5 Old Office Rules That Don’t Work for WFH — And 5 New Rules to Replace Them With

published Jan 20, 2021
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image

If you traded long commutes to the office for logging onto your laptop at the last minute from bed or your dining room table, you’re not alone. According to a recent Gallup poll almost 62 percent of respondents have spent some part of the past year doing their jobs from home. And while it appears remote work is here to stay, trying to achieve optimum productivity from the same place you eat, sleep, entertain your kids, and juggle other roles might make working from home a challenge for the most disciplined and task-oriented employee. 

As a freelancer and editor, I’ve always worked from home. Before offices and schools alike closed because of the pandemic, my house was sans family for much of the day. But once the pandemic hit, my daughter started online schooling and all of a sudden my quiet work environment had a big twist to it. By month two, I needed to come up with a new game plan to recalibrate my work-from-home responsibilities, just like millions of other remote workers who are still learning how to adjust, adapt, and establish new habits to balance it all.

Here are five practical new rules for anyone who is working from home:

Credit: Chloe Berk

Old Rule: Commute to the office every day.
New Rule: Commit to going outside every day — even for a few minutes.

Jennifer Johnson of Coil Law in Salt Lake City, Utah, believes “COVID just kickstarted practices for teleworking and telecommuting which could have been in place a long time ago,” and along with that come habits like staying inside all day, especially if you rely on e-commerce to deliver whatever you need to your front door.

One of her musts for work-from-home health is to schedule outside activity, especially after a fair amount of screen time. “You can speak on the phone outdoors in most instances,” she notes, which is a win-win situation. “My brain is tending to the call and I am getting Vitamin D.” You can also use the time outside will force you to take a break to recharge your body and mind, and tackle your project with fresh thoughts.

Old Rule: The work day ends when you leave the office.
New Rule: To set boundaries between work and home duties, honor a firm cut-off time.

It used to be that you would leave work at work, only rarely logging back on with your home computer in case of emergency. That’s not the case, anymore. To avoid an hourly creep, Mashon Thomas, a freelance consultant, advocates definitive boundaries between work and home. “Determine a shut-off time for the day and honor it,” she says. “If it’s 5 p.m. that means 5 p.m. No more work!” 

To mark a definitive end to your work day, she recommends establishing some closing ritual to finish your work day. “A five-minute dance party to one of your favorite songs, meditation or Tai Chi, or putting on tennis shoes to head out for a quick walk are all great ways to end the work day,” Thomas told Apartment Therapy, 

Old Rule: Head to the communal supply closet whenever you need anything.
New Rule: Streamline your workspace.

Physical clutter can keep you from staying on task. I prefer my work space to be clear before I start my day, because I’ve found that having too much paperwork and too many pens scattered across my desk creates a messy mindset before I start to write. 

“Keep your workspace as clean and tidy as possible,” says Bianca Kamhi, a certified holistic health and accountability coach from New York. In particular, she recommends using folders to organize documents. “Categorize as needed in order to make everything in your home office feel that it has its own place to live and is not taking over your entire space,” she says. 

Credit: Minette Hand

Old Rule: Celebrate the end of the work week with a night out.
New Rule: Schedule a personal reward if you meet all your work goals during the week.

A reward can add an extra incentive after a hard week at work. If it is a deadline-intense week, I like to spend Saturday morning reading a book and then taking a walk around the neighborhood. 

Bertie Cowan, founder of Effortless Outdoors, also has a similar way to celebrate a win after a long work week. “If I meet my weekly targets at work, I make Saturday a no-technology day and enjoy nature,” he says. 

Old Rule: Do whatever you need to get out of the door on time.
New Rule: Each morning, set an intention for your day.

Before I begin my daily tasks, I pay attention to my morning routine. I begin with a gratitude practice, review my bullet journal, and free write. It helps to set a meditative tone for my day. 

Sharon McCaskill, a blogger and nutrition student from New York, agrees that “a morning routine will help you set your day’s intention.” She believes this routine helps channel the right mindset for transitioning into work. She wakes up early, while her family is still sleeping. That way, she can drink her “coffee slowly, read, journal, and get ready without feeling rushed.”