Erin Dorney home office

Erin Dorney, a Lancaster-based author who works from home, shares a picture of her workspace.

The COVID-19 pandemic has many workers doing their jobs from home. It’s an unfamiliar situation for many people. The thought of working from home, at first glance, seems pretty great (Couch! Pets! Sweats!). But some people that aren’t used to working remotely can struggle with it.

Sure the commute is much easier and the dress code is a little more lax, but a host of other issues can arise. Experts such as Tom Popomaronis, a contributor to CNBC, cites in an article for CNBC.com that neglecting your health, dealing with distractions and creating an improvised office space in your home are a few of the issues that people can struggle with while working from home. Maintaining a healthy work/life balance and feeling isolated are some other common aspects of working from home that some people find difficult.

Though working remotely might seem like a challenge, some don’t have that option because their jobs cannot be done from home or their employers don’t offer it. Before you start complaining about minor inconveniences, it’s important to remember those unable to work from home are facing diminished wages and benefits or increased anxiety because of potential exposure to COVID-19. 

Erin Dorney, a Lancaster-based author of a poetry book of Shia LaBeouf-themed erasure poems called “I Am Not Famous Anymore,” has been working from home since 2015. A freelancer who specializes in copywriting, graphic design, data entry, social media management, and website design, “basically I do a bunch of stuff,” she writes in an email

Dorney offers a few tips to help people cope with a new work environment. 

Tools

Finding the right tools to help you get organized is a must to be successful when working from home. Dorney recommends Asana — the project management web-based application —to track and organize all her work. Another helpful tool is Harvest, which helps you track your time spent on projects and creates invoices. Google Tools is another helpful resource for creating documents, managing your schedule and for collaborating with team members or clients.

Dorney also mentions the Adobe Creative Suite for design work, Hootsuite for social media planning and scheduling, as well as a couple of tangible tools. 

“A trusty spiral-bound notebook (important because it lies flat),” Dorney writes in an email. “And colorful markers!”

Creating a comfortable work space

“One thing that helps me stay on task (and avoid household distractions) is to create a comfortable workspace with a designated desk, pens, tissues, a water bottle, good lighting, and a supportive chair,” writes Dorney. “Being near a window is nice.”

Make a schedule

“I try to schedule all of my meetings (virtual or in person) on one day of the week so I can do focused work the rest of the time,” Dorney writes. “Mondays are my ‘admin’ day where I catch up on email, batch invoices, and make a plan for the week. It really helps to be organized as well as flexible, particularly if you’re doing work for multiple clients or jobs.”

Avoid burnout

Setting boundaries is important when you’re not physically reporting to an office. Some people are easily distracted when they’re not at their office, but many others find it hard to separate work and free time when their home turns into the office.

“One thing people should be prepared for is that they may get more work done in a shorter period of time,” Dorney writes. “In my experience, working at home doesn’t have the distractions of an office that make five 8-hour days a week seem ‘necessary’ (it’s not — I strongly believe everyone should be working less).”

Let’s face it, during a typical day at an office, there are many wasted minutes spent chatting with co-workers, going on coffee runs, and, of course, meetings that seemingly could have been an email.

“You may end up getting all of your tasks done in four hours of intense working (from home), for example,” writes Dorney.

Bursts of intense work and productivity could be more common if you’re alone and focused. Though, Dorney stresses getting more work done in less time is not an excuse for employers to pay employees less during something like the current pandemic.

“It’s something workers should keep in mind so they don’t overwork themselves because of the adjustment and experience burn-out,” writes Dorney. “Remember to take breaks as needed. Dogs are good for this! They need a walk and so do you.”