Article By Sarah Landrum | Found on Forbes
Millennials. They grow up so fast. America’s “Generation Y” is now moving into management roles in the workplace. They’re also starting families. And all this “grown-up stuff” inevitably means one thing for them — Goodbye, work-life balance.
The generation who works harder for less money than Boomers now needs to juggle the responsibilities of gainful employment as well as leading their households. One ever-more-popular solution for reclaiming a few hours throughout the week is working from home. And millennials are making it work for them in a big way.
Right now, about a third of working millennials say achieving and maintaining this balance feels out of reach, which is probably why, as of 2015, the average worker in the U.S. telecommutes to work two days out of each month and why WFH has risen in popularity by 80% in just a little over 10 years.
Clearly, this is a trend that has legs — but even if you’ve been struggling to find balance in your life as a millennial, you might be wondering if it’s the right fit. Here’s how to make it work for you:
- Find The Schedule That Fits You Best
It might feel silly to begin this list with something that’s abundantly obvious, but choosing the right schedule for your needs is the first thing you need to figure out if you want to make working from home work for you.
Again, we know it sounds silly — eschewing the commute and the office was all about finding a work paradigm that fits your life better. But don’t assume merely transposing a traditional, nine-to-five schedule onto a different setting is good enough — you might have a different rhythm entirely.
Consider this extreme example: Kate Shellnutt advocates going to bed at 2 am on a regular basis. At least, that’s what works for her. You might have a similar experience if you go to bed at the “socially acceptable” time and then lay there for hours with a restless mind. You might be sacrificing prime productivity hours if you’re not listening to your body.
So? Trial-run a few different schedules to see what works best for you. It might feel “correct” to continue getting up at the same time you did when you were commuting, but getting in touch with your internal clock — and your peak productive hours — could completely change how you think about work.
- Develop A Consistent And Repeatable Morning Routine
One advantage commuters will always have over those who work from home is the benefit of a predictable morning commute. That’s right — we said “benefit.”
It’s not a secret that some of the most successful folks in the world developed and then stuck to a consistent morning routine. This starts the day off with the feeling of accomplishing something — admittedly minor though it might be. If you’re not getting up to make a Thermos-ful of coffee, slap together a brown-bagged lunch and then fire up a podcast to make the most of your commute, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a routine. It can start with something as simple as making your bed and getting dressed before you step foot in your home office.
And that brings us to the next point —
- Dress Deliberately
The whole dressing-like-you-don’t-care thing is cute in college, but it’s a super-easy trap to fall into when you work from home. One of the secrets to making WFH really work for you is to simply dress as though you had to commute to the office and deal with real human beings.
We get it — the pile of sweatpants and dirty V-necks beside your bed is a comfort. It’s very easy to roll out of bed and bedeck yourself in the uniform of the unemployed. But that sends your brain a powerful and unfortunate message: It’s slackin’ time!
Like making your bed or brushing your teeth in the morning, this small piece of ritualistic routine adds structure to your WFH life and provides a small mental boost in the form of a minor accomplishment. It also helps you feel more confident and productive — and a little more like a working professional, which is what you are.
- Make Your Work Place Your Own
Feeling comfortable in your surroundings is a significant part of why working from home has become so popular. Offices and other shared workplaces are frequently loud, exposed, cramped and generally not conducive to intense concentration. Making working-from-home really work means building a space that feels like it’s your own: A comfortable chair, a decent table or desk and appropriate lighting.
- Be Kind To Your Eyes — And Your Body
While we’re on the subject of lighting, it matters to your comfort at home. Interior decorators qualify indoor light according to its purpose: There’s ambient lighting, task lighting and accent lighting.
Making the most of the light in your home — and making sure it’s bright enough for your purposes without becoming overpowering — is important. Quite a bit of the work we’re able to do from home nowadays requires a computer screen, and you don’t want that to be the only source of illumination in your home office.
Be kind to the rest of your body, too. Practice good posture while you’re working, stand up often and sprinkle in some stretching, walking or even a Sun Salutation every hour or so to make sure your body is kept fresh and nimble. Your mind will thank you, too.
The Wave Of The Future
It’s not as though empowering more people to work from home doesn’t have an upside for both parties: This trend is good for employees because it frees up time in their schedule to look after family — or just themselves, frankly — and it’s good for employers because shifting some of your workers to WFH status saves money in the form of fewer expenses and overhead. Workers can maintain and even improve their productivity — provided they’ve kept the above suggestions in mind.
The point is, this is one of the great compromises of our time. We can distance ourselves a bit from familiar paradigms and seek out innovative ways of doing things. Telecommuting’s meteoric rise in popularity — 80% since 2005, to recap — and shows no signs of slowing down. Who knows? This might even be the new normal for the near future.
And, if you play your cards right, you’ll be able to say you were ahead of the curve.
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