A hermit’s guide to working from home

by Matt Bradford – Barrie

Welcome to the work-from-home revolution. Odds are, you’re among the countless Canadians who recently traded a traditional office for a makeshift workspace in your basement, kitchen, closet, or wherever else you can fit a desk.

Making the switch can be a challenge. The good news is it can also have its perks. After 12 years of freelancing from my own home office, here are some tips and lessons I’ve learned that can ease the transition…

Tools of the trade

It’s easy to replicate your office environment at home. Conferencing apps (e.g., Skype, Google Hangouts, GoToMeeting) can facilitate work audio and video calls, while cloud-based programs (e.g., Google Docs, DropBox, Microsoft 365) enable real-time collaboration with co-workers on word documents, presentations, and other projects. Toss in downloadable scheduling apps, performance trackers, meeting recorders, and other online resources, and it’s simple (and virtually free) to be as productive as you were in the office.

Set your hours

It’s tempting to let traditional office hours slide when off your employer’s radar. That’s why setting and – more importantly – sticking to a schedule is key. The more you adhere to a routine, the more motivated you will be throughout the day (and the less you’ll be to ditch deadlines for TV or video games).

Take it easy on the Pjs

I would live in my pajamas if I could. And believe me, I’ve tried. The truth is, putting on some semblance of “work attire” goes a long way to setting a healthy (and sustainable) work mindset. Conversely, wearing pajamas every day tends to create a more relaxed approach that can chip away at productivity (and morale) over time.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you need to break out the suit and tie. Instead, aim for something comfortable that you’d be OK wearing in a meeting with your boss or client. Again, it’s all about setting the right attitude.

That being said…

Let loose (when you can)

These are stressful days. And for work-from-homers with kids and other local distractions, there is no such thing as a normal day. Fortunately, working from home allows you the flexibility to have a little fun. Consider having “Pajama Fridays” to cap the week on a chill note, planning a special lunch with your fellow self-isolators, or taking a break in the comfort of your own backyard.

Working from home, as in life, is all about balance. Finding yours will help manage anxiety and the long-term risks of burnout.

Make it your space

No two home offices are the same. For some, it’s a simple desk in an unused bedroom. For others, it’s a tech-laden command centre in the garage. And for me, it’s a cozy pseudo-man cave in the basement with jazz music on loop (don’t judge). There are no hard and fast rules for how your new office looks (unless your employer says otherwise), so take this opportunity to set up your dream 9-5 environment.

Manage your “co-workers”

I’ve lost track of the client calls I’ve had interrupted by hungry kids or wandering cats. And I can’t count the number of breaks I’ve taken to find an episode of Paw Patrol (“the OnE witH TraCKER, Daddy!”). The truth is working from home means working in close proximity to family and friends – especially now when child care is virtually non-existent.

A hermit's guide to working from home
A hermit’s guide to working from home

How do you find the balance? Let me know when you figure that out. Every household will find its own groove, and none will ever be perfect. That’s why its important to make peace with a little bit of chaos, and go easy on yourself when you have to prioritize work over playtime.

Working from home is nothing new, but recent events have made it the new “normal” for office-dwellers around the world. The change can be discomforting at first, but with the right tools, mindset, and environment, you may find it hard to go back.