For a lot of people, working from home sounds like a dream. Getting paid in the comfort of your own space, enjoying a non-existent commute, and hanging out with your pets just sounds so…peaceful, right?
Of course, working from home CAN be wonderful, but with every problem it solves – like the commuting thing – another perplexing question arises. (Like, “Will I ever leave the house?”)
Next thing you know, you’re doing a live remote interview on BBC, and your kids barge in to steal the show.
That’s why you need a Work-From-Home Survival Kit.
(And maybe an office door that locks.)
Having a Work-From-Home Survival Kit can help save you from longing for the days you spent under the glare of fluorescent lights, downing bad coffee, and keeping one eye trained on the tick, tick, ticking of the clock.
Your Work-From-Home Survival Kit is easy to assemble and totally customizable – and you can start building it right now!
Start by setting boundaries
One of the biggest hurdles to overcome when you work from home is the idea that home then becomes synonymous with work.
Home ≄ Work
Just because you can access your work or business email on your laptop at all hours, doesn’t mean you should.
And even though you can edit a report on your couch in your pajamas while binge-watching Netflix and eating cereal, that doesn’t mean it isn’t still work!
One way to set boundaries is to tame your technology.
Both iPhones and Androids have Do-Not-Disturb functions, as do other apps you may use for work, like Slack.
(We’ve written more about how to improve your Slack habits, too.)
It takes a little time to explore them and customize your settings, but it’s totally worth it! Once you learn how, it’s actually pretty simple to go in and change them according to your needs.
For example, you can set your Slack to stop notifications after 6 pm and before 8 am on weekdays, and then on weekends turn notifications off completely.
Did you know you can even disable your email from syncing on your phone and computer without deleting your account?
When you do this, you don’t even have to see that you have new emails until you’re ready. Out of sight and out of mind.
As you build your Work-From-Home-Survival Kit, collect the instructions for customizing computer and phone settings and store them in a document. It’s a great reminder that you’re committed to making sure you aren’t working all the time.
You can also use your creativity to set physical boundaries.
Many people who work from home don’t have a home office with a door that closes. Even if you do, you probably use your office for other things, like paying your bills, booking a vacation, and taking a few minutes away from family.
Why not establish rituals and routines, or strategically use your decor to distinguish your personal time from time spent “at work”?
You might burn incense at the end of a workday to mark the transition into the rest of your day. You could also choose an object of significance to you – like a photo, vase, or life-sized bust of Theodore Roosevelt – and have that on your desk or in your work area only when you’re working.
Give yourself some analog options
Working from home is primarily made possible by digital devices. Digital burnout is a real problem, and using devices emitting blue light before bed is known to be disruptive to sleep.
In a world where everything from recipes to music to books can be found on a computer screen, having tactile analog options available is surprisingly important.
Try using a bullet journal or a whiteboard to stay organized and up-to-date without turning on your computer. Why not also collect art supplies (like stamps, special paper, colored pencils, crayons, and even stickers) to use in planning and brainstorming sessions?
(Or just whenever you want, really, because stickers are always fun.)
Have some stationery or notecards available, and send a real card or letter now and then to someone in your field that you’d normally just email. It gives you a break from typing, and they’ll surely be surprised and delighted!
Consider having some board games or card games around for a fun night with your partner, friends, or family. Board games have evolved as much as video games have – and they’re a unique way to get offline for a while!
Are you and your Kindle inseparable? Subscribe to the print version of your favorite magazine, too, for those times you just can’t look at a screen.
Fan of podcasts? Play them while cooking or relaxing in your favorite chair to get a taste of what it was like when people sat around in the evenings listening to the radio!
The most important thing is that finishing work on your laptop doesn’t have to turn into surfing the web on your laptop until bedtime. Give your eyes a rest – it’ll make those working hours a lot easier to handle!
Stock up on provisions
Survival kits often have food and water, and a Work-From-Home Survival Kit should be no exception.
With no excuse to hang around the office water cooler, remembering to stay hydrated isn’t always easy.
We know that water is essential to a healthy brain, so having a reusable water bottle on hand near your work area for back-to-back conference calls and tight deadlines can keep you from sluggish dehydration.
It’s also true that in our modern age, we can easily order food and groceries without setting foot outside or even talking to another human.
But if we’re being really honest, how many of us still eat the random things left in the fridge when we’re hungry – or just want a quick break in the middle of work tasks?
(Kimchi on toast? Hummus straight out of the tub? Cereal again?)
Stock your survival kit with foods that actually resemble real meals. Quick options like pasta, canned soups, or frozen fruits – hello, smoothies – are good places to start, and they last a long time!
Keep these foods separate from your regular meal plans, and consistently stocked.
Everyone has a day where a big salad plan goes awry for whatever reason, and quickly heating up some soup saves you from improvising some combination of foods so vile it has to be kept secret.
And seriously, drink lots of water.
Have an escape plan
A natural disaster survival kit isn’t worth much if it doesn’t include an escape plan. Where do you go in case of emergency? How do you get there if you can’t get online or use GPS?
Sure, working from home isn’t comparable to being in an earthquake or facing down a hurricane, but you still need an escape plan.
A tired, overworked brain cannot be depended upon for ideas of where to go and what to do if you just have to get out of the house. (Work-from-home GPS far too often just points to the couch or bed.)
If you have a coworking membership for use every now and then, make sure you know how to book a day, or what location works best for you, so it’s one less hurdle to heading out the door.
Do you have a list of cafes nearby that don’t stare you down if you show up with a laptop?
Which ones have reliable wifi and convenient outlets? What times are best to find a place to sit, or to avoid the lunch rush? (Or, even scarier, the after-school rush.)
If possible, try to find places you don’t go to when you aren’t working, so your weekend coffee run doesn’t feel like every other day of the week.
If you have a flexible schedule, escaping entirely can help clear your head and refocus, or relax in a way that’s free of the usual distractions. Anything that’s within a short drive or walk is an option you can add to a list of adventures and excursions!
Museums, parks, a bench with a nice view or a special lunch spot for treating yourself are all great choices. Include important info in your notes to yourself (like hours of operation and street address) so it’s super simple to just pick an idea and go!
Include a healthy dose of humor
Even the best plans don’t always work out.
Cat naps last for hours. You forget to turn off your notifications, and miss a yoga class because you can’t pretend you didn’t see an email. Your toddlers make a surprise appearance on national television.
It’s just another day in the work-from-home experience, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Laugh it off, and keep on going!
What’s in your Work-From-Home Survival Kit?
Have you ever had a moment where work and life spectacularly collided over Skype or on a conference call?
Let us know in the comments below!