Us EHDers are officially working from home, until further notice. Which we are very grateful for. We know that working from home is a luxury, especially right now. But just because we can work from home doesn’t mean we know how to work from home.
I mean hello! Our comfortable beds are RIGHT THERE, the TV is just begging us to turn on our favorite mindless show, and you know the fridge probably has a magical new treat inside if we open it just One. More. Time. But as long as we get to work from home, work we must.
So in a moment of genius (and selfishness to get to talk to one of my favorite people in the world), I remembered that EHD alum Arlyn used to work from home regularly, and loved it. So I immediately shot her a text asking her to graciously give us some WFH tips. This post is for ALL of us. Let the showering of wisdom begin . . . .
Were there any big challenges going from an office to your home?
Truthfully, I LOVED working from home, but it was a much easier transition for me because two of my coworkers—and best friends—were transitioning to freelance work right around the same, so I had a built-in support system. I do remember a period early on where they were both out of town for several weeks and I found myself feeling a bit depressed and lonely. Right around then was the time I made a rule for myself: Leave the house to work somewhere else, anywhere else, at least 1 day a week (ideally 2). Just being around other humans is incredibly impactful to your mental health!
Translating that for today’s situation, setting up a time for a phone date or Facetime with a friend or family member will undoubtedly help you feel more connected in a time where we need to keep our physical distance. I know it has helped me.
What did a typical day look like? Did you have a set routine that helped you focus?
YES! Routine is everything when you work from home. There were times I slept in a little, but I tried to get up early enough to “get ready,” meaning freshening up, changing OUT of my pajamas (even if it was just into other comfy clothes, but this process was crucial to me), making my coffee, making some breakfast and settling into my desk. I often ate breakfast at my desk while I was catching up on emails and frankly, that time in the morning, sipping my coffee at my desk was the best part of my day.
I also spoke to my little brother this past weekend and since he got his degree online, I asked him for some tips. These were his go-tos:
He preferred eating a solid meal before starting his work, filling up an extra-large container of his favorite beverage (so there’s less of a reason to go back and forth to the kitchen, aka distraction), and set scheduled breaks. He was also big on sticking to his scheduled workday. Meaning you can either adhere to an “end time” or a “last task.” Arlyn agrees that this is important. The lines between working from home and being at home can easily get blurred.
Did you always make your bed?
Ha, no. If I lived in a studio where my desk was near my bed, yes I would have. I lived in a two-bedroom condo at the time, and my desk was set up in an open area of my living room, so my bed was never tempting me!
I asked her this because I have heard this can really help with being productive. I also had a friend tell me one that you should always put on shoes when working from home, so you won’t be tempted to get back in bed. Now you absolutely do not have to do any of this but if you are struggling, it could help.
Did you change into “work clothes”?
Yup! Again, even if it’s just a comfy T-shirt and leggings, do it. It made me feel better, but also, and maybe this is controversial, but I think it also made Charles (my then fiance, now husband) feel better. He didn’t leave the house with me in my PJs and come home to me in my PJs, braless, disheveled. Ha! If things were flipped, I wouldn’t have liked coming home to him in PJs either.
Did you set up a specific “office” area in your home that made you feel like you were in work mode? Or did you change locations throughout the day?
I HAD to have a proper workspace. It’s easy to just plop down on the sofa, or bring your laptop into bed, but I work best with a large monitor, in a real desk chair. When I got to “my office” (a part I designated in my living room near a window!), it was work time. If I just lounged in bed with my computer, I know I wouldn’t have been as focused.
Obviously Arlyn had time to prepare for her WHF area. But, the takeaway for the majority of us is to just designate an official workspace, even if it’s just your dining room table. It can help you focus and set boundaries.
Did you do any stretching throughout the day?
I did all kinds of things, though mostly dance. I’d go through periods of time when I’d take “dance breaks.” I’d put on a song I liked (I was in a big Ed Sheeran phase at the time), and just get up and dance furiously for one or two songs, then sit back down. It lifted my mood, made me move . . . I recommend it to everyone!
I will absolutley be doing this:)
Was there anything on your desk that made your workspace happier?
Yes! I got a pretty desk, a nice gray leather office chair, put up some art on the wall nearby, had a shelving unit I styled (it had my printer down at the bottom), and a blue leather mousepad that said “extraordinary” on it in brass embossing. I still love that thing!
Again, Arlyn had time to make an official set up, but if you expect you will be working from for a while and want to purchase office furniture, they’re lots of furniture companies that are still able to ship. If you are interested head here for some of our favorites. But if you can’t or don’t really need to, you can also just add something that makes you happy onto your “desk” to brighten your workday, like a candle or photo. Also, never forget the power of a little plant 🙂
Any helpful apps or sites to keep you organized/on track?
I used/use Evernote for EVERYTHING. I use it for all my to-do lists, to save inspo photos, to make grocery lists. You can create “notebooks” so you can separate work things from personal things. If you don’t use it, check it out. It’s like my life right hand, and has been for years. It syncs from your computer to your phone, to your personal laptop . . . it goes with you everywhere!
And if you are a company that doesn’t have an internal messaging system yet, we (and A LOT of other companies) use Slack, thanks to Arlyn 🙂
Was turning on the TV helpful or a distraction?
It was helpful! Otherwise, it gets QUIET, too quiet. I didn’t really “watch” it as much as it was a space filler, background noise, like hearing other people talking in an office. Sometimes, I’d take a little break and sit on the sofa to watch, but never longer than like 20 minutes or so (unless I took an actual lunch break. Which almost never happened. TAKE LUNCH BREAKS PEOPLE).
Any good playlists you loved to listen to while you worked?
It’s hard for me to listen to music and write, but oddly, I could play Gilmore Girls in the background and be totally fine. Ha! Find what works for you and make no apologies.
Jess here. I was always the type of person that needed complete silence when I did any kind of “thinking” work. But then I had to start writing at work and found the Study Station on Tidal. I LOVE it. It helps me to completely tune out the rest of the world and still be productive. Now I know that most people have Spotify (Tidal got me with Beyonce’s Lemonade release) but they likely have a similar type of “focus” playlist.
Are you going to be working from home in light of the current situation? And is Charles (Arlyn’s husband) now also working from home? If yes, is that a challenge?
We both start working from home starting on Monday (well, I started last Thursday). We’re going to set up the dining room as our “work command center.” Bring out both of our big displays to connect to our laptops, and hope that it’s just like being with another coworker. Chit chat when we get bored, eat lunch together. I’m actually pretty excited!
They are truly one of the sweetest couples in the world so I don’t doubt for a second that they won’t have any trouble working in the same home. But if any of you have tips for working from home with a partner, roommate, or especially kids, please let us know your wisdom in the comments.
Any other tips and tricks?
My #1 tip is to set boundaries for yourself. I find that a lot of people get the “guilties” for working from home. Like, you have to PROVE you’re working harder than anyone at an office, so you clock in early, work later, never take a lunch. I have fallen victim to that often, which is where the “office” that you set up for yourself really helps. Work hard, sure, but “leave” the office when you’re done for the day. DO NOT continue to do work on your laptop once you “leave.” That’s just extending the workday and creates serious burnout. I still have that rule: No working from bed EVER. I don’t want to associate my bedroom with work. Trust me, you don’t either 🙂 No one is very productive after 8-10 hours of working anyway. At some point, you’re just clicking around, so STOP. Call it a day, come back tomorrow refreshed.
Thank you, Arlyn, for those incredibly helpful tips! Now, I just need to actually implement them so I can be as productive as Arlyn.
I just want to say that by no means are we saying you need anything new to create a productive workspace. But if you needing or looking for something to brighten your space (or simply a desk to work at) here are a few suggestions.
Some of our ladies sit in #8 at the office and really love it. Sara uses #5 nonstop, and let’s just say I will use any excuse to go near her desk. She hears “Hey, Sara?” probably too much. But I am likely going to buy that one or #10 for my home because what’s better than a workspace (and house) that smells amazing. Not a lot things.
Well, that’s it from us (at home). I hope that if you are also one of the lucky ones who gets to work from home that you now feel more confident in knowing you can be just as productive. I mean we have all of Arlyn’s secrets!
Look, this is a weird and scary time and taking care of ourselves by staying home as much as possible while trying to support those that can’t is crucial. Thank you to all the healthcare providers, grocery store employees, delivery people, and teachers who are still needing to teach, and anyone else putting their health at risk for the safety and care of the rest of us.
We here at EHD will continue to provide a happy and safe place to escape to whenever you need. We will also ease off of the “quarantine content” (we have an incredible reveal later this week) because we know that a break from the news is just as important as staying informed. And as always, let us know what you want to read and we will do our best to make it happen.
Love you, and truly mean it.
Really needed this. I want to cosign the designated work space tip. As for me, with the public schools closed in my area for a month, working from my small home is going to be challenging. Any tips for keeping the kids busy while I work? I tried setting up an “office” space for one kid next to me with his “work” (a workbook), and it sort of worked. Side note: I feel incredibly privileged that my office is offering two weeks of telework. After mine ends but my kids’ time off continues, I have no idea what I’ll do, and I know there are a lot of people who don’t have any options for telework and are already in a huge pickle.
A cheery free idea you can do for your home right in your yard: Snip a few forsythia (or other species) twigs, make a bouquet, and wait for the blooms and leaves to be “forced”. Small bunches on your home desk, in the bathroom, a larger spray in a bigger space.
Does anyone have tips for working at home with children? Or can this be a separate blog entry? My husband and I are trying to split our work day while watching our 18 mo old. We can’t even use screen time bc he’s just not interested. Not that we want to.
We are trying to do the same but kids are a little older (2 & 4), so screen time works some times. Take advantage of when your child is sleeping! Wake up a little early, take full advantage of nap time, and work after they are in bed for the night. When it’s your turn to work, go to a part of the house away from your little one if possible. Out of sight, out of mind is huge. Your active work hours may look a little different than normal, but I think you are more productive in those hours.
I was lucky to be able to work from home when my first child was born but it also came with huge challenges! The hardest thing to do was find time for myself to rest as I had to work when my child was napping. If you have a baby and work from home please remember to take naps when you can and ask for help from your partner or a friend if you need a break! I also cleaned my work station at the end of everyday as I had to have my desk in my bedroom. It really helped me calls it quits and rest my mind at the end of my workday and wake up without focusing immediately on everything I needed to get done.
Focus Keeper app or tomato-timer on your browser are also super helpful to stay focused while also offering clear break times.
ooh thanks so much for this rec! x
I ran a consultancy from home for several years. I had a dedicated study to do ut from. I found it difficult to stop working, probably because I found my work stimulating and creative. Since retiring early and closing down my business, my study has dissolved (also, because my partner retired and didn’t want a whole room in a small house to be just for a computer and masses of books and other resources). He didn’t like the big black screen of the computer when it was off, as it often is most days now, and suggested covering it with something. Boom! Grrreat idea! I chose a hand woven piece of fabric from Vietnam, given to me by my best friend. It has entirely changed the energy and vibe of the room it is now in, a multi-purpose room. I sooooo wish I’d done this when I was running my business! I just know it would’ve helped me STOP working and switch off….no computer screen calling me to empty my my mind via the keyboard… just a pretty artisan fabric. If you enjoy yourwork, or if you feel driven harder to prove yourself to youremployer now you’re working from home… Read more »
Rusty thank you for sharing your experience. Simple yet very effective idea. I think I will try it!
There are some very helpful tips right there! Thank you for sharing and asking so many relevant questions. It is my first time working from home at the moment, and I need to find the right routine, so I’ll be looking at this post again to pick some things I can apply for myself! 🙂
hey Julia, so happy you found this post so helpful! 🙂
This post is perfectly timed. Thank you!
I would LOVE more budget room designs! Maybe for a full bath? I miss those!
I cosign this! Especially since the EHD team can do them without any social interactions. Maybe a budget home office, or a laundry room?
As always thank you for your wonderfully considered posts! I was wondering if any of you had essential oils you recommend for the diffuser? Any brands and combos of scents you use that you love?
I love herby scents so my favorites right now are the Lemon & Mint and Citrus & Basil oils from Target’s Everspring line. But I also really like a eucalyptus or fir for a woody scent.
I actually work better on the couch because I can recline a little – much more comfortable for my back so I can get into longer cycles of productivity. I can’t stand sitting at a tiny desk facing a wall. If I need a desk I use the dining table. I need to find some sort of rolling storage for all my notes, plans, samples and stuff. Like a tabouret, something with a flat surface.
The hardest part of working from home is if anyone else is around and they keep interrupting. I have this same problem at the office. For me, noise cancelling headphones are the best way to keep focused.
Great tips! I’ve worked from home for nearly 20 years (that seriously blows my mind!). My husband also works from home, and we share an office. It totally works for us, but I’ve had plenty of people tell me they could never work with their husbands. So you need to figure out what works best for you. We like to chat and read news stories to each other, but we try to be respectful of each other’s work, so we ask if it’s a good time. Boundaries are a big issue when working from home. Make sure the other people in your life know that are working and aren’t available for chitchat. (That said, do make some time to engage with others during the workday, especially if you are an extrovert.) Setting up your office in a room with a door is ideal. But if you have to use the dining table or set up in the living room, you might want to invest in noise-canceling headphones. Just wearing headphones is a signal that you are not available to talk. I also suggest sticking to a schedule. Start at the time you normally would in the office, and end at… Read more »
Yes- give us a break from the news! Thank you, ladies!
Lovely, encouraging post and so helpful! Thank you x
Thanks for the tips. I am a student, and I’m one of those who don’t like going to the library to work, so I’m quite used to work from home, but I fear I lack discipline, which results in me procrastinating and not doing much work. I fear this will be even harder not being able to go out to meet friends for coffee or just going to class, but hopefully by following some of those it will get better.
Have a nice day, and stay safe.