5 Lessons 285 Days of Working from Home Taught Me

In November 2019, when I started full time at Double Forte, one perk of the company was the flexibility to work from home one day a week (starting three months after your hire date). In February 2020 I submitted my request and it was granted. I was so excited. Little did I know that I would be working from home the next 285 days…

Initially, the idea of working remotely seemed like an easy set up. Getting up every morning without having to think about my daily commute and working quietly in the comfort of my own home without distraction sounded pretty straightforward to me.

However, I quickly realized that remote work comes with several obstacles and adaptations. There were a lot of adjustments that had to happen to ensure that I was equally as productive and engaged in my daily work life as I would be in the office. While I’m still learning and adjusting, I thought I would share the top five things I’ve learned in this transition for anyone else who is looking to enhance their work from home environment.

1. Create a designated work space

When working from home, it’s easy to get in the habit of working from the couch, the kitchen counter, or even from your bed. While these are comfy and convenient spots to sit at for several hours, they offer very little working space and do not encourage productivity.

Creating a designated workspace that is tidy and spacious is key to success. As they say, “a clean space creates a clean mind.” Having a desk with plenty of space, a comfy chair, office supplies such as different colored pens and highlighters, a notepad, and perhaps a printer and/or monitor is all you need! The moment you sit down at your desk is the moment you enter your “office.” When the work day comes to an end, you can shut off your laptop and leave all your work things in one place and have them ready for your return the next day.

2. Don’t overwork yourself

According to a report done by Owl Labs, those who are working remotely work more than 40 hours per week, which is 43% more than on-site coworkers. With no need to commute to and from work and pack a lunch and/or gym bag, we all have gained back some valuable time in our day. However, that doesn’t mean you need to exceed your eight to nine-hour work day. When the work day is over, it’s crucial you unplug. It is very easy to get sucked into your laptop and that extra time takes away from your personal time.

3. Over communicate

I cannot express this one enough! Keeping your coworkers in the loop of where you are and what you’re working on is crucial when it comes to working remotely, especially when you and your colleagues are working from different time zones. Whether you just landed an article in your client’s dream publication, need an extension on a deadline, or are simply stepping out for lunch, let your teammates know via Slack and email (or whatever communication platforms you use). Celebrate the victories, but also share the small details. Perhaps you do it the Double Forte-way by adding an emoji symbol next to your Slack status to let your teammates know what you’re up to. When in doubt, type it out.

4. Create a schedule with breaks

This might be the biggest lesson I have learned this year. Create a schedule because without one you’ll find yourself wearing pajamas all day and realize you have been sitting for six hours straight without getting up.

Heading into an office creates structure in your day. Your alarm goes off, you get ready, you pack your lunch and maybe a gym bag, you leave and commute to work. When you are off around 5pm, you workout (maybe), see a friend or go home and make dinner. Once home, you unwind from your day and get ready for bed. Without this structure, your entire day can easily mesh together. Leaving your house gives you a purpose to put yourself together.

In order to create structure in your day, block out times in your calendar or set reminders on your phone. Maybe start your day with a workout and shower to encourage you to get out of your Pjs and move! After a meeting, block out 15 minutes on your calendar to walk to the kitchen and grab a glass of water and relax. When it comes time for lunch, step away from your screen and enjoy your food. Be present and do not multitask. Most work days are built around a 30-60 minute lunch break, so take it!

5. Flexibility is key

If I had to pick a word of the year for 2020, “flexibility” would most likely be it. We have all experienced working from different environments this past year, be it our apartment, a friends apartment, our parents house, a car, you name it. Working parents have had to adapt to having their kids at home, which has hindered their availability at work and therefore caused co-workers to be available during off-hours at times.

All of us have dealt with technological issues; wifi shutting down mid-presentation, gardener’s mowing or dogs barking in the background of Zoom calls. This has taught us that we are all human beings trying to make the best of what we’ve got and that many things are out of our control. Flexibility and empathy go a long way.

This has been a year of tremendous growth. Looking back at February, I would have never imagined that I would be working from home for 10+ months. But in doing so, I have learned so much more about my optimal work environment and how to best work with my colleagues remotely. I can now confidently add “ability to work from home and drive results” to my resume.

By: Rebecca Zimmermann