Starting to work from home can be intimidating, even if you see it as a net benefit. If you’ve worked in a traditional office environment for your entire career, you’re used to having access to certain habits and behaviors, like walking over to a coworker’s desk to ask them a question, or visiting the water cooler at exactly 10:30 to refill your water bottle and have some friendly conversation. You’re also probably used to a set routine—one that requires you to be up at a certain time to beat rush hour, and one that requires you to be physically present in different sections of the office at different times of day.
If you’re working from home for the first time, you’ll need to create a new routine from scratch—but you won’t have the eyes of supervisors and coworkers to motivate or enforce your adherence to that routine. For some people, this is incredibly difficult, but there are ways to make it easier.
Use the Right Tools
Your first job is to choose the right tools for the job. You may not have full control over the tools your organization chooses for remote collaboration, but you should be able to choose how you use them—and invest in some tools of your own. Tools like Happeo are designed to make it easier for team members to collaborate with each other on shared projects; once you establish a protocol for how to create projects, how to host discussions, and how to collaborate on shared materials, it will become much easier to lock into a set routine.
Note that this is going to require some experimentation; chances are, your first choices won’t be the perfect tools for your work style or your organization, so try a variety of different options.
Dress Up and Count Yourself Late
In most environments, if you’re working from home, you can get away with dressing in pajamas, and nobody cares if you’re a few minutes late—since nobody sees you walking into the office the way they used to. However, you can’t use these as excuses to get sloppy. You’ll find it much easier to develop a new routine if you continue to dress up as you would for the office—and you’ll be more likely to be focused and productive throughout the day as well. Similarly, it’s important to set a firm “start” time for your day, and count yourself late if you’re even a minute shy of making it.
Designate a Workspace
Similarly, it’s a good idea to designate a space to serve as your home office; this way, you’ll be able to distinguish between what counts as “work time” and what counts as “personal time.” If you don’t, the lines between personal and professional can begin to blur, making it difficult to be successful in either area. If you have a spare room, furnish it with a desk and all the equipment you need to be successful. If you don’t have a full room to build out, at least designate a specific space that you don’t use for leisure time, like a dining room table.
Set a Timer for Breaks
Whether you use the traditional timing of the Pomodoro Technique, or come up with a set of timing intervals on your own, it’s important to set a timer so you can take regular breaks. For example, commit to working on projects for 50 minutes, then take a 10-minute break. These regular intervals will help you stay more focused on your productive work, and will reward you in the form of earned breaks when you stay consistent. If you keep these the same from day to day, eventually, you’ll find yourself naturally locking into this pattern.
It may seem counterintuitive to experiment when your whole goal is consistency, but it’s important to try out different work styles and approaches if you’re new to working from home. Playing with different schedules, different workspaces, and different approaches will help you figure out what motivates you most, and what seems to fit with your instincts the best. Different things work for different people, so it’s on you to identify and incorporate the tactics most likely to help you succeed.
Most people are uncomfortable working from home for the first time, even if they’re excited about the prospect. And there’s no denying it’s a transition that’s going to take time. However, you can accelerate that transition and improve your own morale and productivity by paying close attention to your own habits and working hard to polish them. Don’t be discouraged if your initial routine doesn’t work out; there’s always time to make adjustments and improvements.