is that the beach background on your Zoom call isn’t fake af.
And when the holidays come around and you usually have to waste your vacation days to travel to the middle of nowhere to see certain family you don’t really miss, now you can still play the role of dutiful second cousin, but get out of the small talk because you “have to draft this urgent email to your boss.”
Top 2 Cons
1. Your body isn’t moving as much as it should
If you are working from home, you are most likely set up in your “office” (this needs to be in quotes because most home offices that have been born out of this quarantine involve a folding table or $50 Amazon desk in the only partially empty corner of your apartment/house you could find). Let’s face it, you are pretty sedentary. And there’s no way around it when the walk to the bathroom is three steps down the hall and you are on the same level floor all day. (Though let’s be honest, did you ever really take the stairs if your office building had an elevator?)
And then when we are at our desks, we get stiff, so we think moving stations to our bed or the couch, which are irresistibly close by, will help stretch out our legs, which technically it totally does. But the problem is that a body in motion usually stays in motion, so when we are horizontal all day it’s much harder to get up after that day ends and then start moving or being active. And even if we get our steps in on a walk after work, our bodies just overall seem to be lazier.
2. Your motivation comes and goes
Whether we are in the office or at home, we have good days and bad days when it comes to productivity. The problem with remote work is that it seems the productivity is much harder to find on a consistent schedule. It tends to come in waves, but the high peaks are much less frequent and not as long lasting. I think there’s a few reasons for this: maybe it’s because no one is walking by our office cubicles where we need to look busy, or we don’t have the same resources or technology at home that would create more efficiency. Or maybe it’s simply because we are still in our pajamas and easily give in to all of the many distractions present in our homes. (Yeah, my money is on that one.)
So how do we find that motivation and make it stay?
Well, to be honest I don’t have a perfect formula, but here are some of the things that have proven to help me during this quarantine…
1. Make an effort in your personal appearance
Shower, shower, shower! Any day that I simply roll out of bed and hop onto my computer is a day I will get nothing done. But when I shower and get dressed into adult clothes (maybe brush through my hair if I’m feelin’ real adventurous), it notifies my body that I am doing something with my day. Even if I’m not going anywhere.
2. Refresh your brain
When we are working from home and not interacting with as many people or getting a change of scenery (even a different conference room counts), our brains decline a little bit faster throughout the day as they aren’t being stimulated by new things. So if you feel your mind losing it’s endurance, do something different than a work related task. Maybe take a walk on your lunch break, make some progress on that puzzle or doodle in your adult coloring book for 30 minutes. That slight shift of the many gears in your mind will actually do wonders and you’ll feel recharged when it’s time to get back to it.
3. Give distractions a time limit
When you are working from home, it’s almost impossible to avoid the endless amount of distractions around us. Multiple tv’s, a fridge full of food (anyone else “eat cause you’re bored” snackers?), significant others or roommate right next to us. Even when we check our phones at the office, we usually have a colleague interrupt us to ask for something or a boss walk by our desk. So what is stopping us at home when we go down the rabbit hole? Well, only your own self control unfortunately. It’s hopeless to say you won’t ever fall into the trap over the course of a work day, so just give the trap a countdown for its release. Clock yourself in before you check your phone and clock out after 5 minutes. Do you just HAVE to watch the last 10 minutes of the tv show that you fell asleep to last night? Let it happen, just be sure to not start a new episode. As far as the snacking thing goes, don’t give it a time limit, but a time frame instead. For example, I find that if I have a designated time that I take lunch every day, I keep working with that exact time in my head as a “finish line”.
Look, working from home is different for everyone. Maybe I’m actually part of a minority that finds it difficult to combat laziness. You don’t really know until it becomes your new normal. So for anyone that needed to read this, I hope it helped, and for anyone that didn’t, why are you still here? And because I’ve been writing this thing for way too long, I’m too lazy to conclude this blog post properly and my brain needs different stimulation. So I’m gonna take my own advice and do something besides this.