Style + Work

Five Items That Make Working From Home Easier

“How do you do this every day?”

My friend A has never worked from home one day in her 16-year career.  Last night, she sent me that text message with a picture of her head laying on her keyboard.  “I just want to sit in a conference room and talk to other people.”

Working from home is different than working in an office.  The mindset is different.  The discipline needed is different.  So when I find something that makes working from home a little easier, I grab onto it.

Blue Light Glasses. You will be shocked how much your screen time is about to increase.  All of your work, all of your meetings, every important piece of  your day now exists inside a computer screen.  And your eyes shouldn’t suffer because of it.

These blue light blocking glasses from The Book Club are my favorite.  They’re clear, so they’re not distracting and go with everything.  And they’re so light that I forget I’m wearing them.  If you’re looking for a similar pair at a lower price, try these Livho glasses in a two-pack for under-$15.

A Timer. When you work from home, you need to take breaks.  But you also need to make sure those breaks don’t takeover your afternoon.  We’ve all taken that 10-minute break to look at Instagram and looked up 30-minutes later surprised by the time.

I keep a small, 15-minute hourglass on my desk.  It’s decorative, but also functional.  If I need a short break, I let the sand help me measure time.  This one from Swisselite comes in several colors.

The hourglass usually works because I put it in my line of sight.  But every now and again, when I’m writing a brief and need to be diligent about time management, I prefer to use my kitchen timer.  I bought this one because I liked the sleek design and the big, visible numbers.

A Diffuser. Last Christmas, a friend gave me this Vitruvi ceramic diffuser as a gift.  As a person who likes unscented things (deodorant, shampoo, lotion, etc.), the idea of using essential oils in a diffuser didn’t really appeal to me.  But she swore that she  found their Bergamot essential oil kept her energized throughout the day.

I don’t use my diffuser all the time, but I’ve discovered that I can use the scents to train my brain.  Bergamot and grapefruit is work time;  their Grove scent is for  when I need to relax after a stressful day.

Looking for a beautiful, more affordable diffuser?  I love this white one and this small wood one caught my eye.

A Charging Dock. I switch between my laptop and my iPhone all day.  One minute, I’m answering Instagram DMs, the next minute, I’m writing campaign Facebook posts, and then, I’m on a video conference with my boss.  But when my phone doesn’t need to be in my hand, it’s sitting in my Native Union wireless charging dock.

The dock charges my battery and keeps my phone in the perfect position to check notifications and answer FaceTime calls.  Before I bought this one from Native Union, I owned this less-expensive one.  Unlike the Native Union dock, that one will charge almost any smartphone, Apple, Android or Google.

An Acupressure Mat.  Typing all day, hunched over a computer isn’t great for your body.  Add to that an industry full of stressful situations and people, and the tension just builds up in my neck and shoulders.

Hitha and Grace Atwood kept talking about how much they loved this acupressure mat for alleviating soreness in the shoulders, but I refused to buy one. Until, after a particularly bad week at work, I decided that I was being stubborn and should give it a try.  Oh wow.  The first time I used it, my whole body felt better.  It might be the best $20 that I’ve spent recently.

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What makes working from home easier for you?  Leave your tips and product endorsements in the comments.

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    8 comments

  1. kk says:

    These are great things to have on hand!
    -I like having a water cup with a straw – mine is the 30 oz yeti rambler, and something about the straw lid keeps me drinking more than I would from a regular water bottle.
    -I also prop my laptop up on a stand (or a stack of books) so that it’s eye level and I use an external keyboard and a real mouse- hunching over my desk was killing my back. Yesterday, I found out about the duet app to turn my ipad into a second monitor
    -I just bought the logiteck h800 bluetooth headset for zooms and calls.
    -Work sent us each a lumecube light for zooms so that were front lit- I use both diffusers at the same time so I dont go blind from the brightness

    March 19, 2020/Reply
    • Rebecca says:

      Can you tell me more about the Lume Cube light? I’m specifically interested in how it attaches to your laptop (and/or other devices). Is it permanent? Is there some sort of sticky adhesive involved?

      Also, do you think it helps you look better? I sit facing a window, so get natural light on my face, but I worry it makes me look weird and washed-out somehow.

      Finally, does the light make you get hot? It looks really bright, and sometimes super bright lights are hot.

      I’m really interested in this thing, as I’m doing way more Zoom meetings right now, so any feedback you have would be much appreciated. Thanks!

      March 23, 2020/Reply
  2. Monica T says:

    Totally going to check out that acupressure mat! I get regular massages every three weeks for tense neck and shoulders and I’m going to need all the help I can get until this is over.

    Also, great suggestions KK! I totally stacked my laptop on a kitchen bin and busted out my external keyboard and made sure to refill my hydroflask and place it nearby thanks to your reminder. It’s easy to forget all the things that make working in an office workable, and those little routines are part of it.

    March 19, 2020/Reply
  3. Erica says:

    I work from home about 50% of the time normally but during intermittent periods of time, I have been at 100% telework, including now. I enjoy working from home. I enjoy the extra sleep in the AM and the lack of a commute on the end of the day. My dog loves having me home, and I find I can be more productive at home.

    What I realized early on, however, is that I can accomplish the same amount of work at home in less time than in the office because there are fewer interruptions (though more distractions). I began making daily to-do lists of tasks so that I could make sure I was keeping at or above pace with my office workdays. This helped me alleviate some of the guilt I was feeling when I take breaks at home to walk the dog or unload the dishwasher. I realized I was still accomplishing what I needed for the day and lifted some of the stress of worrying I was “taking advantage” of the privilege. You have to be diligently honest with yourself about what is a realistic amount of work to accomplish in a day.

    As a final note, I acknowledge that depending on the kind of work you do, this may not be a realistic measure. I work in a legal field where I draft a lot of relatively short written analyses, so it’s simply an easy measure on my end.

    March 19, 2020/Reply
    • Emily says:

      I really love this insight, Erica. I struggle with the “am I doing enough” when I’m at home.

      March 20, 2020/Reply
  4. Pam says:

    Oh my gosh. I’ve been on HBW for a week and I’m already over it…Yes not having an hour commute is nice; i get to sleep and exercise, and yes walk my dog at a noon day break; however the constant video conferences in place of meetings is grueling; i have to sit in one place (in front of the camera) most of the day and it is exhausting.. much better in the office where i move from room to room, floor to floor and even between buildings and poking my head into an office is easy to do. I have 75 employees i now have to keep tabs on (in the human sense, not the work sense). With the current situation I want to make sure everyone is OK. I have worked a day or two at home here and there (probably 5 times a year) but doing so every day is really hard and i can see that our productivity with everyone at home is going to take a hit! We have a home office, but my husband is in it and i am at the dining room table, with two kids who are trying to do virtual school – so no this is not fun. Thanks for the tips… I’m getting those blue light glasses tonight! My eyes are fried!

    March 19, 2020/Reply
  5. J says:

    I’m so interested in that timer. Husband and I are working from home with our preschooler, and the timer would be great for her. “Color until the timer goes out, and then Mommy can take a break with you.” The visual for her would be very helpful as opposed to the timer on my phone. Thanks!

    March 19, 2020/Reply
  6. Tara says:

    Yes! I 100% agree with these recs as I’ve worked remotely for the past 5 years across three different organizations.

    Regarding a timer, I swear by the Pomodoro method. 25 min to work on a task, 5 min brain break. Every 4 rounds, you get a 15 break. You’ll often notice that once your brain gets close to the 25 min time, it’s either really focused and wants to keep going OR you’re super ready for a distraction (social, phone, house task, etc.).

    On my MacBook, it’s the Be Focused app—the free version puts a little timer on your computer and beeps to keep you on task!

    March 20, 2020/Reply