Working from Home (WFH) Lessons from a 12-year Vet

Posted on: April 07, 2020, by: Gerard Rebalsky

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As I interact (virtually) with the rest of the world, I’m surprised at myself for not realizing how many of us are not as accustomed to working at home as I am. Since 2008, I have had the benefit of being able to wake up, dress – and walk less than 10 steps to whatever workstation I’ve setup for myself throughout various locations I’ve called home over the past 12 years.

Working from Home (WFH) was something I quickly acclimated to. I thrived in fact. I wasn’t distracted by the social entrapment’s of the office, nor the constant desire to leave the building for any reason – just to get out of its environment. At home I was comfortable, relaxed, and focused on my job and the tasks at hand. I loved every minute of it!

There were some drawbacks of course. The lack of social interaction and perhaps the structure to an extent, but the benefits have far outweighed any negatives.

Personally – I saved myself at least an hour a day commuting. The stress of getting ready and being on time each day was suddenly gone. And I was able to sell my car – which was a great cost savings. A lot of the daily stresses that were just a part of life disappeared like figuring out what to wear, dealing with bad weather, etc. which really helps with a more positive outlook.

However – I have made observations over the years that may help others. Though we’re all different, there’s some standard practices I’ve adopted to help maintain my productivity and sanity! I would love to hear how you’re acclimating and what you have found helpful in the comments.

  • Set a schedule: This is obvious to all, but not something many implement well. You need structure as the distractions (the fridge, TV, pets, children, comfort, etc.) of working from home are varied. Continue to wake up as though you’re still commuting to work. Stealing a little extra sleep time for a later wake-up is OK – but if your workday starts at 9am, don’t wake up at 8:55am. Give yourself that normal drive time to mentally prepare for your day (watch a morning show, get that coffee, and make breakfast). Manage your calendar, set boundaries and block out time to focus on tasks and projects. This will keep you focused on work and minimize distractions.·
  • Pretend you’re going into the office: One thing I’ve battled with is the comfort of home. When I first started WFH, I reveled in wearing sweatpants or gym shorts and a t-shirt. Over time, I could sense a difference in my personality- I was too comfortable. I notice when I dress and groom myself as though I am going to see people– I feel better about myself too. Don’t go full-on executive in the boardroom, but a casual Friday approach every day is perfectly acceptable. The occasional sweatpants/pajama day is fine too – just be sure you’re not going to be called to a video chat!·
  • Use virtual meetups: (this will help with my point above). It’s good to see people – not just hear them. In this time,it’s important for people to see you as well. You’ll get over the awkwardness quickly – the person(s) you’re meeting with are likely doing this for the first time as well. Here at Smartlogic, we utilize Microsoft Teams, Sharepoint, and GoToMeeting to meet and collaborate on different projects.·
  • Create a functional work space- Minimize distractions: In my home – there is a rule. When I am in my work space, I am in the office. You’ll have to set rules with your family (and your pet’s as best you can). Don’t forget to let your family set some as well. It’s not all about you and your work. You’re now in their environment and infringing on their time/space/routine as well.·
  • Move around – I have a dedicated workspace, but if I start feeling unproductive, a simple move to the couch often re-focuses me and my output starts to flow. Remember when the teacher would take the class outside on a particularly nice day? Go ahead and take your laptop outside! It’s wonderful to sit on the balcony or patio and breathe the fresh air as you work.
  • Get out of the house after work (keeping social distancing in mind, of course). You are home and you should enjoy it – but it can start to close in on you. Take a walk around your neighborhood – smell the flowers, get a coffee, go for a run. Something to get yourself out of the house each day and get your circulation going, is a great way to keep you motivated and focused.·
  • Setup social calls with your coworkers. A few 30-minute chats just for socializing and staying in touch with your co-workers. Engaging socially is very important to keep your mind in a positive state. Because we all typically WFH at Smartlogic, we’re encouraged to socialize with our co-workers on a regular basis but it’s especially important in these times to keep socially engaged.
  • Do not turn on the T.V. As tempting as it is, TV can easily distract you. After watching a marathon of “The Office” you’ll realize it’s now 3pm and you haven’t started your day!
  • Pace your day out: If you don’t have a hard shift or deadline to meet it’s OK to stretch your day out, especially if you have kids at home. Maybe your day ends at 7pm, to allow a few hours in the middle of the day to focus your attention on family or caring for yourself. Be responsive to your job needs. If you take an extended break – monitor your emails/IM from your phone if you can. Responsiveness is important in this environment. Simply providing a quick response like, “I’ll look into it and get back to you later today.” – is very effective with building trust while you’re not in the office and takes a few seconds to do.
  • Close your laptop: When your day is done– shut it down. You can always attend to emergencies like you normally would but leaving your laptop up -especially if you can easily view it - sucks you back into work after the day is done, and you’ll start to realize you’re working much longer days.

In closing, I want to leave you with this message from our CEO, Jeremy Bentley, “We are all in this together. Please stay safe as we all navigate through this unprecedented time. As it has always been, our success is predicated by your success and we remain at your service.”