Tips to Successfully Work from Home

[ Stephanie Baldwin, 2L at the University of Arizona ]

Each week, I write these blogs about a week before they are published and sometimes, things do not change at all, however, as we all know life is changing drastically day-to-day. Last week I wrote about how many of us were going to be attending school from home for at least 2 weeks. Now, it seems we are all attending what many are calling the “Zoom School of Law” as we finish our semesters online. In addition to that, most of us are also now completing our internships/externships from home by working remotely.

As I wrote about before, this semester I am in for the UArizona Phoenix Externship Program, which is where I normally live (I commute weekly to Tucson most semesters), so I am not faced with the challenge of moving back home. I am luckily already here. My firm has been amazing to work for so far, and this week we transitioned to an online environment. While not all interns can do this, I luckily was able to. Having previous remote work experience was helpful and I want to share some of my best practices in working remotely. Even if you are not completing your internship from home, these tips also work for taking remote classes.

1—Create a Dedicated Workspace

A dedicated space will help you be less distracted and treat the time you spend in this areas more seriously. Even if this is a corner in your kitchen, a storage area, or even a closet, move things around so that you have a space that is exclusively dedicated for work. This will help you realize this is a “workplace” and allow you to focus your energy.

Ideally, this is different from where you do your schoolwork, but if it has to be the same place, consider using different accessories and set when you are working. This will also help you separate “work time” from “school time” by minimally changing your environment. For example, at my desk that I use for both work and school, I use a whiteboard to track my “work projects” and deadlines, but when I am in “study mode” or attending classes on Zoom, I flip this around and use the cork board side to pin up post-it notes. I also have a different desk set up for work, using 2 screens, and when I am in class, to be less distracted, I push the screen back and use a book stand for my book and have an established writing space to take notes. It is a subtle change, but clearly defines when I am in my “workspace” or my “school space”

2—Set (employer approved) dedicated work hours, based on your Productivity Peeks

It can be easy when you are working from home to “work whenever” but it is important to establish dedicated work time. This way you aren’t working excessively, but also are not putting work off. Keep in mind, if you are working remotely you may have more flexibility and you can use this to your advantage. For example, because of my normal school schedule, I work Tu & Th 9-6 and Wed 9-1. But from a productivity standpoint, I really hit my stride when I work from 2-8 pm. You, of course, need to have any changes to hours approved by your employer, but generally, as law clerks, our work is projected based, and we need to hit hours for our externships, not necessarily being present at certain hours. Know what works best for you, and see how that can benefit your work productivity.

3—Get Dressed for Work.

Ok, so there is no need to get your full business attire on, but don’t just roll out of bed in your PJs and “go to work.” Follow your morning routine and at least get dressed. This will help you get into “work mode” mentally. This also applies to attending school, get up get dressed and you will already feel more productive.

4—Remember to Take Breaks

Taking breaks can actually make yourself more productive. I wrote about this as a 1L, but taking breaks every 52 minutes, for 17 minutes is supposed to be the “golden spot” for productivity according to Time https://time.com/3518053/perfect-break/. Sure if you are in a roll, power ahead, but by taking a break you might also be more productive. Also, take short breaks to look away from your computer will help your eyesight and getting up and moving around will make you more productive.

5—Stay Connected to Coworkers (and your classmates)

At my workplace we have Jabber, other offices use skype, Facebook, Microsoft team, slack or other tools. Whatever it is, use it. Stay connected and reach out to people. Don’t be afraid to grab some facetime with a coworker over one of your “mental breaks.” Also, be sure to reach out to your fellow classmates, while we are isolated, we now all have Zoom accounts, so feel free to “meet up” for a social chat or drinks virtually from the comfort of your couch.

6—Set Timers

When you are working on a big project, it can be easy to get lost in your work. This happens at the office all of the time, but when you are working at home one of two things will happen, you will become so engrossed, that you will work for hours on end without even stopping for a drink, or you will be distracted by everything else you will get nothing done. Here, using your phone to set alarms can be a big help. It will make sure you are hitting your timing goals, plus make sure that you take well-deserved breaks. I am a big fan of asking Siri to label my alarms, that way when they go off I know what my next task is (or should be).

7—Have Ambient Noise in the Background

Maybe its music, for me it’s the TV. This has always worked for me, but one of the women in the office said having the TV on at 18 and set to talk TV was the perfect thing she needed to be productive at home. Experiment with the TV or music, but it will help you be more productive than working in complete silence.

8—Set Boundaries If You Are Not Alone

For some people, this next two weeks (likely longer) represents a break… that is not the case for us. We have school, finals and work to deal with. Many of you might also be home living with parents for the first time in years, so make sure you create space for yourself. Set clear boundaries with your family and significant other that when you are in your dedicated workspace you are not to be disturbed.  This is where having a dedicated workspace can be ideal. I know it sounds crazy using a closet, but if that is the only place you can be alone, make it happen.

If you have any tips you want to share, please let me know over at the @The2LLife on Twitter and Instagram!