Working from Home: The Struggle is Real

Working remotely is the new normal
A third of Americans are working from home, many for the first time. Balancing this new reality coupled with new responsibilities such as a coworking spouse and distance learning youngsters, the struggle is real. Sound familiar? Most likely, you can relate to this.  It is essential to understand that these are real challenges that affect you and are undoubtedly affecting your customers.  Breathe.  There are ways to manage working from home, be more productive, and actually enjoy it!

How to make any space work as a home office
Alright, so you don’t have a 16,000 square foot house with a home corner office?  No worries.  It is all about a dedicated space, not necessarily a dedicated “room.”  Sure, having a door and a window is a bonus, but there are ways to cope without these and still exceed expectations in your role while working from home.

Working from home doesn’t just happen. There are some critical planning and set-up required to be the most successful. Here are a few essential things to consider when deciding where you will set up shop.

  • Scope out a dedicated space that you can call your own: When considering where you will locate your new home office, it is vital to take inventory of your options and possible distractions and benefits to each potential location. Try to stay clear of any high traffic areas where it will seem impossible to concentrate. If possible, choosing a room that allows you to close the door can be a huge bonus!  Be creative. Unused space in a large storage room could be an option.  If you will utilize a place like a kitchen or living room, try choosing a corner and facing a wall, versus doubling the kitchen table or couch as your workspace.  The goal is to create a space dedicated to your work.
  • Choose your background wisely: If you intend to hold virtual meetings, the background you choose must be visually pleasing to your viewers. You don’t want to be talking with coworkers or clients with laundry or any evidence of your household dismay in plain sight.  We all have it, but we don’t need to showcase it.  Your background should be professional and a representation of your role and personality!
  • Evaluate the lighting: Great lighting is essential to productivity. While facing a window could be a distraction, having natural light in the space is vital to your productivity and stress levels.  Natural light has many health benefits. It provides a quick boost of vitamin D and helps to ward off seasonal depression.  Ditching the drapes will help to increase the natural light. A quick tip is to hang a mirror to help bounce the natural light throughout your space.  Test your lighting while using your engagement platform, such as Zoom, and rearrange any desk lamps.  Having a lamp positioned directly behind your desktop/laptop camera is a game-changer for virtual presentations.
  • Gather all your work essentials: Every position requires different tools to get the job done. However, there are some non-negotiables. A sturdy desk and comfortable office chair are at the top of the list.  If you invest in something new, consider a desk that converts to a standing desk, and your neck and shoulders will thank you later.  A stack of books, crates, anything that will allow you to transition to standing while working will also work. Next on the list is noise-canceling headphones.  These will enable you to concentrate on the task at hand fully.  If you are sharing your home workspace with anyone else at any time of the day, gather all the highly sought after items like phone chargers, plugins, etc. and make sure that they don’t disappear.
  • Test the Wi-Fi: Nothing is worse than setting up the perfect space only to find out that your internet connection is unstable in that location.  If necessary, invest in a booster to get the best connection and eliminate future frustrations.
  • Disruptions: You may have a new set of coworkers these days. Spouses, distance learning littles, and fur babies are great to have around but may cause some disruptions to your usual routine.  If you have been online shopping more than expected, the doorbell and dog barking that follows may also prove problematic.  Consider these when choosing your space.  Try to limit the amount of additional noise you may encounter throughout the day in the best area of your home.

Tips on staying productive
There is no doubt that avoiding rush hour traffic and the convenience of working from home can be incredible. Still, it has the downside of either lowered productivity or, for you overachievers out there, working ALL THE TIME.   Finding balance is essential to truly reap the benefits of high professional productivity and enhanced personal fulfillment.

  • Stick to your morning routine: While working in your pajamas may seem liberating at first, you may encounter that this attire is prone to laziness in the future. Set the alarm and start your day at the same time.  Take a shower, comb your hair, and dress for success. Your routine is more important now than ever before.  You may find that this not only increases your work productivity but will lead to enhanced personal productivity. Encourage your new coworkers (a.k.a. family members) to follow suit (no pun intended) as well.
  • Set boundaries: Now that your family is ‘up and at ’em’ and dedicated to their routine, use breakfast as a time to discuss the day, any important meetings, and times when you will be available. Starting and ending your workday at the same time each day will help you maintain not only your sanity, but will lead to increased focus during working hours. When setting your calendar schedule times throughout the day to check your email versus checking each time a notification appears.  Do not allow your email to rule your schedule for increased productivity.
  • Take regularly scheduled breaks: You may find that you miss the water cooler banter more than you had anticipated, and with the lack of camaraderie, you may find yourself navigating to social media more than you expected. Schedule time for breaks throughout the day for social connections.  If suddenly, seeing a sink full of dishes gives you anxiety, walk away, and tackle that task on your next scheduled break.  When you are not on your scheduled break, stick to the task at hand. Then reward yourself when you have completed small goals.
  • Eat: Grazing may be your new normal now that the fridge and pantry are within a few steps, or you may realize it’s the afternoon and you haven’t eaten yet. Either one will wreak havoc on your productivity.  Just like scheduling breaks, schedule your mealtimes.  Keeping a cupboard or shelf in the fridge stocked with healthy snacks may help you stay out of the junk food or easily accessible items you were not privy to when working in the office.  Try to disconnect and not multitask while enjoying lunch.  Revitalize your body and mind and then attack the afternoon with a fresh perspective.
  • Stay connected: Social connections with coworkers and friends are essential to your mental health.  These connections now may require you to make them priorities.  Many people may experience a feeling of isolation in today’s society if they do not make connections a significant part of their day.  Connections don’t necessarily mean physical contact. Consider a Facetime call to a coworker over an email when you have a question or a weekly Zoom meeting to discuss challenges to help you stay connected and fulfilled.
  • De-stress: Be aware of your mental state. There may be new expectations of you in the home, your role at work, and that you have put on yourself.  Shut down and give yourself a much-deserved break when needed.  Remind yourself that you are doing your best. It’s ok to be vulnerable and ask for help when you find yourself needing it.

Remaining productive without a dedicated office
You may find that working remotely is your new routine for an extended or indefinite period.  Here are some essential tips to remain productive in the long term.

  • Develop a plan: Set goals, both personally and professionally, for the week ahead. Making a list and marking off your accomplishments will not only keep you on track and help you remain productive, it allows you to celebrate your small wins each day.  Share your goals and schedule with others on your team and in your home.  At the end of the day, share your successes and challenges.
  • Limit distractions: Not only do you want to limit your distractions, but you also want to assist your coworkers, and family members succeed. If you have a spouse or little that is also working remotely, it is important to have ground rules and try to stick to them as much as possible.
  • Change of scenery: Even the best laid out remote office can encounter productivity obstacles. You may experience days where working from your home office is not an option.  The noise of road construction right outside your window or the sound of a lawnmower may limit your ability to concentrate.  No need to fret!  Pack your go-to bag and head to your local coffee shop, co-working space, or meeting room at a hotel.  The change of scenery will boost your productivity, and you may find yourself scheduling “work away from home” day once a week.
  • Be forgiving: Evaluate each day. Discover what is working well and stick to it!  Make changes when necessary, and soon you will have developed a routine that allows you to tackle all your goals.


April Eskelson is the Director of Training of Jacaruso Enterprises, Inc. Jacaruso provides remote hotel sales service and virtual eLearning to over 800 hotels in the US, Canada, Mexico and Latin America.  

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