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5 Work-from-home secrets to success

by Arundhati Baitmangalkar

With COVID-19 taking over the globe, we’re all getting used to a new normal. It feels like us Washingtonians in King County got a head start, with COVID-19 making its first U.S. appearance literally a few miles away from our yoga studio. The state government, local businesses, and many companies swiftly declared a shift to “WFH” status. This meant a mandate to working from home for many privileged people. While this may sound amazing at first, everything is shut down—schools, recreational facilities, gyms, health clubs, restaurants, you name it. We have been urged to practice social distancing to help “flatten the curve” so that in coming weeks the U.S. doesn’t see the same numbers as Italy 🙁 

I’ve been working from home for 7 years now. I love it and I wouldn’t change it for anything. It was a struggle initially, though…so this blog is for all the people who now need to work from home, those who are desperate for quick tips and fixes to get settled in and be productive. Like it or not, we’re in this for the long haul. For those of you who aren’t yet fully sold on working from home, read on for some of the benefits and how to reap them. 

Benefits of working from home

You save time: There’s no time lost in commuting or worse, getting stuck in traffic. You also save time on getting ready and accomplishing early morning chores. 

Its better for the planet: To me, this is the best part. With so many cars off the roads, there’s less pollution. There’s less waste in areas like single-use coffee cups, to-go lunch boxes and cutlery, and overall consumption from being out and about. 

It saves you money: Think about it! You save on gas, coffees, lunches, random trips to the mall, etc… 

Tips to make WFH successful

You need to build discipline when you’re working from home. There are a few easy hacks you can do right away. After 7+ years of doing this, here are 5 secrets that I wish I’d known from the beginning. You need to: 

  1. Build an achievable routine 
  2. Move your body 
  3. Get out of your PJs first thing 
  4. Work in the same spot every day 
  5. Avoid distractions and unscheduled breaks 

Build an achievable routine

It starts with building an intentional routine. Working from home doesn’t mean doing random chores mixed in with work. I bet you’d love to be focused, productive, wrap up your work sooner than later, and enjoy additional free time, right? To do this you need to build a sustainable routine, one that is practical, takes your current reality into account, and accommodates your day-to-day challenges. 

Each of us is different, so take your own variables into consideration while doing this. Do you have kids at home? Do you have a dog to walk? What time do you need to log in? What time would you ideally like to log off?  

Once you’ve considered all your options and obstacles, build a sustainable routine around them. For some this may mean taking small breaks during the day to help the children out, or it may mean working more in the early morning. Notice when you’re most productive during the day and see if you can tie that into your routine. But without a routine, you’ll just drift in and out of your days. Don’t let that happen. 

Move your body

There are so many studies that already prove this point, so I’m not going to elaborate. But the more you move your body, the better you’ll feel physically, emotionally, spiritually, and in your energy levels. Why would you deny yourself this? Every morning make it a point to create space in your schedule to move your body. While you can’t go out to yoga studios or gyms, you can find guidance to do almost anything virtually, including working out, meditating, etc. 

Once you start to move your body more, you’ll feel better in every aspect of your life. If you’re not already aware of it, we’re hosting a free live yoga class Mondays-Saturdays on our Aham Yoga Facebook page. Tune in, roll out your mat, and practice with us during the COVID-19 closures. (If you can’t make our 8am Pacific time, the classes are recorded so you can join us at your convenience.) 

Get out of your PJ’s first thing

The most critical thing about working from home is your mindset. You need to shift from being relaxed at home to treating your work time and space professionally. A few small adjustments in your routine can help, the main one being to get ready for the day just like if you were heading out to work. When I WFH I’m in my sweats and hoodie—those are my “work clothes.” You’ll never see me in my PJs. I’ve tried it and it doesn’t help me be productive. You need to clearly define the lines between work and home. So, shower, find something cozy and comfortable to wear, eat a healthy breakfast, and start your workday. You’ll feel the difference right away. 

Work in the same spot every day

One of the things that helped me right away was learning to work in the same spot every single day. This trained my brain to not be distracted, restless, or looking for excuses not to work. To help yourself settle into the rhythm of working from home, find a spot in your house that’s relatively peaceful, preferably by a window or natural light, if possible. Set up your work space the way you like it—for me, this means opening all the blinds, turning on a diffuser with my favorite essential oils, playing music that helps me focus, clearing off my table, and having at hand a bottle of water, a warm cup of tea, and my planner. When my workday is done, I clean up, close the door to my home office, and don’t come back in till the next morning. Even if you don’t have a separate room that can be your home office, try to set boundaries—if you can do this in any way, shape or form, it will help tremendously. 

Avoid distractions and unscheduled breaks

You’ll lose a lot of energy while working from home just through fighting off distractions. Snack breaks, TV breaks, long tea breaks, play-with-your-dog breaks, naps—you name it, I’m guilty of all of them! Ultimately, they will only make you feel worse rather than better about working from home. If your kids are home from school, interruptions are inevitable, but remember that kids are also struggling without their usual routines; help them focus and keep up their “work” of learning—and at the same time help yourself—by building focus and structure into your days. 

After a lot of trial and error, I’ve managed to narrow things down to one mid-morning tea break, lunch, and a late afternoon tea break. I even eat lunch at my desk in my home office. I don’t cook during work hours—I only heat up things in the microwave (this requires advance planning). Each time you break your concentration, the harder it is to refocus. Minimizing disruptions develops invaluable discipline and helps lead you to success. 

When you’re feeling stuck or frustrated, remind yourself to focus on the positives. Youre able to work from home. There are millions of people who do not have this luxury, who need to go into work, who put their safety and that of their loved ones on the line, who are being driven into poverty, who are losing their only means of livelihood, and who are forced to close their businesses. When we think of it like this, there’s no way we can complain, right? We’re in this together: Let’s show up as the best versions of ourselves every single day both for ourselves and, by extension, for others. 

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