Web designers have the ability to work from just about anywhere. Still, just because something is technically possible doesn’t mean it’s easy.
If you suddenly find yourself working remotely on a full-time basis, it can be a big adjustment. The situation is quite different from putting in a few extra hours from home here and there. And it’s miles away from reporting to a physical office each day.
To put it nicely: your entire work life has been thrown off-balance. In order to gain some level of comfort, you’ll need to adjust. But how?
Here’s some advice for those of you who have been unexpectedly forced into working from home.
First, Understand That This Will Be Different
The first part of this requires a bit of acceptance. Your routine has been tossed out the window, and you’re dealing with an unprecedented worldwide crisis. So, no – it’s not normal and it’s not what you’re used to. The sooner you can accept that fact, the better chance you’ll have to succeed.
Therefore, forget about creating an exact replica of life back in the office. Things like your work hours, available hardware and software, along with your overall environment are likely going to be much different. In addition, you won’t be stopping by your colleague’s desk to talk – as much as you might miss that in-person interaction.
Understanding this will help you create your own “new normal”. It’s perhaps the biggest hurdle in adapting to an unexpected change such as this.
Create Your Ground Rules
If you’ve never worked from home before, you may wonder how you can possibly get things done. It might seem like there’s just too much freedom, too many chances to become distracted.
Those dangers are real. And they can indeed wreak havoc on your ability to do your job. To avoid such chaos, it’s important to insert some discipline into the process.
Start by creating some ground rules for how you’re going to operate. Sit down with a piece of paper (or a Word document) and think about:
- Where your “work space” will be;
- The hours you plan to work;
- When you’ll take lunch and breaks;
- Rules for interruptions (kids, phone calls, etc.);
- Any extra equipment or apps you’ll need;
- Any specific tasks you might not be able to do from home;
This is all likely to be very different from what you’re used to – but that’s O.K. The point is building some structure that you can realistically adhere to.
With that in mind, try to avoid rules that are going to be too difficult. For example, if you have a young child at home with you, don’t expect them to just let you work all day. They’re going to want to spend time with you, and it’s great if you’re able to make that time for them.
When it comes to productivity, don’t count on completing tasks with the same efficiency. This is especially so early on, as you’re still trying to gain a foothold on your new routine. That will hopefully will improve with time.
Look for the Positives
With such a sudden change in work environments, you might want to dwell on the negatives. That’s a natural reaction to a predicament that no one asked for.
Yet, there are a whole lot of positive aspects of working from home. Things that you may enjoy more than sitting in an office or being out on the road.
Being close to family, especially your children, is a huge bonus. Parenting and working are difficult, but also very rewarding. Cherish that extra time spent together.
Your work environment itself may also be an improvement. At least, in the sense that you have more freedom regarding how things are set up. If you want to use a certain app, go for it. There’s no IT administrator there to tell you “no”.
Then there are those little perks like grabbing a cup a coffee whenever you like, listening to music and sneaking outside if the weather is nice. And, perhaps best of all: no boss breathing over your shoulder.
The bottom line is that different doesn’t have to be a negative. You may as well make the most out of opportunity and approach it with a smile.
Don’t Forget to Turn Off
Working from home also lends itself to working too much. Because your office might literally be just steps from where you sleep, there’s a temptation to do just “one more” thing. Of course, one thing may turn into another couple of hours spent at your desk.
Compounding the issue is that, depending on where you live, you might be discouraged from going to stores or restaurants during the crisis. That makes it really hard to get away.
So, you can’t leave the house you’ve been working in all day. Not exactly a great recipe for busting that stress.
It’s still vital that you turn off your computer and your phone. Find other things to do outside of work. Whether it’s doing some yard work, playing video games with your kids or exercising. Look for activities that will help to get your mind off the workday.
Go Easy on Yourself
Lastly, don’t be hard on yourself if you’re unable to handle all of this with unfailing optimism and grace. None of this is easy.
And you’re also not alone. There are a whole lot of other people (both inside and outside the web design industry) who are in the same turbulent boat.
Plus, there’s a great deal of uncertainty surrounding us. And no easy answers to our questions and concerns. We’re all just trying our best to move forward, day-by-day.
So, if you’re working at home, give yourself (and your colleagues) some time to adjust. Eventually, it will start to feel right.