Maintaining Professionalism While Working From Home
Whether your office has shifted to a partial or mostly work-from-home model, or you’re temporarily quarantining, you’re still a working professional. It can be difficult to maintain that professionalism when you don’t have the regular “get up, get dressed, go to the office” routine. So, how do you prevent the slow (or maybe not-so-slow) slide that turns work-from-home into work-from-bed?
4 Tips to Maintain Professionalism
Have a Workspace
This affects most of the tips below. If you haven’t already, establish an office in your home – with a work surface. If you don’t have a desk, get yourself a small folding table. The space itself can be an actual home office, a little-used room (like a guest bedroom, bonus room or that only-used-for-holidays dining room) or even a dedicated corner of your bedroom. Whatever it is, you need a space that’s yours. Trying to work at the family dinner table can lead to frustration when you finally get set up and start to work, only to land your elbow in last night’s ketchup.
Not only will this keep your work better organized (and ketchup-free), but you also need to be able to walk away from this space. As explained in our next point, having a dedicated space will help you avoid turning working-from-home into living-at-work.
We cover this a bit in our article “Remote Work: Productivity and Mental Health Tips.” One boundary you’ll need is a schedule. Mirror what you’d do if you were going to the office. If you usually work from 8:30 to 5, with a 1-hour lunch around 12:30, do that. Don’t stop at 5 just to go back after dinner or after you put the kids to bed. You probably wouldn’t drive back to the office at 8, right? So don’t trick yourself into “just finishing this one thing” because it’ll start to erode your boundaries. This is why a dedicated space is important – you need to be able to shut the door, or at least shut your laptop, and walk away.
Other boundaries include helping others in your household understand that even though you’re working from home, you’re still working. My sister found a great solution to this. She set up her office in her laundry room, not just because it was one of the most remote rooms in her house, but also because she knows her kids won’t hang out in there because that’s where chores live. They know she’s there if they actually need her, and she takes breaks to check on them when they have remote classes, but unnecessary interruptions are minimized – for everyone.
Another reason you want your own space is because working from the sofa or kitchen counter may also mean you’re in front of the television or a cabinet full of snacks. Trust me, it will inevitably lead to indulgence. This is especially true if you’re not the only one home. Even if you aren’t the one watching television, the background distraction may be enough to impact your productivity. And, the less you feel like you’ve gotten done, the more tempted you’ll be to break the schedule you’ve established.
A while back, there were reports of attorneys appearing before the court virtually in their pajamas, from their bed and even shirtless. Don’t do that. You don’t necessarily need to don the three-piece suit, but at least get dressed like it’s casual Friday.
This isn’t just about vanity or looking good for others, though I’m sure your coworkers would thank you to put on something. This will help enforce the “I’m at work” mentality to keep you on track. Also, studies show that how you dress affects your mood, which also affects productivity. If you roll straight from bed to your home office space, you’ll feel like you just rolled out of bed. Plus, then that unexpected (or forgotten) virtual meeting won’t send you into a panic, scrambling for an appropriate shirt and a hair brush.
Keep Up the Good Work
Although these tips are helpful, the most important thing to remember is that you are working, even if you aren’t at work. You didn’t get where you are today by taking half-measures. So, set yourself up for success, dress the part and keep up the good work. If you want more remote work tips, see our other articles about “Risk Management in the Remote Work Environment” and “Remote Work Tips for Law Firms,” the latter of which includes some basic cybersecurity tips.