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Sarah Birch: Working from home and staying motivated

Author: Sarah Birch

Posted on Mar 25, 2020

Category: Insights

Sarah Birch (BBA'01, LLB'04) is a proud UNB alumna and a member of UNB’s Associated Alumni council. A former lawyer, and current content creator and blogger, she recently moved ‘back home’ to the East Coast with her family. You can find her on Instagram at @littlesarahbirch or on her blog www.littlesarahbirch.com. 
This article is part of a series of guest blogs, written by our own UNB alumni.



Tips for working from home

The world is a different place than it was only a few weeks ago. The “new normal” (if you can call it that) for some people is to work from home. Lucky for me, this is not new territory. After several years as a home office employee for Thomson Reuters and a few more as a stay-at-home blogger, I’ve got a few tips to share. I also asked my husband to share any wisdom from his one week of home office life. His tip was, “Don’t have kids.” Hopefully, my tips will be more easily implemented. 


Create a work space

You may not have a physical office, but if you’re working from home, you have to work somewhere. Carve out a space that makes the most sense for your current lifestyle - removed from other housemates, if possible. The goal is to eliminate distractions and keep you focused on your work. In addition, having an assigned work space makes it easier to mentally disconnect from the work at the end of the workday. Ideally, your space should include a window to provide some natural light, which will help maintain better mental health.


Get dressed

It’s not necessary to put on a blazer and shoes, but getting dressed and ready for the day will help shift the day from “lounge mode” to “working mode.”


Protect your body

If this is your first time working from home, you may be tempted to pull your laptop into bed with you and work with it sitting on your lap. DON’T DO IT. Physiotherapy and massages are not options right now, and trust me: if you work from bed, you’ll require both. Despite being in a make-shift home office, do your best to create an ergonomically-friendly work environment.


Work on a schedule

Great news: you are now the master of your work schedule. One thing to consider is when you are most productive. If you’re a morning person, aim to start work early. If you’re a night owl, maybe you’ll work in the evenings. Create “office hours” and do your best to stick to them. Don’t forget to allow for breaks. In an office setting, we tend to have natural breaks by walking to meetings or grabbing a coffee with a co-worker; now, you can schedule time for a neighbourhood stroll or a break to throw in a load of laundry. Another benefit to keeping a schedule is that it gives you permission to close your laptop and “call it a night” without feeling like you should still be working. If you formerly had a long commute, congratulations! You just won that time back.


Set goals

Because working from home is more fluid than an office setting, I recommend setting daily goals for what you’d like to accomplish. If you find you’re not achieving your goals, you either need to change your goals or change your work day.


Manage expectations when working with children

If you have young children at home, forget everything I said. You’re going to get fired.

Just kidding.

Employers understand the challenges of the current situation. This is a tough time for working parents. When goal-setting, be sure you’re realistic about what you can get done with the kids around. Don’t expect to cram in a full work day once the kids go to bed; you’ll probably be too tired. My advice is to utilize timers to manage your expectations and those of your children. If you tell them they can have your attention in ten minutes, show them that you’re setting a timer for ten minutes and they can interrupt you when the timer goes off. Figure out how much screen time the kids are allowed and work ferociously while they’re zoned out. Finally, be kind to yourself. This too shall pass and someday, your tiny co-workers (children) will return to childcare and you will be the productive person you once were.


Utilize technology

It’s never been easier to keep in touch from afar thanks to tools such as Teams, Zoom or Webex. Presentations can be made and meetings can be held without ever leaving your home, if you have access to internet and technology. Familiarize yourself with your company’s tools; if there’s nothing in place already, consider which tools best suit your needs for the road ahead. The future is unclear, but with the right tools, you can continue to work safely and effectively from home.


- Sarah Birch (BBA '01, LLB '04)