Pants required: Five good tips for working from home and staying productive

In my association management life, I am the Director of Marketing for the Society for Simulation in Healthcare. SSH is a 100-percent virtual association, meaning we work from home 365/7.

Here are five tips reflecting what I’ve learned works best after moving from an office environment to this virtual environment in January 2019:

  1. Establish a regular routine – One of the most important tips I can give is to have a work routine just the same way you did when you traveled to work. Get up at a regular time. Make your coffee or breakfast the same way you did before. Shower and dress the same way you would (unless it’s slacks and a tie – you don’t have to do that anymore!). Important part there is to get dressed in something more than PJs. It helps with setting your mind in the right, productive tone for the day. “Arrive” at work at the same time generally.

    All of these things help train you into a routine that gets you ready for a work day versus feeling less than productive. 
  1. Have a dedicated workspace – Others who work from home may disagree here, but it has helped me tremendously to have a desk/workspace away fromTVs (though I may have it on sometimes as background noise), the couch, or anywhere else that may invite me to a setting that makes me less productive. No matter where you set your space, keep it the same. This also helps train you into a routine that kicks your “business mind” into gear.
  1. Interruptions are going to happen – I’m a married father of two under the age of 4. My wife is an elementary teacher (summers off; lately, the whole family is home nearly every day). I have had to understand that sometimes, I have to move into the garage, a small room downstairs, anywhere that gets me some quiet while on a Zoom call or meeting. Still, even with all of that, there will be times where the dog will bark, the kids will scream, someone will knock on the front door, etc. You have to learn to roll with “life”. 

    If you’re not good at this part, think of it as a skill you just need to develop. That mindset helped me to not get frustrated and focus on how to workaround the issue.
  1. Take breaks – This plays into No. 6 below, but you are, in fact, working. This means you need to take care of yourself during the day and give yourself a break. Working from home provides some great benefit here because that means you can take 10 minutes to stroll down your street, check your garden for a few minutes, flip on the TV – whatever you do to get a quick disconnect and refresh. This is a necessity to stay productive during the day.
  1. Stay connected – In my role within our association, I actually talk more during the week to all staff in this space more than I ever did in my in-person role. Other virtual roles may not be as connected, but unless you’re the ultimate introvert, you should make it a priority to set some calls with virtual coworkers – just to hear their voice, go over project planning and execution at a deeper level than email (where thoughts and emotions can be misrepresented or misinterpreted), and feel more like you’re a part of a team instead of on a list of voiceless employees.