How designers nail remote work

“What day is it today anyway?”

That comment from one of my designers could just as easily been any of us designers who were thrown into into an unexpected remote-only work scenario back in march with the COVID-19 lockdowns.

Looking back to march, the blurred lines between home and work were enough to drive me a bit crazy.

Am I off work now? Am I still working? When do I stop working? What day is it anyway?

I quickly realized the key to keep my sanity was to separate work from home as much as possible.

I experimented with different tactics to restore structure and separate work from home. Some experiments didn’t work. Others proved quite effective.

Here’s what has proven to work for me over the long term…

Maintain a consistent schedule

Keep a consistent schedule and you’ll quickly restore sanity and energy. Not just work hours, but also consistent bed-time and wake-up time.

It can be easy to slip into the habit of staying up later and later without a commute to wake up for in the morning. Then before you know it you’re battling the snooze button.

Fight the urge.

Go to bed on-time and wake up on-time without hitting snooze. Put your phone in another room so you have to get up out of bed.

Don’t work late

Staying at the computer and trading normal commute time for additional work is a slippery slope toward burnout.

Working late can set unreasonable expectations for stakeholders and managers that you are readily accessible into the evening.

Additionally, allowing yourself to work late can create the habit of wasting time during the day just to cope with the mental tole and fatigue the additional hours take. Slippery slope.

Do what you can to crush deadlines and close that computer at the same time everyday.

If you have no other choice but to work overtime, get up early and get ahead on the extra work instead of playing catch-up on the extra work into the evening.

Dress like you’re going out in public

It seems easier to roll out of bed and skip otherwise basic hygiene essentials, but that will only add to the bizarre feeling like you’re locked up, and can’t tell Saturday from Tuesday.

Get up, get ready for the day, and get dressed like you’re headed out in public.

You’ll feel better when you actually sit down to work. You’ll look more professional on Zoom calls. You’ll take yourself more seriously. You’ll perform at a higher level.

This also allows you to dress down when you’re done for the day. Swapping my jeans for shorts immediately after work provides me another mental trigger that I am OFF WORK for the day.

Dedicate a space

If at all possible, designate a specific place in your apartment or house as your workspace.

I limit my work to only working inside my home office. I avoid the temptation to move about the house with my laptop. This is 100% intentional.

When I close my laptop and step out of my office, I step into my home and literally close the office door behind me.

The rest of the rooms in my house are thus sacred places where I DO NOT WORK.

Even if you don’t have a room to dedicate, limiting work to a specific space can have the same affect.

If there is one corner of a room where the work happens, then you provide yourself the prompts that when you leave that corner, you disconnect from work.

Step outside and move

Stepping outside a few times a day and moving your body is a great way to break up the monotony and avoid feeling too cooped up.

A great way to do this is with a short walk. It gets the blood and oxygen moving at interrupts the monotony of staring at the screen all day.

My favorite thing to do is to grab my longboard and do a quick barefoot lap of the block. It takes less than five minutes but it just plain makes the day better.

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