4 Work-From-Home (WFH) Tips
- Create Boundaries Between Work Space & Living Spaces
- Take Timed, Structured Breaks
- Make Time to Socialize
- Validate that Change is Happening
(Explained in detail below)
Working from home, and back again.
My Work From Home Experience
In March 2020, the world began to radically change due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Without a doubt, your life was affected too. Many lost their jobs because doing their job was no longer possible. Those lucky enough to stay employed started working from home. Working from home was a massive transition on a global scale that created new challenges. This is what I’ve learned from my experience working-from-home.
I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. I’ve been working at a nonprofit for over 3 years with a caseload that consists primarily of students with trauma. I’m in my gulp late- twenties. I’ve been working from home for 9 months now. The rapid transition to Telehealth therapy sessions was not easy. In general, my clients are not fans of change, and the switch to Telehealth was a big one.
New Technology Became Necessary to Do My Job
I’ve always feared technology out of respect. For the first time in my career, technology was necessary to do my job. Subsequently, my financial stability was at stake. How was I supposed to trust my Wifi in the middle of a processing session with a client suffering complex trauma when I couldn’t even trust it to get through one quarter of a football game without buffering?
Never-the-less, it was clear that this change was necessary in order for my clients to continue to progress in their healing. Integrating my Telehealth practices into my workflow would be a challenge, but I was appreciative that it allowed me to continue my work.
4 Tips for Improving Your Work-From Home Experience
1. Create Boundaries Between Work Space & Living Spaces
Since we did not have a home office, the first task was setting up a remote workspace. My then-fiancé and I were lucky to have a spare bedroom that could be converted into a new remote workspace. Since virtual therapy meetings are still confidential, I won the rights to the room. I must admit, this tip really paid off during the past 9 months. The spare bedroom was rarely used, except for storage, which meant it wasn’t a regularly frequented space in our home. I highly recommend using a space like this when working from home, because you can leave it. The biggest challenge my clients have faced when working from home is finding boundaries between work spaces and living spaces. For some of us, a 10-30 minute commute allowed for us to shed our homebody skin and put on our work hat, and vice versa. This transition is now more difficult. Having a room you can close the door to, and not need throughout the weekend or after 5pm, will allow for your mind to separate work-mode from home-mode. Otherwise, you end up feeling too comfortable while you’re trying to work, or anxious with work when you’re trying to relax. The same thing happens when you watch TV, eat, or do work on your bed. Your brain begins to no longer associate bed with sleep, which makes it hard to shut your mind down when you are ready to turn out the lights.
2. Take Structured, Timed Breaks
One of the biggest struggles of working from home is knowing when to take breaks, and keeping up with “structured” breaks. When you are at work, likely you are taking bathroom breaks, “zone-out” breaks, coffee breaks, lots of breaks! The same needs to be done in while at home. Make sure to leave your workspace for the amount of time you need to re-focus and keep up on your productivity, and no longer. Breaks begin to look different when working from home. Your bed? Steps away. New episode of Real Housewives? A click away! The distractions are endless when you are at home, which is why I recommend to clients, and you, to allow for timed breaks throughout the day. 5 minutes to stare at your phone between checking emails. 15 minutes between meetings. 1 hour lunch breaks with your partner who works in the next room. I encourage structure not just so you get back to work, but it is a good habit that builds self control and self awareness. Everybody wants to be their own boss one day, right? Well, you’ve started to build the mental stamina to do it by being the boss of your own schedule while working from home.
3. Make Time to Socialize
Now, I’m lucky enough that my husband is also working from home. I’m a therapist, and he’s solutions advisor at a software company and will be working from home until late next year. We’ve got two dogs, and plenty of energy around our house, there’s typically never a dull moment. I understand many of us are not that lucky. Which brings me to the next challenge of working from home, socialization. What if you live alone? What if those water-cooler talks in the work place give you life, and working secluded in your home feels like certain death? There are options for you. The simplest of it is making sure you are in contact with someone throughout the day. This could be someone you work with, a friend, family, whomever. Having someone to chat with, zoom-lunch with, and check in with is healthy and encouraged. As human beings, introverts or not, some kind of socialization is encouraged or the hours begin to run together. Really missing that co- worker camaraderie? Head of the social committee and just itching for together time? Zoom with your desk mate while doing work, it could feel almost like the real thing! Needing and taking the time to socialize can help the days and hours go faster, so don’t feel that this part of your work day is unnecessary. After work virtual happy hours can be something to look forward to at the end of a long day, and could offer you and your coworkers some much needed face time.
4. Validate that Change is Happening
The most important thing to remember, as we transition again and again during this unprecedented time, is to validate that change is happening. Humans are not good with change. You know that feeling when your phone upgrades and every button is different and in new places? The fact that you do, means this change thing is no joke. Try not to fight it. Most clients come to counseling because their lives have changed, and they have fought tooth-and-nail to stay the same despite their environment. We can’t live like that, and shouldn’t. Take a moment or two out of your day to acknowledge the craziness, and how different things are now and take a deep breath and honor your discomfort. After all, you’re not alone. There are around 8 billion people feeling the same thing.
I look forward to writing more, answering questions, and bringing my clinical experience to the table in hopes of offering tips, support, and encouragement while we all get through this. The plus side is, and I’ll touch on therapy more, going virtual has not diminished success. I don’t want to down-play the challenges, but I also want to acknowledge that success is still achievable. I’ve seen myself, my clients and others succeed in this new mostly-virtual world, which means there is hope for you, too. In order for this time to be a time we want to tell our grandchildren about, let’s make the story a positive one. Let’s be able to tell them that, despite what feels like the world is falling apart, we were able to guide our own ships through the destruction and come out on the other side okay. This is our, “3 miles to-and-from school, uphill both ways in a blizzard” story, let’s make it worthwhile.
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About the author
Kat O'Hara has her Master's in Marriage and Family Therapy and is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and has been practicing professionally since 2017. Kat has experience with clients with mental disorders, complex trauma, relationship issues, depression, anxiety, etc. and is trained in Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR).