Tips for Working from Home: Serenity Now, Work Buddies, and Phone Tossing

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Working from home has become the new reality for many since March 2020 when COVID-19 hit the U.S. in full force. And as another surge swells across the nation during the winter months, a vast majority of people are still taking care of business from make-shift workstations at home—including Inkling employees. We decided to turn our focus inward and ask our people how they’re staying motivated, productive, and focused.

Routine, Routine, Routine

Most of our survey respondents attribute their productivity to a daily routine. The majority said that routine includes at least one cup of coffee, as one respondent puts it, “Coffee. An absolute must with no exceptions.”

Others begin their day with morning walks, meditation, and vigorous exercise. One employee starts his day with learning: “I have a bookmark folder that contains all of my daily information feed websites. I launch them all with a single right-click then spend 30 to 90 minutes educating myself both personally and professionally.”

After that, employees get to work and they make sure to take breaks to avoid burnout. Many have also set up a designated workspace that’s separate from their living space, although it does get challenging for some who don’t have as much space as they’d like. And while some like having plants, candles, or soothing decor, others like a minimal space to encourage focus.

What the majority of our respondents seem to know intrinsically is that routine is key, especially during these times of uncertainty. Research shows that routines not only help with productivity levels, they also play an important role in mental health.** A lack of structure and routine can contribute to feeling out of control so Inkling employees suggest carving out a simple routine to keep productivity and motivation levels high.

Dealing with Distractions

When everyone is at home, distractions are inevitable. But just being at home creates the opportunity for work interruptions. Even those who live alone find themselves getting distracted. The overwhelming majority of Inkling employees said their biggest distractions in working from home are family, children, and pets. The next big distraction is social media followed by snacking, phone calls/emails, texts, and package deliveries.

And how are Inkling employees managing all these distractions? Those who have family at home say it’s important to let everyone know when it’s okay to interrupt work and when it’s not. And the majority of respondents say shared workspaces don’t work, especially with children.

Having a door to close is the best way to lock out distractions and if that’s not available, posting a note that says something like “In working session. Do not disturb,” helps. Using “mute” is another way to limit noisy distractions when attending Zoom meetings or conference calls, and of course, putting on headphones or earbuds drowns out most disturbances.

“Keeping the cat happy by playing with him or petting him during my breaks so he doesn’t walk in front of my screen during Zoom meetings.”

As for pets, keeping them “worn out” with lots of walks or playing seems to be the answer: “I take breaks to walk my dog. This keeps her tired so she’s less prone to bother me.”

Tips for dealing with the temptation of social media include removing the “red dot” notifications from their devices, rearranging the home screen so social media apps aren’t up-front-and-center, and in desperate times, “I just throw my phone across the room. Quite literally. Out of sight. Out of mind.”

Making it Work

One of the biggest benefits of working at home is the elimination of a long commute. Many Inkling employees say more control over their routine and more flexibility are benefits while at the same time the biggest challenge is the melding of work/personal life and how to establish boundaries between the two.

Advice on staying motivated includes taking plenty of breaks, getting outside to refresh, and setting realistic goals for the day. An idea for those who need more socialization is to set up a Zoom meeting or call with a co-worker or friend that’s dedicated to inspiring work motivation, “You both keep each other productive, like a workout buddy but for work.”

But, the one piece of advice that stood out on making it work when working from home is: “Every now and then just shout out, ‘Serenity now!’”

** Arlinghaus KR, Johnston CA. The importance of creating habits and routine. Am J Lifestyle Med. 2018.