Working from Home Wisdom

You may never have thought about your desk also being where you eat your family meals, or what it would look like to do what you do virtually. The transition is real, and it’s hard.

Fraternity Headquarters (FHQ) had its first tele-commuting employees in 2003. Since then, there has been intentional effort in ensuring the work of the Fraternity can be accomplished no matter where a staff member reports to work—some to their home office and some at our Fraternity Headquarters office building at 8702 Founders Road.

We asked FHQ staff for their best work from home (WFH) tips and tricks! Some, just like many of our Sisters, just started working from home due to the pandemic, others have worked from home for years, and still others may have a hybrid schedule where they work from home on specific days but report to the office the majority of the time. We’ve indicated their work from home experience with each recommendation:

Get In the Groove

  • Every night, I lay out my clothes for the next day. Even if I plan to just wear leggings and a plain sweater, making this decision the night before motivates me to change out of my pajamas. - Rebecca Reed, WFH less than 1 year
  • I know this may be an unpopular opinion, but I put on makeup and get dressed every day. At minimum I wear jeans. I have casual Friday where I allow myself to wear a sweatshirt. It helps me feel my best and put me in a headspace to tackle the day! - Megan Foster, WFH over 10 years
  • I like to have a consistent activity that alerts my brain that it’s time to start the work day. For me, it's exercising in the morning. Once I’m done that’s the signal that it’s time to transition to work mode. - Morgan Donnelly, WFH 4 years
  • Make sure you still have an end of work day routine so your mind/body knows to shut off work. Even if that is just shutting your laptop and turning your phone to silent. - Elizabeth de Jong, WFH 8 years
  • Light a candle! Turn on a diffuser—make your space smell good! - Courtney Fluty, WFH 10 years

Your Space

  • Have a dedicated workspace that you can leave at the end of the day. If you can’t have a full space, at the end of the day, tidy up your desk and “close” your laptop. Any ritual/habit that makes it feel like the end of the day will be very helpful! - Courtney Fluty, WFH 10 years
  • Put away the work at the end of the day – get a basket, still use your work bag, designate an area. Your dining room table no longer serves its purpose if it’s covered in your work papers. -Mackenzie Williams, WFH 5 years
  • Must-haves: NOTHING. I used to have a lot of office supplies, but living in a small space that stuff could pile up and be stressful to manage or just look at during non-work hours. I now use MS Notebook to keep track of meeting notes and to-do lists, which has been great and cuts back on clutter. A planner is the only physical thing I use. - Morgan Donnelly, WFH 4 years
  • Don’t hesitate to rearrange your space if it isn’t working for you. Just because you set it up one way, maybe a way that was recommended by an expert or another blog, doesn’t mean it has to work for you. If you have to rearrange it a couple of times, roll with it until you find the right set up. - Elizabeth de Jong, WFH 8 years
  • Find a good chair…and coffee (not always in that order) - Stephanie Bennett, WFH intermittent
  • Organize your space. A well-kept space helps keep things productive! - Laura Millken, WFH 5 years

Maintaining Relationships

• I think it’s important to video chat your work friends! In an office setting, there are opportunities to make small talk and build relationships, so recreating that virtually can be helpful to feel more connected. -Morgan Donnelly, WFH 4 years

• Give grace – everyone is adjusting to a new schedule even if you have worked from home before. -Mackenzie Williams, WFH 5 years

• See your people and utilize video chat outlets. Give them space to share about what’s going on with them personally. Start meetings with a prompt to promote engagement and personal relationships. An example could be “what’s one unexpected positive in working from home?” or “what is the one thing you can’t live without while you’re in your home office” or “what is the most creative meal you’ve cooked?” -Megan Foster, WFH over 10+ years

Staying Focused

• I start to fizzle out towards the end of the day. I plan to take an afternoon coffee/hot tea break every day in the two o’clock hour. This ten-minute break saves me from the afternoon slump and keeps me energized through the end of the work day! - Rebecca Reed, WFH less than 1 year

• Use breaks to be productive – if you need to take a break, do the laundry or the dishes. -Colleen Kelty, WFH 2 years

• Put down your phone! I set alarms on my phone for certain people, restrict access to certain apps, and set alarms for when to take breaks and when to end the work day. I find myself reaching for the phone less and being more productive at work.- Mackenzie Williams WFH 5 years

• Move away from your “desk” (even if it’s your kitchen table) for lunch. Take at least 30 minutes away to focus on something other than all the email piling up. -Arlena Clayton, WFH less than 1 year

Managing “Co-workers” (partners, roommates, pets, kids)

• Make plans together – When/what are you eating for lunch? Schedule breaks or walks at the same time. - Mackenzie Williams, WFH 5 years

• Working with a spouse at home (or a small child!) can be a challenge. We all need the same WiFi (including the kiddo’s streaming shows) and sometimes taking a break is just the right thing to do when you can. Be kind and share your space and time with your new co-workers! - Scott Rarick, WFH 1 year

• Dogs don’t know personal boundaries or understand you are “working”. Nothing like a dog napping in your lap while you type away; don’t fight it. – Scott Rarick, WFH 1 year

When sifting through the responses from Alpha Xi Delta staff members, there were patterns that emerged:

1. Have a space dedicated to your work items (even if you change it a few times before you find one that’s “just right”) during work hours.

2. Honor the “work hours” listed above. Have a close down routine where you shut off work and transition to your role in your home.

3. Have Courage. Be Gracious. Make Peace. These sentiments from The Symphony have never been more needed and more relevant.

Our best is all we can give and somedays, and that’s more than ok. It’s even ok if somedays aren’t your best work days, because you’ve had to focus on self-care, your family or another priority. In this new reality, reach out to those who may be able to help you problem solve—be it a work from home issue, a brainstorm on how to use what’s in your pantry or ways to entertain your new “co-workers”. We are in this together.