Lessons Learned from Working from Home

By: Brenda de Borja

Many of us began working from home shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic struck in March of 2020. Although it requires a little more coordination, I admit that I love the quiet time just before I start the day, sipping my hot cup of coffee while looking out the window. With a few tweaks, I’ve managed to work effectively from my home office, utilizing a daily to-do list and remembering to pause for daily self-care. Here are some simple tips I’d like to share on what helps me stay productive and balanced while working from home:

Change out of those Pajamas!

This does not mean that you must put on your office wear, but changing into something other than loungewear is recommended. It is all about getting in the right mindset, and I find that this helps me get into my “work mode” more quickly. For client meetings, business casual is recommended to maintain professionalism and respect. Remember, if you are on the camera that you will be seen from the waist up, so consider this when selecting your work from home attire each day.

Set-up your Workspace

Designate an area in your house as your home workspace. Be sure the room is well-lit so that you are clearly visible during video conference calls.  I have my desk facing a window, so natural light comes in. I also have a natural light lamp to use when it’s dreary out. Comfort is a must, so if able, invest in an ergonomic desk chair to support you during those marathon meetings. Consider using an adjustable desk or a monitor stand and an ergonomic chair. Your legs and back will thank you.

Supplies are a Must

Take inventory of the supplies that are required to support your day-to-day work activities. Keep your most frequently used items within easy reach – phone, earbuds, pens, paper, chargers, printer, etc. Additional considerations include hand sanitizer, lotion, facial tissues, and eye drops. Blue light glasses are used by many of our team members to combat eye fatigue from the increased screen time.

Keep a Personal Task List

As project managers, we are well-versed in using task lists to keep our projects on track. Similarly, keeping a personal daily task list will breakdown the work you need to complete. Review items as they are assigned, validate deliverables and confirm due dates. As items are complete, cross them off the list. This will enable you to meet project deadlines and help organize your priorities for the day. End each day by reviewing your task list to assess which items were completed and which tasks need to be added to your to-do list for the following day.

Communicate More Effectively

Although we communicate with our teams and client partners regularly, assessing how well you communicate may be helpful. Ensure your team and clients know how best to reach you. Be reachable and answer your emails promptly. At Yellow Brick, we set the expectation that we will respond to email requests within 24 hours. If you cannot provide a complete response to the request within 24 hours, it is best practice to acknowledge that you received the email and are working on the request. Internally, if you identify a gap or a possible delay in completing tasks, be sure to communicate to your team as soon as possible to prevent items from falling too far behind.

Don’t Forget to Hit the Reset Button

Personal time is an important element to consider while working from home. I recommend using your breaks and lunchtime to step away from the screen each day. Stretch and rest your eyes or take a short walk around the block. Many of our team members have found refuge in wellness apps to unwind in between meetings. From meditation or squeezing in a quick exercise session to listening to your favorite podcast, taking time for yourself enables you to put your best foot forward while on the clock.

This has been a whirlwind of a year for all of us. Many of us may be balancing caring for our friends and family who have been impacted by this virus on top of working from home. If you have children studying from home, many of the items above should be considered for them as well, especially setting up study areas and ensuring they have the necessary supplies to succeed. While we await whatever new challenges lie ahead, adapting to our new work environment will ensure that we maintain work quality and productivity.