My Office to Home Transition

Back in early March when it was decided that our office would be working remotely and my studio apartment would become my new office, I was admittedly excited. As a self-proclaimed introvert and night owl, I had visions of sleeping in and lounging in my pajamas all day (while working, or course). But as the Lead Client Service Associate at AFM, I also knew my workday would still be demanding: I needed to focus on making client appointments, processing invoices, and organizing portfolio reports.

That dream lasted for about two weeks. I quickly realized I needed some structure back in my life. As wonderful as it was to lay on the couch, my work and home life were beginning to meld together. There was no longer the mindset of walking out the office doors at 5 pm and being able to switch to ‘home mode.’ For those first couple of weeks, the only difference between 5 pm and 5:01 pm was that I could close my computer, pour a glass of wine…and then sit back on the couch where I’d been working all day. I finally told myself that changes needed to be made if I was to continue being productive.

Valerie's Desk
Valerie’s Desk

My first change was to start waking up earlier. I started setting my alarm for at least 30 minutes before I needed to be online. I could leisurely get up, feed my petulant cats, make my coffee and settle in with a fresh mindset at 8:30 am, ready to go. I’m sure my colleagues appreciated this as well; they were no longer getting a groggy “hello” upon answering their phone calls!

Additionally, rather than spending all day in my pajamas I found that getting fully dressed in the morning helped as well. Before I continue, I mean fully dressed in the sense of workout clothes or leggings; I haven’t worn jeans or business casual attire in four months, and I don’t plan to start now! Getting dressed helped me separate the sleeping, lazy me from the awake, productive me. Once I got dressed, I felt I could really take on the day. I’m sure my neighbors appreciated it as well, they were no longer seeing me walk around the hallways in my ‘12 Cats of Christmas’ sleep shirt.

The next step was making a dedicated work area. Living in a studio apartment, this isn’t as easy as it sounds. I decided to clear my kitchen table, which was essentially storage for random items and documents, and set up a large computer monitor and keyboard/mouse. Thankfully, AFM let us bring home our desk monitors – this was probably the biggest help in my productivity. This became my office area, and work happened there and only there. I stopped allowing myself to bring my laptop to the couch – I had to sit upright in my chair and focus on what was on my new desk.

Then I needed to set the mood. Due to everything going on in the world, I typically spent the day with the news playing in the background. Although this kept me informed, it wasn’t great for my mental health and stress levels. I did some searching and found a wonderful ambient sounds YouTube channel filled with musical scores from some of my favorite movies and television shows. I was now working while having the Game of Thrones theme playing in the background – sending emails had never been this exciting!

Finally, I needed something to break up the day. With no other rooms to escape to once I was done working, the only solution was to venture to the great outdoors of Washington, DC! I made a point of either taking a walk for my lunch break, or at 5 pm I would close the computer and immediately head outside. The break at lunchtime was nice in that I had a renewed sense of energy upon my return. If I took the walk at 5 pm, it really helped give the sense that the workday was over and personal time could begin. Also, exercise is good for your health, or so I hear.

With all that said, I am greatly enjoying being able to work from home. I don’t have to deal with the rush hour commute, I can cook whatever I want for lunch, or even clean my apartment if I feel so inclined.

If you are struggling to stay productive while being at home, find a routine that works for you. If you discover that some days are better than others, don’t beat yourself up over it. Everyone works at their own pace and tools for productivity are not applicable to everyone. Now, I’m off to make a chocolate milkshake because I’m home, and I can!

By Valerie Donely