Working with your family: Tips to survive work-from-home life

Coming from a traditional office setting, it was challenging for me to transition to a work-from-home setup.

My family and I had to do a lot of mental and physical adjustments before I got comfortable with it.

I know a lot of you are still struggling with working from home, and even for those who are used to it, being in lockdown with all family members at home brings a new set of challenges that can drive us crazy. I’ve listed below some of the things I’ve learned and applied to my day to day that helped me adjust to work-from-home life.

Have a dedicated work space.

This is the first step and I consider it to be very important since everything else takes off from this. Not everyone has the luxury of having a walled-off area with a door, but setting aside a space you can define as your work area would help get into a routine of going to work and leaving it at the end of the day. Find a quiet spot in your house where you can work undisturbed, and set up a desk with a comfortable chair. Avoid distractions like a direct view to a TV.

Set your work hours and try to commit to it.

While Altitude requires people to be available for collaboration within the 10am – 7pm window, we’re very flexible with hours. As long as deliverables and requirements are met, you are free to define your actual work hours where you’re most productive and factor in other responsibilities. If you need to pick up kids from school (or tutor them during the lockdown), cook for your family, or have regular chores, work them into your daily schedule. This allows you to manage your time and get into a sustainable, healthy routine.

Having set work hours also means you can enforce a hard limit on when to end your day. There is a danger that “working from home” turns into “working non-stop”, so setting a time where you have to stop working for the day will help you avoid being burned out. If your project needs you to do overtime, at least you have a clear idea that your extended hours are not the norm and only done during special circumstances.

Have a set routine for starting your work day.

Waking up, turning your work station on, and immediately checking for messages and summons is not a good way to start your day. It doesn’t allow your brain to prepare for the day ahead.

Treat working from home the same way you would if you were working in an office. Get dressed, eat your breakfast or get your coffee before you even think about turning your computer on. This eliminates any distractions creeping in once you do start working. This also works very well in getting into the mindset that work for the day is about to start.

Avoid working in the clothes you slept in.

Part of preparing for your day is making sure you’re dressed for work. We joke around a lot about pants being optional, but changing out of the clothes you slept in helps keep your days separate. It’s a new day! Get into some fresh clothes.

Go home.

Yes, you read that right. At the end of the day, you have to go through the motions of leaving work and going home. This signals to your brain and body that you are transitioning from work to relaxation. Shut down your PC, stand up, take a bath, eat a snack, play with your kids or pets, or sit down and watch a bit of TV.

If your work machine is also your gaming rig, do this anyway. Shut it down, walk away, change clothes, and boot it up again. This time, you know you’re no longer going to work; it’s all about relaxing and playing a game you love.

As much as having a routine of going to work is important, setting a routine for going home at the end of your work day is crucial to sustaining and taking care of your mental health.

Over-communicate.

Working from home creates a unique set of challenges in communication versus an office setting. It’s very easy for things to be misunderstood or tone to be misread, so providing enough details on what you are communicating is essential. Emojis may help, but don’t overdo it.

This doesn’t only apply to work-related stuff. If you are feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or anxious, talk with your team and make them understand what you’re going through. Our HR and the rest of the executive team are always available if you want to talk to somebody.

It’s very easy to feel lost and alone when working from home, so opening your lines of communication with the people you work with can be good to alleviate stress.

Invest in a good pair of headphones.

Good headphones will help you communicate with your team better during calls, as well as eliminate distracting noise around you. Noise-cancelling headphones are recommended if you can find them. This also tells the people you live with that you are not to be disturbed.

Talk with the people you live with.

This is my last point and the most important one. Communicate each point outlined above to your family. Take the time to make them understand that working from home is the same as working in an office setting. The responsibilities and hours are pretty much the same.

They have to respect your defined work area. If you’re in that area, they should assume you’re working, regardless of what’s on your screen (I know you sneak in a few games/episodes now and then, don’t lie). Ask them not to disturb you during your work hours. Chores and requests for trips outside should be scheduled around your availability. Just because you’re working at home doesn’t mean you’re “home” and available all the time.

Having your morning routine also tells them you’re preparing for work, and your end-of-day routine tells them you’re home and available. Showing them your routine helps them understand and get used to your daily schedule.

Without proper understanding and communication with the people you live with, working from home will always be a challenge for you. Making them respect your space and time allows you to focus and have a better balance between work and your personal life.

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