Millions of people all over the world are being forced to work from home, unexpectedly and haphazardly, because of the coronavirus pandemic. It is so common now that we use WFH to abbreviate Work(ing) from home.
WFH sure has its appeal, but along with it comes new challenges. I asked 11 health coaches what their biggest struggles and lessons were while working from home. The topics regarded as most important include:
- Structure and Scheduling
- Workspace and Boundaries
- Productivity and Prioritization
Get your notepad ready, because these insights will change the way you face your workday:
Nearly every single coach mentioned distractions as a struggle. That’s why setting office hours, and making others aware, is such a smart move.
Take it from Jenn Maples, the nutrition coach behind Running On Real Fuel:
“Being interrupted/distractions is the biggest struggle! Family can be a huge distraction—especially with schools being shut down (and childcare options). Now, I tell my family what hours I’ll be working, and that—unless they’re on fire—they’ll have to wait until I’m done to chat. Works brilliantly.”
Jennifer Essary, from Jen’s Primal Health, had a similar experience:
“I’m used to working from home, but once my whole family was home with me, I struggled to stay focused on my work because my home office is without doors. I learned you have to set firm boundaries and expectations with family members.”
Another undeniable distraction was mentioned by Chris Prior from 8 to Straight:
“Such a large percentage of my job is on Instagram and Facebook. While I only use my accounts for business, dang it’s hard to avoid scrolling on social media (or ignore all the puppy videos and memes).”
When you first start working from home, you might see the appeal in just rolling out of bed onto your desk chair—coffee in hand—wearing your pajamas, and saving all the extra time and effort it takes to become presentable. Why, then, does every WFH article emphasize getting dressed for the workday?
Firstly, getting ready is like a physical indicator, or ritual, that signals to your brain that you’re getting ready to work.
Chris Prior says, “I’m always less efficient when I don’t shower and stay in my sweats. Putting on some comfortable work clothes better puts me in the zone.”
Nanette Mackenroth, from Your Primal Life, used to work at a corporate job…
“At the beginning of working from home, I often didn’t take the time to ‘get ready.’ Once I got back into my consistent routine—work out, shower, dress…I was much more productive.”
This self-care element is about more than getting ready. Chris explained, “Neglecting my own self-care was a struggle. I’m frequently tempted to wake up early and jump right into work tasks. I’ve had to ‘reward’ myself with work only after I engage in a morning routine that prioritizes my personal health and growth. It’s obviously good for me, and my clients are counting on me to not be an empty cup.”
Coach Deepak Saini expressed the same concerns:
“We need to take care of our own self-care first, then our families, so we can be present and helpful to our clients.”
I can tell you from recent personal experience that once I started putting self-care on the back burner, I felt depression, complacency, and a lack of motivation beginning to rise within me. I soon realized how badly I needed to implement my morning ritual again.
Rituals or Routines?
“Routines power your day, but rituals help you get through them…while routines help us feel in control of our time, rituals make sure we stick to our plans. Sometimes it’s the simplest actions that help us get through the day and stay motivated.” – Jory MacKay, RescueTime:
Schedule and Structure
Coaches all agree that maintaining a consistent schedule is challenging but critical. Personally, I realized that without a schedule my family (and my own brain) doesn’t take my work seriously.
We’re also more likely to work too much, without a schedule, and I feel a sense of guilt like I’m slacking on household duties or family time—just because I am home.
We need to create balance by scheduling in longer breaks or wrapping-up early, then we have time (and energy) for family and daily household responsibilities. For bigger tasks, like batch cooking or cleaning, I find it easiest to go all-in and do it on Sundays when I am off. If I don’t plan it, it feels like extra weight I’m carrying.
Tina Stinson, from Healthy Balanced Living, says,
“Being consistent with my schedule is one of the biggest struggles. Everything needs to be an appointment with me. Every task needs to be on my schedule or it will not happen.”
Deepak has the added challenge of sharing his computer devices with family members. He explained, “Organization and time management is even more key now. My wife has a corporate job with a large team reporting to her, so we decided that it was more important for her to access to the desktop in prime business hours. My kids also need the laptop for school work. It can be frustrating, but we are managing.”
“Working from home effectively requires structure and routine. I would also encourage people to hold hours. Just because you’re at home doesn’t mean you can wing it and work when you want to—this sounds ideal but rarely translates into results. Be your own boss, and treat yourself as such. A lack of discipline will only hurt your ability to show up and make the impact you wish to make.” Great stuff, Coach Ste.
Workspace and Boundaries
One of the most important things you can do is to create boundaries for WFH. Check out Chris Prior’s suggestion:
“Designate a space in your home solely for work purposes. Having a workspace that’s not in my bedroom or around a TV helps me keep my work and home life more self-contained.”
Do you have a designated space where you work? Even a specific chair at a cleared dining room table with a work lamp can do the trick.
Prioritization and Productivity
Being your own boss isn’t as easy as it sounds. Tina said, “I make a list in the AM with my top 3 tasks, and that’s my focus…The morning is my most productive time. Learning your most productive time of the day matters. It’s different for everyone.”
Ste Lane, from Peak Primal Health, explains how changing your work environment helps your productivity:
“You can dedicate different spaces to different tasks. One area is where you write or create content, another is where you take calls, for example. These environmental cues tell you, ‘It’s time to go’ …and it cuts down on procrastination, distraction, and lost productivity.”
Wellness Coach Anya Perry brought up the subject of accountability:
“Lack of accountability is a struggle. Not having a business coach or mentor often led me to a lack of clarity, feeling lost and frustrated. I also find that having a business partner or a friend who’s another coach pushes me to complete what I committed to. It’s almost like someone is watching you…and you can’t let them down!”
Let’s conclude with some relevant insights from Coach Becker of Ketology:
“I think working from home will become much more commonplace once we exit this crisis. Those who do not pivot to build a system to continually get new clients or deliver value online may not survive.”
It’s time to develop your personal WFH systems. Join us, along with other fellow coaches, inside the Health Coaching Success Facebook group. We can all support each other along the way.