Most of us who never knew what W.F.H. meant before 2020 are relatively familiar with the acronym now. It stands for ‘Work From Home” – a concept that is being explored like never before. Some of us like it, some don’t, but as the danger of COVID-19 ebbs and flows, so might the amount of time we spend in an office…wherever that may be. For court reporters, it’s not a new concept. Our court reporters have been taking depositions via Zoom and perfecting most of their transcripts at home for quite some time. For the rest of us, getting thrust into the new situation of quarantining in our homes, not seeing our friends and family, and eventually dusting off our keyboards has been rough (to say the least).
I set up an ad hoc home office, not expecting things to last as long as they have. The card table in front of a window was fine (it’s not as if anyone was coming over). But over a year and a half of working at home, my setup morphed as much as my responsibilities at Cady Reporting. I finally realized that my WFH situation wouldn’t be over anytime soon, and I needed to set up something a little more permanent. So here are some helpful tips and tricks to make working from home feel more home and less work.
- Atmosphere: When I began to work from home, I was like a kid. I just started grabbing things from around the house that I wanted and needed to get my job(s) done. As the pandemic raged on, more and more random things piled up around me until one day I walked in and realized what my surroundings were:
As soon as I realized how much help I actually needed, I decided to make significant changes to my surroundings. I started by putting away all of the random bits and bobs that had made their way to my makeshift workspace like chapstick that’s lost its chap, single earrings that have lost their mates, and pens without ink. Next, I organized all of my papers, notebooks, and other necessities. After everything was tidy, the next step was to think about, as they say, “location, location, location.” Did I want to continue working in a random corner of my house, or would it be better to carve out a space of my own? Finally, I chose a spot in my house that allowed me to work in my desired atmosphere.
Business etiquette expert, Jaqueline Whitmore, suggests that the ideal home office setup is its own space, you don’t have to share with anyone else, and one that can be closed off by a door. Unfortunately, this setup is not possible in all situations. When we moved in, my husband and I didn’t plan on having a home office, so a designated space wasn’t happening for me. If you’re like me without a room just for you, at least try to find a desk that’s all your own. That way, you can have a space to focus on work but hopefully not creep into other spaces in your life. It’s essential to have your own WFH space.
2. Supplies: What does your office need?
I began to think about what my office needed for me to best perform at my highest level, even when I wasn’t in my ‘natural surroundings’ (at least when referring to the office). For some people, aesthetics are critical to be focused and productive. For me, I’m an aesthetics person. When everything matches and feels like it flows, my creativity seems to flow as well. So while I didn’t go out and purchase all new office supplies, I purchased a couple of new things to bring together all of my older supplies from around my house. Can you bring home some of your most-loved objects from your office? If not, Amazon, T.J. Maxx, and (in the Cleveland area) Marc’s are some places that you can find a few reasonably-priced items that you love.
Do you have a job that requires a lot of sitting? Then, a supportive and comfortable office chair is significant. But how do you choose a chair? Check here for a how-to guide to pick your best office chair. Another comfort element you will want to take into consideration is lighting. When do you do most of your work? Is there natural lighting? What other factors should you consider when you want to best light your office? Click here for a guide to office lighting.
3. Prepare for Distraction: Kids, Pets, and Noise
Anyone who has children or has even been around them knows how distracting they can be. Not because they’re loud or messy, but because they are so cute! How do you say no to that little face who wants you to playdough at this very moment? One suggestion that readers have made is to set your schedule and stick to it. Children can then get to know what your work hours are and that you are unavailable during those times.
If there is a project that you need quiet for, arranging a window of child care of a play date would be a great idea. If your little one is young enough, many moms use nap times as a way to power through that one project that needs their undivided attention. If you don’t have children, there can still be many noisy distractions. We have a Beagle mix at home, so we have our fair share of that classic beagle howl! Besides that, my neighbor is very into lawn care. At any hour of the day, I can bet on hearing leaf blowers, lawnmowers, edgers…you name it. My friend suggests a white noise machine, but the way I keep my concentration where it needs to be is with my noise-reducing or noise-canceling headphones. Some are relatively inexpensive on Amazon, and for me, this works wonders! Regardless if you prefer headphones or earbuds, there are some great selections.
4. Breaks: Building Them in Meaningfully
Is there a big pile of laundry staring at you with its mismatched-sock googly eyes? You are trying to type away, but those eyes are burrowing into your brain. What do you do? Build that laundry pile into meaningful breaks! Dividing your time between 2 different types of breaks is good for you. One kind of break takes care of things that need handling (like the laundry monster), but some of those precious breaks should be just for you! There are not many emails or situations that cannot wait to be taken care of for 10 or 15 minutes.
Taking just that tiny amount of time to get away from your computer and calm your brain is necessary to maintaining a healthy work/life balance. This separation (or melding) of your work routine and home routine is more essential than ever. Working from home can so easily blur the lines and boundaries of your life. When we create a new routine that incorporates both work and home life in balance with each other, we can more easily transition to working from home, keeping our sanity and not getting burned out.
These are just a few helpful hints to making your work-from-home a success. So whether or not you are a court reporter, attorney, paralegal, or another professional working from home during this crazy time, you can maintain your sanity, and hopefully, avoid burnout!