Balancing organized chaos: working from home

Katy Kandaris-Weiner, LPC

Our world changed drastically last year with the spread of COVID-19 and many people found themselves transitioning to working from home. While working from home or working remotely has become more popular in recent years, the sudden switch for many people left them feeling unprepared for the chaos that can come with working in the same space they live. When it comes to balancing that chaos with the benefits of working from home, here are some solid strategies:

1.     Dedicate your space.

It is likely that when you work in person you have a specific space that is available for you. This space in an in-person setting likely has separateness, structure, and safety/sentimentality – and ideally something similar can be created in the home space.

           Separateness: Whether you work in a cubicle, an office, or have a locker there is a space that is distinct from others and allows you to be alone so you can focus. This is an important feature of the at-home workspace too. Dedicate a space that is separate from other activities in the home. This could mean using an entire room or claiming one end of the kitchen table – you will know what will work best for your situation.

          Structure: If your work requires typing, it is likely you have access to a flat surface to set your keyboard or laptop. If your work requires frequent phone conversations, you likely have a quiet space to make your calls. Obviously, things might look a little different at home, but get creative as you try to mimic or improve the structure you need for your workspace.

          Safety/Sentimentality: In your in-person workspace you probably have things that are personal to you – a picture of someone you love, a good luck charm, or perhaps your favorite pen. In your dedicated at-home workspace, aim for a similar sense of safety or sentimentality.

2.     Show up.

How you show up for work at-home is just as important as how you show up for work in-person. Routines and schedules are your friend when it comes to balancing the day. Having a set schedule for working at home helps more clearly organize and balance your work-home life. Just like attending work in-person has routines that helps prepare or decompress you, creating a routine for the start and end of the workday at home will do the same. An essential routine? Get dressed and ready for the workday. Rolling out of bed 2 minutes before your day starts and schlepping to your workspace may seem efficient but will not likely yield the same productivity as sitting down at your workspace feeling physically ready for your tasks. No one is asking you to put on pantyhose or cufflinks but when it is time to work, fully show up – so that when the workday is done you can “go home” and recuperate.

3.     Communicate.

If you are working from home while others are home, communicate with them about how to set up the space so that it benefits everyone as best as possible. If you have children at home while you are working from home, communicate with them about schedules, options during free time, and “emergency only” interruptions. Communicate with your work team – both productively and socially. Communicate with your supervisors and bosses to identify possible struggles and opportunities of this arrangement. Having open and effective lines of communication will create fewer situations of misunderstanding and provide more clarity about what can be expected day to day.

4.     Remember to show yourself compassion.

If working from home feels isolating, if you miss “water cooler chat,” if it is hard to follow your end of work routine, if your kids are at home and are needing more today than usual – that is okay. When you work in-person it is unlikely that every day you are on top of your game, and yet it can feel like there is pressure at home to have a perfect workday every day. Do your best today, and then try to do your best again tomorrow.

Not every day will look perfect, but hopefully these strategies empower you to organize your work situation and make the most of working from home. And, if you are still struggling, reach out to a professional to help you manage your stress.

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Katy Kandaris-Weiner, LPC

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