Since moving to Tbilisi in July 2018, I have been teleworking full time. While this isn’t a terribly long period, I know, I feel like after a year-and-a-half of working from home I’ve developed a bit of a tips and tricks list in my head, but I’m never able to accurately articulate everything I want to say when asked about my experiences. I want to use this blog as a way to properly organize my thoughts.
Before I jump in, I want to say that telework is by no means a solution to all problems, but for Sean and me, it allowed us to maintain a separation of our work lives that we so desperately need. I’m thankful we have been able to have something to discuss at night that doesn’t even remotely involve Tbilisi or the Embassy. It’s a way for me especially to cling to my “normal life.”
And now, without further ado, here are my Top 10 Teleworking Tips.
1. Checklists are your friends. When you begin working from home, it’s easy to feel lost on what needs to happen every day. I’m a creature of inertia – I think most of us are – and it’s very common for me to get stuck on where to start. I find that making a checklist of tasks is a huge help. Even if I don’t start with the most important or pressing item on my list, the physical satisfaction of checking something off a list is all the motivation I need to keep going and stay on task.
2. Get up, have breakfast, shower, and GET DRESSED. Especially at first, this was a huge help for me when starting my day. It’s easy to just say in your pajamas, unshowered and disheveled, but that kind of behavior can cause you to blur the separation of work and home life. Which brings me to my next point:
3. Designate a place in your home specifically for work. Even if this isn’t a separate room, having a desk or table dedicated for work is a huge help for me. Here in Tbilisi, I’m lucky to have something of a home office – it’s also a gym and storage room but that’s beside the point. In our Maryland home, all I had was my desk in the corner of our living room. I reserved that space for work and work alone, which made it much easier to turn my brain off when the workday was done.
4. Invest in a comfortable office chair and other home office essentials. This kind of goes hand-in-hand with tip #3. When I first started telecommuting three days a week the first thing I did was purchase a comfortable office chair. I still have it and it’s one of my favorite places to sit which I think definitely contributes to my productivity. I also decorated the space above and around my desk in a way that I love which makes my little work area all the more inviting.
5. Make sure you get out of the house. I struggle with this one. My current solution for this is a second job at the Embassy which I’m not sure is exactly what we’re going for here, but that’s a story for another day. Before I started working in our CLO office, I would go a full week without leaving my house and it’s very isolating. I did occasionally go to a cafe or even just outside to work. I’m not great at this one, but I know it’s essential to remain connected to the outside world.
6. Be clear about your work hours. Since I’m currently in Tbilisi, I shift my workday to overlap with my home office in Maryland. I work until 8:00 pm each day. This can get tricky when it comes to evening events or social gatherings, but I’ve found most people are understanding. Setting firm boundaries helps others respect them as time goes on.
7. Video chat and messenger apps are your friends. I wouldn’t say I LOVE getting on an unexpected Zoom video call on a day where my hair won’t cooperate and I didn’t listen to my own advice from tip #2 and I’m rocking sweats, but having even virtual facetime with co-workers is key. I “see” my department once a week and it’s a great way to stay connected to them and catch up on all the little things I may have missed being halfway around the world. We also use Slack for messaging and it’s much more fun and productive than email ever was.
8. Designate meal times and breaks. I ran into two problems before doing this: first, I would wander into the kitchen constantly and graze all day. Once I stopped myself from doing that, I would go far too long between meals and snacks. Now I make sure to break for lunch (or dinner these days since I work such odd hours) and get up to stretch my legs at least once an hour. If the weather is nice I may even take the pups outside to play for a bit. It helps me avoid eye strain and fatigue.
9. Be present when you can. I’ve made it a point for myself, my office, and our members to make it to the Annual Meeting in May. I went to Dever last year and I’m absolutely planning to be in Chicago in a few months. Yes, it’s a long flight and might seem a bit strange to fly halfway around the world to work long hours while jet-lagged beyond reason but it’s worth it to me to be physically present at this meeting. It helps me stay connected to the office when I’m so far removed the remaining 51 weeks of the year.
10. Make a kickass workday playlist – or invest in noise-canceling headphones if that’s more your style. The silence of my home absolutely drives me crazy, so I’m on team playlist for this tip. It really goes back to creating a welcoming environment for yourself. It will do wonders for your productivity, trust me.
I hope this list was helpful if you’re new to teleworking or considering it for your future. If you have any tips I’d love to hear them in the comments under this post! I’m always looking for new ideas to make my workday as easy and productive as possible.