Kids ~ Depending on the age of your kids the rules change a bit! Remember, you cannot always pick a fight over every little thing. Choose your battles wisely.
A. If they are young, hopefully you have help with them. If you do not, set up playpen, play space in a spot nearby. Where you can keep an ear open for them and peek in on them. Set them up on their regular schedule. Use a baby monitor. Here is a cheap way to use a video baby monitor. Take a couple of older smart phones that you no longer use. There are tons of Apps you can download! CNet & Alfred are just two of them. When you have your two phones, put one in the room with the child as the camera. Then the other phone in with you as the monitor. BTW*** This tip works great for keeping older kids focused on homework or any task you have them doing also!
B. If they are school age, make them get up, eat breakfast, and keep a school schedule along with your work schedule. (While school is in, easier) Give them their assignments. Check out resources through your school for extra work that can keep them busy in the summer too. Set up an area for them to do their schoolwork. Coffee table works great. Then give them a quick 5 minutes “between” classes or every hour to go to the bathroom. Do not let them eat while “in school”. Take a morning recess, a lunch break, take it with them. When school is over, if your workday is not over, give them chores to do. It is never too early to teach a child good habits like changing out of school clothes and into play clothes or putting toys away. Be sure to give them rules on playtime. If tv or gaming is allowed, maximum time and volume so it does not interfere with your work.
C. If they are older school age, preteen or teen, it is an entirely different ballgame. It has been my experience that you have to follow their schoolwork closely. If you are blessed and do not need to, pat yourself on the back! I find that daily checks on homework has been effective for us. Of the people that I have spoken with, it has been the same. The need to limit gaming, social media and tv have also been a necessity. Just like us adults (kids do follow our lead), kids can get wrapped up in gaming, social media or tv. There are a lot of ways to limit all of these. The way that has proven to be most effective is bargaining. The kids earn time for these things by doing things such as daily chores. (Nope, no cash for chores here). They also lose time for homework not being done, bad grades, disrespect, etc. However, this is all written down and on a weekly/monthly calendar (whichever works best for you). That way there is no “you said they said” hurt feelings. Clear cut expectations work best for kids (even college age) too. If they know what you expect of them it is easier for them to be successful. You truly are setting them up for success.
Pets ~ I have found as a vet tech and a dog trainer that locking your dog up behind a closed door while you are in another room is almost always a 100% failure. What does work more effectively is if there are other people in the house (say kids doing homework) put the dog/s behind a child gate with a bed, food and water and music on lightly. When they can see the ones’ that they love and know that their family is safe, it soothes them. They will get used to the routine just like the family does. Kids doing homework, you are working, dog in their space (there are playpens for pets). When you take your morning break, take them for a walk. Same with lunch and in the afternoon. You will all appreciate the walk, the fresh air and the time spent together. Now, if your dog barks at every person that walks by the window, make sure you close the blinds. You may find it helpful to give them a safe space of their own. Our dogs each have a wire (coated) kennel that is their safe space. When they get overwhelmed and whiny, we have trained them to “go to bed”. It began with telling them to go to bed, giving them a treat when we put them there. And covering the kennel with a noticeably light blanket. It gave them the sense of safety. After a while, they both knew this was not punishment. Now when the house just gets too busy for them, they can be found in bed asleep. If your dog is a “whiner”, this will be especially helpful.
Spouse ~ It might sound odd, but you need to sit down with your spouse or significant other and set boundaries. They need to realize that just because you are home, it does not mean that you are available to them 24/7. That is the hard part, whether they are at home working, laid off, unemployed or at their job. They may be popping their head in wanting to chat, show you, ask you things. If they are at work, you may find that they are suddenly “blowing up your phone” with messages or calling on a whim to chat or because they thought of something. You need to explain to them and ask them to help you to succeed at being a F.H.W. (from home worker). Many companies are looking at continuing to keep a portion of their staff working from home. At least a few days a week, it saves the company money and employees can be more productive once they get into the swing of working from home. If your spouse can help you get better and more at ease with it, it typically saves a family money. Money on gas, car repairs, tires, even on clothes that you might typically need to wear to work. So, let them know your schedule, get them behind you, give them clear cut expectations of how they can help you. If you approach it as I need your help, not as you are in my way, you will no doubt have more success. You can even sit down every morning at breakfast together and plan the family day out, it does help.
Friends who do not work ~ this can be a bit touchy if you approach it wrong, if they are stay at home spouse and “simply do not work” or are out of work. Most spouses’ who stay at home and “simply” do not work, work their butts off. The reason for that may be that their spouse who does work expects them to do everything. Which means that they do everything that may have been just thrown on your plate too! Housework, Laundry, Cooking, Shopping, be at the beck and call of every living being in the home. This is a proven fact of life, the stay at home “does not work outside the house” …just has a little side gig online type of job; is usually taken advantage of. So, when suddenly they have a friend who is in a similar position, they may want to come over and talk. Come over for coffee, bend your ear, get a little empathy for what they have been going through for years. Usually these people work hard to try and get their home-based business going or keep it running. Then, because they are at home, and expectations are high, they attempt to do everything. You know, you have been to their house, it looks perfect, they entertain perfectly and still have that home-based business. So, before you blow up at them, take a deep breath and empathize with them. You are now walking in their shoes, literally.
Social Media ~ Well, if you are in the type of job where you need to post on social media this is a little more difficult. If your job does not require you be on social media, then set an alarm. An alarm that is for your break to begin and end, morning, lunch, and afternoon. Only go on social media during those breaks or after work. Turn off your notifications for all social media, including messages. If your job requires you to go on social media and post it is different. Next, set alarms to go on social media and work. Put your posts together for everything, then go on, post, and leave. Turn off all notifications for messages on all social media. That way friends are not burning up your workday. Also, on any site where you can post a “story” Facebook, Insta, etc., post your story as something like “I am at work until “insert time”, talk to you after that! Have a Great day!!
TV ~ I get that you get sucked into that screen. You are catching up on all of those shows that have heard people talking about, right? You were just going to watch one or two and a week or two later you are on season 4, still in your jammies (at least from the waist down during the day). However, you lived without 24/7 of it before and you will get over it. So, set limits, this time on yourself. Give yourself time to watch or even binge watch shows. Even if that means you need to make your workday a little longer so you can take a two-hour lunch and binge watch a show over lunch. Just you, lunch and the tv, drowning out the world, the real life, the stress. In other words, shut it off and do not let it distract you during your workday. Not even for the extra noise you think you need. It will suck you in! Find another way to get the noise you need to keep out the quiet. Maybe turn on a favorite satellite music channel that has few commercials. A personal soundtrack downloaded from your phone. There are other options besides getting sucked into tv.
Swimming pool ~ Honestly, I was amazed that so many people commented on this as being a distraction. However, summer is coming, and I do love to swim and hang out poolside also. If your pool is private and right outside your window or door, close the blinds first off. Then take anything swimming related (that will make you think of going swimming) out of your workspace. Swimsuits and swim towels in the bathroom? Remove them before you begin working. The same with sunblock, suntan lotion, pool toys, floats etc. Have a place to keep these things out of sight. You know the saying, out of sight out of mind!
Boredom ~ hard to concentrate on one thing (work). There are several things that you can do to help combat boredom on the job, whether it is at home or at the office.
a. Make a game out of your work, challenge yourself to get better at it. If it is a task-oriented job, give yourself time limits and try to complete certain tasks within a set time.
b. Improve your job skills. Figure out what of your job skills you are lacking in and work on them. This will have a double bonus; it will help with boredom and with time as your skill improve will look great to your employer.
c. De-clutter your workspace. Even if you are working from the kitchen table or the coffee table. Turn it into your office space while you are working. Try and simulate your office space from work the best that you can.
d. Pick a soothing wallpaper for your desktop or laptop. Change it once a week, add this to your task list. It keeps your brain moving and keeps you from being bored a few more minutes.
e. Keep ice water on hand, it is literally the best thing you can drink while at work. And as an avid coffee drinker, this one was a difficult one for me to do as I sit down at my laptop daily! I finish my last cup of coffee then switch to bottled water.
f. Take a moment, stand up, stretch, walk around the house; if you have time for a real break take a quick walk (with the dog* if you have one) Get up and dance to a tune, turn up the music in your headphones (so you don’t disturb the others in the house, lol)
g. Set a timer and clear out some mail from your junk mailbox. You will thank yourself later.
No breaks ~ As in you forget to take them and your boss does not seem to think you need them. You know since you work from home. First off, it is your Boss, just pick up the phone, call them and let them know that breaks are vital to your productivity. Happy, healthy employees are more productive than tired, mentally exhausted ones. Most Bosses will get it and you will not get it if you do not ask for it. Next, if it is you just not taking a break that is a different situation. For example, if you are scheduled to work 9-530; chances are in the office, you took a fifteen-minute morning and afternoon break and half an hour for lunch. If that was the case, then you need to do the same at home. And the way to do and be effective at it is to schedule it in your calendar and phone and have an alarm go off to start and end all three breaks daily. I find that alarms in my phone, labeled for each item are vital to being successful at working from home. I set an alarm to get up, another to start my workday, breaks, lunch, end of day. If I have a phone conference or a zoom meeting, those are scheduled in there also. The ones that happen every day are set up as reoccurring alarms on workdays.
No set schedule for work ~ Well, I hope you read the one above about no breaks! Because these two go hand in hand. If you are not setting hours (& alarms) for your job it means one of two things. Either A) You are not working enough (or at all) and in trouble at work/ in danger of losing your job or business. Or B) You are working too much, and you are giving up too much personal time and family time. So, set those Alarms already!! Get up, shower, eat, get dressed for work. Get distractions out of your way. Keep a work schedule
No set schedule for personal life ~ I am guessing that if this is the fact, then you are not setting a schedule for your work (see #10). Which means you are working way too many hours and forgetting about being happy and healthy. Some people think that they must work one hundred hours a week to be successful at working from home or running a home-based business. That is not true. If you run yourself into the ground, you will not be happy or healthy. Therefore, you can not become wealthy, you will be spending all your money on either the doctor or supplements to try and avoid the doctor. Do not just do your housework, laundry, etc. every time you get up from your desk job. Set up a calendar for that also. You will burnout if you are not scheduling things! Got it? Schedule, schedule, schedule.
The refrigerator ~ Eat too much. This is a tough one to answer, not for the reason you might think though. If I answer it one way, I come across as soft, the other I come across as the diet Nazi! So, here is the best middle ground I can find for you! If you are eating too much and it is concerning you, here are a few things to help.
a. Water, when you start to get the munchies, pick a bottle of water, and drink it. Hunger sometimes is dehydration in disguise. After you drink the water, wait 15 minutes before going for a snack. It gives your brain a moment to realize something went to your stomach.
b. Snacks, pick healthier snack to have around the house. When you find those that work for you**, keep them closer than the ones that are causing issues for you.
c. Portion control let us be honest, you have heard it your entire life. Instead of bringing the entire bag of chips to the workspace, get a small bowl and put a serving of chips in it. Then put the bag away, you are likely to eat less if you need to get up and refill that bowl.
d. When you do snack, eat slowly. Do not have your hand going to your mouth constantly. Take a bite, wait a minute, then take another. It makes a difference; you will eat less.
Stress ~ So, Covid-19 pretty much brought the world to a temporary halt. No politics, just the truth it is what it is. And that sent thousands of people cooped up at home. Which eventually led many companies to allow their employees to work from home. Which is great, they still have an income and it helps keep our economy going. However, it also increased the stress levels on a stressed-out country. I say that we are a stressed-out country because we have been playing keep up with “the Joneses” for so long that it is not even a joke anymore. Years ago, that was a joke, now it is a fact of life. You have it, I must have it, bigger, better, faster, shinier. That seems to include being in debt. So here we are with those stress levels going through the roof. What can help you, besides the old joke of drinking more? (Bad idea). First off figure out your stress response. If your stress response is anger, then go for something quiet activities. If your response to stress is to be depressed go for an energizing activity.
a. Meditate, it really is an easy thing to do. And if you fall asleep doing it, you are doing it wrong. It is about your breathing and concentration. I have recommendations***.
b. Exercise more, it releases endorphins. Those are the chemicals in the brain that are the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators. It also reduces levels of stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. This does not mean go out and start a huge workout session if you have not worked out recently or ever. It does mean, get your body moving in some way shape or form. Get off your butt and move it!
c. Yoga. Check out Yoga for beginners if you have never done it before!
d. Deep breathing exercises, even this one thing will reduce your stress. Close your eyes and breath in slowly through your nose and out through your mouth. Again, be active with your mind. If you fall asleep, you are doing it wrong.
e. During your break or lunch, watch something funny. Laughter helps with stress.
f. Light a candle.
g. Count your Blessings. Even while you are at home and stressed and life is not normal. There must be something you have to be thankful for. When you stop to give thanks for something in your life it is hard to be stresses and angry.
h. Have an animal like a dog or cat? Pet them, play with them, incredible stress relief and they love it too.
i. Video chat with someone that you care about, on break. Parent, Child, Sibling, close friend.
j. Read a book.
k. Listen to music.
Lack of workspace ~ So you put it up and take it down all day, every day. There are so many makeshift work spaces out there right now. But they all boil down to trying to make your place into your office. If you have an actual desk it is easier. Take your desk from being the “bill paying” desk to be a work desk by rearranging it with your work things. Put your bill things in a portable file cabinet (one of those hard plastic one drawer ones’) or a drawer in the desk. If your desk is your kitchen table that you eat at three meals a day, try and be a little adventurous if possible. Can the kids eat breakfast in front of the tv while you set up the table for work? Can lunch be on a picnic table outside? If not, what about an indoor picnic; spread a sheet or blanket on the floor and have sandwiches and chips (for instance) with drinks being covered. The kids will see it as an adventure, it will save you needing to reset the table three times a day for meals. When I had to take over our coffee table for a week of conferences, we pulled it away from the couch and used tv trays for coffee in the morning (& snacks at night) rather than reset everything daily. So much easier. So, now you possible have that workspace figured out. Just the what to use and how to dedicate it. I have used my makeup counter as a desk for a while too! Now set it up, laptop, notepads, pens, paperclips, printer nearby, light, place for your water/drink, power cables for laptop, cell phone, extra monitor, calendar. What else is needed for you to be successful at your job?
Lack of proper equipment ~ first off if you are normally a work at the office person. Will your job loan you or sign out equipment to you? Have you asked, if not pick up the phone and do so. So, if your company will not loan you the equipment there are still options. Second monitor is the easiest. If you have a tv that you can hook into your laptop, problem solved. If not, go onto Facebook buy and sell groups. You will find them there, you do not need huge, or fancy. You need big enough for a second monitor and able to plug into your laptop. They are usually cheap, sometimes even free. Computers, you can find very reasonably priced, if you need it for your job, they (like anything you must buy for your job) is tax deductible (check with your tax consultant). You can also find rebuilt computers at small, privately owned tech shops/computer shops. I have bought from them and had great success. They are small business owners who appreciate the business and the reference you give them. Think “locally owned” in this time of duress.
No double monitor ~ using a laptop and a tv screen. First off read #15. But in addition to that, you can find a second monitor at a reasonable price now. However, buying a small flat screen tv is much less expensive from what I have found. My second monitor is a 36” tv. Works great and is computer capable according to the manufacturer. And costs less than a 24” monitor; oh and is on a swivel.
No high-speed computer ~ using your laptop. So, go to that small locally owned computer shop and ask them to speed it up for you. You would be amazed at the high-speed processor they can put in a laptop now. Of course, ask your company for a loaner first!
No printer, no good printer ~ what did you use for a printer at work? Were there individual printers or one for the entire office? You know I am going to say talk to your Boss first. Then find out if you get reimburse for printing at a local printer. If so, send the files over the internet to Office Depot or someplace similar. Have them print it up and go get your printed materials once day. They might even have a delivery service now, with the way things have changed. For future reference when you start having a little more cash, a really good printer is less than $150. I bought mine on sale for $99.
Working at the kitchen table or coffee table or on a tv tray ~ So many people mentioned this in so many ways, but I truly covered this in #14. Just check that one out. But let me say, it is doable! I have worked on a built-in makeup table for over a month before! And it had a sink in the middle of it. I overcame and adapted.
Bad chair ~ this one is huge! You rally need, must have a good chair. Otherwise you will be paying for it with your health. So, until you can afford a better chair, here are things I have done that helped. As well as suggestions from others.
a. A small pillow in the small of your back
b. A rolled-up towel in the small of your back, sit on a pillow
c. An actual “posture-pillow” like you buy for in your car
d. Sitting on a yoga ball
No desk phone ~ Will your company reimburse you for getting a landline? Every cable & satellite company offers phone service. We found that by adding a landline our cable bill went down. We did not know that until I asked.
Slow internet ~ Again, if this is long term, see if you can get something from your employer to help with the cost of speeding it up. They are saving money elsewhere by having you work from home. Sit down and put together a cost proposal for them. Show them where they save and what it will cost to improve your internet. As well as how much more productive you will be with faster internet.
Work longer hours ~ Did I mention scheduling and alarms? For real, did I. if your employer is asking you for more hours, they should be paying you more. If you are working more because you are distracted and taking too long to do your normal job. Then you need to get organized and set hours, goals, and alarms to be productive.
Boss thinks I am available 24/7 ~ This is where you need to have a phone call with your Boss and talk to them about expectations. Write down our expectations prior to calling them. Write down your old schedule for reference. If they did not call you prior to you working from home, ask them what has changed. Be polite about it though, do not be challenging. Just let them know that the new work hours and situation is affecting your life (as I am sure it is theirs). Get an expectation from them of hours and days they want you to be available to video chat or call. If you do not ask them to give you clear cut expectations, then they will not realize they are overstepping your boundaries.
Work “family” ~ wants to always be on zoom. Hourly meetings just to touch base, health & welfare checks. It sounds like they miss the coffee pot or water cooler “touch base” points. You know where you would get up to freshen up your coffee and see a few coworkers there and chat for a few. What I would do is set up times to do these, make it your coffee breaks. Send out an email letting everyone know that you are going to begin taking coffee breaks on zoom at like 930am daily on workdays. Anyone who wants to join you to chat can do it then. Also put in the email that you are trying to focus your day better. And that by doing so, you are staying off video chats and the phone; except for company meetings that are necessary.
Forget to take breaks ~ work a longer day and do not get paid extra for it. So, you are an hourly employee; you are paid for 8-hour days. Your day begins at 830am and ends at 530pm. Yet, you find that you do not take either two-fifteen-minute breaks plus a thirty-minute lunch break. Or an hour for lunch, to make it an eight-hour day, not a nine-hour day. This is 100% on you; you cannot blame this on your employer or Boss. If you are entitled to breaks it is up to you to sign off and walk away for those breaks. It is your physical and mental health that you are risking. Not to mention how much money you are giving your employer in free labor that you cannot ask for. Because you work from home and did not take those breaks. This goes right back to setting a schedule and keeping it. Setting alarms and going by them. And if your Boss wants you to work late, put in for overtime.
Not as much exercise ~ A lot of people are saying that the sit down to begin work and do not get up for hours on end. If you do not take care of yourself both mentally and physically you will not be able to enjoy life. It is as simple as that. So, get up from the table, or desk or wherever you have set up your workspace and stretch. If you can stand and work for a few minutes, even better. Not everyone (including me) have a desk that raises. But I can and do take my laptop now and then to the breakfast bar and move the stool aside and stand up and type for a while. Also, walk around and move while you are brainstorming on the phone with someone. If you are on a video chat and can stand up for it, so you can move a little, do. Get outside and get some fresh air on break, take a walk. Stretch, your body will thank you and it will reawaken your brain also.
Darker workspace ~ this is one that I struggled with when we rearranged our office space. It is now an office/bedroom/sports room. There went my floor lamp and no room for a nice desk lamp. We tried battery operated led stick on lights. They work great, so long as they are directly above your workspace/laptop. We went with spotlight style lamps. We found they work best for us. In the daytime I am good when the curtains and blinds are open. So long as the sun is not directly on the window, you know, living in Phoenix and all. My best advice on this one is keep trying.
Lack of filing & storage ~ so most people instantly think of what they need to buy. There are other options, believe it or not. Next time you are at the grocery store or a restaurant, ask about tomato boxes. Even if they are damp when you get them; you might even have to come back another day for them. When you get them home, wipe them out with sanitizing wipes or bleach wipes and let them dry. Once dry the large ones make great portable storage, even for files. Not an option for you? Check places that sell used furniture. Think metal two drawer filing cabinets. They fit under most tables & desks. You can make a desk by putting two of these with a piece of wood on top of them. Not fancy but customizable and effective.
Lack of organization ~ this one just takes your time. Anyone who has had a desk has struggled with this. It does not matter if it was at the office or at home, the average person at some point needs to organize their space. For some people it means sitting down and writing down everything they have that needs to be organized. Others find it is drawing a blueprint of sorts. For me it is open a drawer and begin, open a box, and begin. But I always have a plan in my head before I begin. I always know where I basically want things to go and can picture the finished project. People spend massive amounts of money hiring people to do this for them. My theory in life has always been punt, seriously, why spend money on something I can do myself? You got this; all these things belong to you. So, who better to decide where in your home they belong?
Constant interruptions ~ oh wait, let me go answer the door, the phone, or check it out, who is trying to video chat me now? Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Well, here we go; it is a version of tough love. If you can close the door of the room you work in, close it. Put a sign on it, “Do Not Disturb or “Working, leave a Message” (I love dry erase boards on doors). If you are in the same room and cannot close a door off, set up a barrier of some sort. Have child gates? Use them to keep everyone out of your space. No child gate, get creative, use chairs, laundry baskets, blankets hung across the room. Where there is a will there is a way. Next up, personal cell phone, if you do not use it for work, turn it off. If you do use it for work, set a different ringtone for work calls then personal. Then only answer work calls, send personal to voicemail. Spread the word that you are working.
Too much noise or Landscaper noise ~ close your curtains when you know they are going to be working around your house. If your job does not involve phones, wear headphones, or turn on music. Turn on background music anyway to help drown them out. Other types of noise, it depends on what it is. If it kids gaming, make them mute or wear headsets. Let them know that their noise is affecting your job that pays the bills.
Too quiet ~ so you turn on the tv and then distracted. So, instead of the tv, try other methods. Go read #6!
Distracted by chores ~ do not get sucked into doing chores while you are on your break from work just because you are at home. If you would not have done it before why would you now? Is your time suddenly less valuable? It goes back to scheduling; life really does run on a schedule. It has for years, maybe decades or centuries. But people would never admit that.
Family expectations have changed ~ I think this is one of the biggest ones. We are home now, so we are suddenly in charge of and expected to do everything that everyone else in the house did prior to this year. Oh, and plus some. You, “do not work”, not a real job anyway. So, you can do every single household chore, (the house should be spotless now, right). All the cooking (and they expect more homecooked meals since you are home all the time), laundry is now a daily thing. You are expected to drop everything to chat, listen, look, chauffeur anyone who has a job (who cares if you have something to do). Any of this sound familiar? I bet it does. How is this fixable, with time, patience, planning, and conversations. Write everything down, who is responsible for what, consequences of not taking responsibility for their chores. No matter what the chore. Maybe if you pay them for chores, they should pay you double when they do not do them? Ride to their part time job? How did they get there before? Bus, ride share, friend they paid for gas? Guess what, sit them down and figure out how much that daily ride is going to cost them. They get paid, you get paid, easy peasy. Just remember, they only see the trip two and from. You go two full trips, remind them of that during negotiations.
So, I hope this guide has helped you a little. This is the cumulation of my personal experience as well as speaking with and surveying many people. All the questions came from over 500 responses and more questions asked of many of those.
I have a few footnotes*. 1) Is if you live here in the Phoenix area or where it is above 100 in summer, do not walk your dog on pavement in the sun during the day. Need tips? Email us. 2) Snacks try and pair things up that will fill you up; yet be healthy for you. Like and apple with hard cheese or nut butter. Or celery with nut butter follow me for more recipes, homecooked meals and healthy food 3) Two helpful meditation apps are ~ calm.com and mindful.org
Have a Beautiful Life…
Namaste ~ Momma Janet