Working From Home? Advice from a work-at-home architect.

I had planned to post something else today, but, given what’s going on in the world, I thought I would address the “work-from-home” conundrum that many of us may be experiencing for the first time.

With the city, county, and state wide “stay at home” orders in response to the Covid-19 outbreak, many of us who can work from home are suddenly forced to work from home. And for most of us, this is a first time occurance.

My practice has been home based for over a decade. And my first practice was home based for the first 5 years as well. I have quite a bit of experience working from home. This is my list of the the top 5 tips for successfully working from home.

TOP 5 TIPS TO SUCCESSFULLY WORK FROM HOME

1 SET UP A SPACE TO WORK: have a dedicated place to work. This can be from the dining table, or from a desk tucked into your bedroom, or even in the garage, if it isn’t too hot or cold where you are. You gotta have a place where you can spread out and concentrate on your work.

A picture from my old website showing a custom home office set up we built in a client’s master bedroom tucked in between two closets. Photo copyright 2020, David Locicero, architect

2 SET UP A ROUTINE: this is critical. You have to maintain a “normal” working schedule. It is key to helping your housemates respect your work efforts, and in keeping yourself focused on your work. Get up at the same time every day. Start work at the same time. Break at the same times for lunch and coffee/tea/yoga. Try to ensure that your working day is as much like it was in the office as possible.

3 DRESS FOR WORK: seriously. put your clothes on. Don’t devolve into working in a t-shirt and jeans, or worse yet, your p.j.s. With Skype and Zoom video calls at any possible moment, you don’t want to be caught facing your boss or your clients in an old concert Tee. I’m not saying put on a suit and tie, but at least wear a pair of chinos and a shirt with a collar. It reinforces in your subconscious that you are “at work”. This isn’t a stay-cation!

4 DEAL WITH DISTRACTIONS: keep all of the distractions of home at bay as best you can. That means, keep the TV turned off, ask your housemates/family to stay out of the room, don’t open FaceBook, Twitter, or Instagram while your working. Use 5 or 10 minutes social media sessions as rewards for each 60 to 90 minutes of work.

5 TURN IT OFF: after you’ve put in your 8 hours of work, put down the pen, turn off the computer, and shut off the phone. Just because you work from home does not mean you live at work. More than ever right now, we need down time with our families and alone to maintain our sanity and their well being. Science tells us that we are more productive when we have time to recover. That means, playing with the kids, talking with our significant other, walking the dog, talking with friends on the phone or FaceTime or whatever video call feature you have.

And a SUPER BONUS TIP just for you:

If you are like many people in the Bay Area who were spending 2 or 3 or more hours each day commuting to and from work, you have gained that commute time back into your actual life! Here’s what you can do with that time:

  • spend one of those extra hours asleep! Really. I’m betting you were sleep deprived. Be kind to yourself and help your health, spend an extra hour sleeping each night.
  • spend some extra time playing with your kids or kanoodling with your significant other. Use this time to reassure them and help them get through this stressful time with some QUALITY TIME with you. You’re special and they know it and need it.
  • try and make some time for you, for self care, too. Go for a walk or a run. Read a book for fun or to learn a new skill, set aside some time to write or paint, or work on the drippy faucet, or weeding the garden, or planting some things in pots with dirt. You need time for you, too.

Working from home now and in the future

There is obviously more to it all than this, but these are the most critical tips to making working from home successful. You can’t do it all on your own. You’ll have to enlist your family and housemates in helping to make this successful. But if they are working from home, too, they might be glad you mentioned it.

I think it is likely that after this virus has been dealt with and we return to “normal” life, our new normal will include MORE of us working from home all the time or more often. When that happens, we will need more permanent solutions to making a place to work from home. We’ll need specialized pieces of furniture or a dedicated office/studio space. (Although, honestly, I worked off the dining table for about 4 years while I helped care for my mother-in-law as dementia took over her mind.)

When we are all looking at making a permanent home office or studio, remember that there are a cadre of architects and interior designers who have worked from home for years and decades. We have the personal experience to help you make those changes when the time comes.

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