Tips on Transitioning to Remote Work

By a strange twist of fate, some of the research I was focusing on towards the end of my faculty time was actually on telecommuting and work-life balance. So, as many of us make this transition to working remotely, I wanted to share some general tips and things to think about when it comes to working remotely:

* Setup an “office space” in your home and treat it as such. If you have a spare room, great, but if not, even a table in the corner of a room can work. It’s easy for the lines between work and home to be blurred when you are working and living in the same space. Creating a dedicated work space can help you maintain that separation. This is one the first recommendations in almost all articles on working remotely.

* Keep a “work” routine. I know this is one that I struggle with if I don’t focus on it. It’s easy for me to just roll out of bed and stumble down the hall to the “office”, but the act of “getting ready for work” can make a difference in your day. Try to stick to your “normal” morning routine of getting ready to go to work (shower, get dressed, etc.) as much as possible (and reasonable). All of those behavioral cues tell your body that something is changing that separates “home” from “work”. You might have more time for your routine and be able to dress more casually, but going through the routine can help you refocus from “home” to “work”. Also, remember that at some point this is going to end and we’ll be going back into the office. Based on some articles, it takes about 30 days to establish a habit, but habits are hard to break. So, keep positive habits and that transition back will be easier when it comes.

* Take breaks, especially at night. During the work day we all get up and move around to some degree, even if it’s just stepping into the conference room for a cup of coffee. Although we need to be available and reachable, we aren’t in our office at all times. So, don’t be afraid to take those breaks to get up and walk around a bit. Just be careful they don’t become too distracting. (I had to remind myself today that the dishes could be done after I got off work even though they were sitting there when I finished lunch.)

* Set an alarm for the end of your work day. This can be important for helping keep the work-life balance in check. I know it’s easy for me to get focused on a task and want to keep going until it’s done. When we’re in the office we have a signal to “stop” because everyone is getting up and leaving for the day, even if we keep working beyond that point. At home it’s easy to just keep going since we don’t have that cue, so if you need to set an alarm for 5 PM to signal the end of your work day don’t be afraid to do it.

* Close down your “office”. Similar to setting the alarm to signal the end of the day, it might be worth “closing down” your office/work space to signal that you aren’t there. If it’s in a separate room, close the door. If it’s a table in the corner, throw a sheet over it. If you’re working at the kitchen table, back up the laptop and papers and set them aside to transition the space from “office” to “home”. Just try and do something to help separate work from home. It’s easy to think about “one more thing” related to work and want to jump on it right away when the office is just a few steps away, but keep in mind that it will be there tomorrow when you “go into work”. I know there are nights I bring work home, but more and more I’m trying to just make notes about the things to remind me the next day. Sure there will be times we need to work those extra hours to get things done, but it’s also important to remember that at some point the work day ends and our home life begins.

* Keep a “home” routine. Just like you have a routine to get ready to go to work, you probably have a routine for when you get home. Change your clothes (assuming you’re wearing some) or do something to signal to your body that “work is over” and that you are now “at home”.