Approaching the new year, one might be jaded to the concept of a routine as 2020 really shook up a collective sense of normalcy and order. Majority of people adjusted to performing their usual work remotely, while others pivoted following setbacks and changed career paths altogether. Considering that the time at home provided more room for introspection, I’m a member of the latter camp. During my transition into a freelance work-from-home lifestyle, there are a few necessities I’ve relied on to make this journey more comfortable and personable.
What’s needed for your home office is obviously contingent on the type of work that you do, but ultimately you want to strive towards efficiency and productivity. Whether you’re an artist or an accountant, organization is beneficial to working with ease. Let’s unpack some elements of having a more intentional and meaningful WFH experience.
Maximize your space and resources
If you live in a shared space and only have so much room to maneuver in, consider having a portable toolbox with all of your necessities. Maybe a lap desk or standing desk would suit your needs better than a larger piece of furniture. If you have the privilege of having a separate office space, give everything within it a proper home. Label the tools that will be most prominently used in your studio, so you can access them easier. Have a visible station for your stationery, printer, and staplers.
Since a lot of our time is being spent on camera, I recommend having a mirror accessible for Zoom calls or creative photo shoots. If your office space is also your bedroom, it’s preferable to have a sitting arrangement that’s not your bed — perhaps an ergonomic chair that doesn’t tempt you to nap. For those limited on space, consider a futon or sleeper couch so it’s more transitional. It’s also helpful to have lush plants for beautification and oxygen, as well as a cool mist humidifier to avoid stuffiness during the colder months when you’re less likely to open a window.
Get more uses out of your home wares
If nothing else, working from home can make you more resourceful. I originally bought a mobile tripod to take better selfies but I’ve found it so helpful to be hands-free while on Zoom or taking a break to watch Netflix. Occasionally, I will use my portable projector to view my writing in a larger context, so I can better read it aloud as I edit. While attending webinars or lectures from my phone, I also like to have my trapper keeper handy for note taking and highlighting texts in colorful ink. There’s something sentimental about repurposing the same fuchsia portfolio binder that got me through high school and undergrad. Considering that it also holds supplies, it’s super helpful in case I need to move to a different room and don’t want to transport my whole workstation.
Meal prepping and snack breaks are crucial to make sure you don’t work through lunch time. If you work amongst roommates or loved ones, maybe take turns being in charge of lunch throughout the week. You can recreate that feeling of finding out you and your favorite co-worker have the same scheduled break if you meaningfully map it into your routine. You’ll want to stay thoroughly hydrated while you’re keeping busy, so having a reusable water bottle nearby is key. If you fancy, you can assign a cute mug for drinking your daily cup(s) of tea or coffee from.
Take breaks and get some rest
Incorporate time for stretching and a fitness routine —if it’s one that can get you safely outside, all the better. Whether you’re an early riser or a night owl, getting outside to catch some rays is of utmost importance. If you mainly work from a laptop and have access to a patio or quiet outdoor environment, switch up your routine by completing some tasks outside. When the weather permits, I like to write in my backyard. Or even better — when it’s time for a break, take a moment to simply be present and enjoy the fresh air on your skin. Take a lap around the block for a mental reset, which might provide clarity on a current task. Naps can also be restorative in this way.
Map out the mood
I noticed when I was working in retail that the music playing was often more important to me in regards to feeling comfortable than most other aspects of the workplace. For focusing, I typically like a mix of Motown, modern jazz, and indie rock, but it really depends on the day and the tasks ahead. If “Chill lo-fi beats to study to” is not quite your jam, curate a playlist that keeps you on track. Having images in your space that motivate — even a vision board of your goals — can be a helpful reminder of what you hope to achieve. For me, it’s also more inspiring to work in a room with bright, natural light as opposed to the fluorescent lighting that often appears in corporate settings.
Set boundaries — both digital and physical
It’s highly likely that much work can be performed via your smartphone — I admittedly edit a lot of my writing from the Google Docs app. But it’s always helpful to have another option when the time calls to set boundaries around how you use technology. If you find that it creates an easier work-life balance, perhaps your phone can be reserved for leisure time only. Keep a calendar with reminders for important events and set time limits for apps that distract too easily. Looking forward to 2021, I sincerely offer condolences to those who felt their 2020 organizer went to waste amidst the chaos. But nothing says “new year’s resolutions” better than purchasing next year’s planner, so maybe we can ease into a sense of comfort around our career adjustments in style?
The great thing about being a freelancer is the flexibility to design your own schedule, but in any scenario, it’s helpful to be strategic about times that you respond to work-related inquiries. Maybe you only check your email after your morning mindfulness practice or workout. When necessary, put your phone on “do not disturb” mode. If you have roommates or live with family, be upfront in communicating your needs and schedules to avoid conflict. Quiet hours might not always be feasible in shared spaces, so I suggest investing in ear plugs and/or noise-cancelling headphones.
Dress for success
Apply this motto in the context of the work that you do. Ultimately, you want to opt for clothes you feel good in that are appropriate for the tasks you’re doing. Very often, I will get fully dressed and apply makeup even if I have no scheduled Zoom or FaceTime calls because that’s what I always enjoyed about going to work and school. It aids in my sense of personal motivation and allows me to embody the saying “look good, feel good, do good.”
If you prefer working in your pajamas, that’s totally your prerogative. I recommend having a separate set for the daytime so it’ll at least feel like you made an effort. Maybe you choose to work sans pants, since you’ve muted your camera anyway. Honestly, more power to you! Embracing what’s comforting about being at home, while elevating your professional capabilities where it’s necessary — that’s the goal in achieving harmony and balance as you work from home.