Working Remotely Before it Was Cool

March 14, 2022

According to my Instagram feed, last week was the official 2-year “anniversary” of our pandemic! ???? Since then, many people have transitioned from working in an office to either part-time or full-time at home. The general consensus seems to be that my fellow introverts tend to love it, while others (especially and understandably with kids) really struggle with productivity.

At the start of the pandemic, WFH life was nothing new to me as I had been doing it almost exclusively since 2018. At 23 years old, I had just quit my windowless desk job in Baltimore and had moved back to my home state of Minnesota. Although I applied to a few full-time jobs in the city, going back into an office absolutely filled me with dread. As soon as I would step inside an office for an interview, I would internally feel my gut say “no, no thank you!” and beg me to not consider that role.

Although I did eventually take a part-time job in an office (~2.5 days/week), I listened to my gut and worked to stay home. I really valued the freedom of being able to spend the day working from my mom’s house while doing laundry (cheers to apartments with no in-unit laundry, am I right?!), visiting my friends who lived out of state, or running to the gym for a quick workout class. In early 2019, I even spent a few weeks hopping around Europe with one of my best friends while working at night!

That being said, working remotely can feel lonely at times, and it can also be tricky to actually get work done.

Here are a few tips that have helped me over the years:

1. Put Your Phone in Another Room

I often turn my phone on silent and ditch it in my bedroom or bathroom, wherever I can’t see or hear it. Instagram and Tik Tok can feel way too tempting at times, and I’ve learned that that quick social media “hit” ends up feeling bad when you come back to all the tasks you’ve been avoiding. Also, when you work from home, friends and family seem to think that they can call you in the middle of the workday. This can definitely hurt your productivity. And when I’m not feeling productive, I personally start to feel depressed/get down on myself, so it can really hurt my overall mental state, too. Try to eliminate distractions as much as possible to avoid this.

2. Shut off Your Email

This is useful while working in an office too! Try to pick a time where you’re intentionally going to respond to emails instead of having your email app open all the time. That way if someone requires a longer response, you’re not losing your creative “flow” on whatever you’re working on. Because when you’re sitting on the couch, it can feel tempting to go from email to a YouTube rabbit hole, and an hour later you’ll wonder what you were working on in the first place.

3. Take Advantage of It: Take Breaks

There have been months where I’ve been good about this and others not so much. The not-so-much months have usually resulted in bad anxiety and depression. I firmly believe humans aren’t made to be working for 8+ hours straight, 5 days a week. And even if you are, are you actually getting focused work done that entire time?

Coming from my previous windowless work environment, I really appreciate taking 15-20 minutes to get outside and walk my dogs, or an hour to hit the gym. Even getting a mid-day, crowdless grocery trip in can feel so good. It’s amazing what being active or even just getting sunlight on your face can do for your productivity and mental health.

4. Create a Morning Routine

Even if you’re not commuting to your office everyday, you can still have a morning routine! I’m definitely guilty of working in my PJs, but I really do notice a difference when I dress up for the day and spend some time drinking my coffee before opening my laptop. Even a 5-minute walk can help wake you up and prepare for the day.

5. Take Email/Slack off Your Phone

Obviously this isn’t an option for everyone. But when you have the flexibility to work wherever and whenever you want, it can feel hard to actually STOP working at times. About two years into working remotely, I had to take the email app off my phone entirely as I was constantly checking it on weekends and at nights. I got to a point where I never felt like I could entirely relax and this definitely lead to severe burnout. Do whatever you can to protect your non-work hours. It’s worth it to protect your peace!

6. Really Struggling? Consider Going Somewhere Else for the Day

There are days where I desperately need to leave my house. Prior to the pandemic, I used to belong to a co-working space and would often head there for the day. Before that, I had started spending days at different coffee shops. It’s fun to try out new places and for me personally, I tend to focus really well knowing that I’ll need to leave in 2-3 hours. It puts a time limit on focused work!

7. Plan Zoom Dates

Everyone who works at Lucky Bee is remote, so it’s important to me that we have a weekly check-in meeting where we not only talk about work, but fun things too! Not only that, but I’ve had zoom dates with other small business owners I’ve met online. It’s comforting to know that they’re often going through the same struggles you are!

8. Turn off the T.V.

It’s funny because back in 2018/2019, I would tell people that I worked remotely and they would often exclaim, “I don’t know how you do that, I would watch Netflix all day!”

Here’s the secret: it’s not an option for me. To be fair, when I first started WFH I had so much work to get done that I truly did not have time for that. But now that my schedule is lighter, I really do maintain that work days are that: work days. You don’t get to binge Netflix for four hours at an office, so why would you do that at home? I’m not tempted by it because it is literally not an option in my brain. And even when I rarely do watch T.V., it’s because I’m done for the day or need a mental health day.

9. Time Block

Earlier I mentioned taking breaks, and in practice this may feel difficult when you have SO. MUCH. on your plate. There have been times where I’ve really appreciated time blocking out my entire week and scheduling in those breaks so that I don’t feel guilty while taking them. It can also give you perspective on what is actually urgent and what can maybe be pushed to the end of the week.

10. Accept The Good & The Bad

When I’m feeling down on myself for not being able to focus well, I try to remember that many people are feeling the exact same way! Same with feeling lonely. Obviously there are pros and cons to WFH life and office life, and you’re going to run into the cons. Know that they’re normal and work is still work…sometimes it’ll just suck. Other times you’ll be on cloud nine realizing how lucky you are to have more freedom in your life. 🙂

Do any of these tips resonate with you? Follow us on Instagram and let us know there!

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