As we all continue to do our part to adhere to the physical distancing guidance provided by the world’s leading public health organizations in response to Covid 19, several friends and colleagues continue reaching out to me with questions like, "how the heck do you work from home everyday?" or "how can I improve my work from home experience?" I’ve been working from home for five years now and can say it has not always been easy. In my early days of working from home with seemingly fewer workplace distractions, I found myself more productive but I struggled to maintain a healthy work/life balance. I'd work for hours on end to accommodate time zones around the world and even after I signed off for the day, I'd let every work email spring me back into work-mode. Other times I'd find myself distracted, by pop ups on my phone, construction in my neighborhood or a long list of household to-dos. These days, working from home with a toddler presents a new set of challenges I’m still learning to work through (comment with tips if you have any), but in case these are helpful for anyone still adjusting, I’d like to share my top ten tried and true working from home tips.
1. Properly Set Up Your Work Space: Ideally this is somewhere far from your couch or bed. While this is important from a productivity standpoint, I’ve found it’s even more important from a mental health perspective. If you work from your bed or couch, those places lose their appeal as being places to mellow out or unwind, leaving you with fewer places in your home unassociated with work.
2. Get Outside: If weather and other conditions allow (i.e. you are not quarantined), get outside for at least a few minutes a day. When the weather is nice, I enjoy eating lunch on my outdoor hammock while soaking up the sun. For you, this might involve sitting on your patio, taking a call while going on a short walk or even standing on your stoop practicing a few minutes of meditation.
3. Follow Your Normal Morning Routine: As tempting as it may be to roll out of bed and jump straight into work, you will feel a million times better if you do all the things you would (hopefully) normally do if you were going into an office (i.e. brush your teeth, shower, put on something other than pajamas, etc.).
4. Get Moving: Even if you are confined to your house, with all the content available online these days, you can find any number of streaming or low-equipment workouts— 30 minutes of yoga, 10 minutes of High Intensity Interval Training, even a few minutes of good old jump rope will do the body good. We are currently enjoying Cosmic Kids Yoga by Jamie Amor on YouTube.
5. Open Your Windows: When you are working remotely and confined to your house, you are breathing in the same air day in, day out. Opening the windows for a few minutes to get the air circulating, can really freshen up your space.
6. Set Clear Work Boundaries (when possible): Working from home can blur the work life/personal life divide significantly. In my early years working from home, particularly given my focus on international work, I really struggled with working around the clock, so I learned to set boundaries for myself. I make sure to set a “work-free” time daily, which I’ve found helps me be more present. I know this won’t work for everyone, but I’ve also disabled work email pop ups on my phone. During busy times, I still do check my email regularly, but controlling when and how frequently I check my email, instead of allowing pop ups to control my focus, makes all the difference.
7. Put Your Phone in a Drawer: With all the apps, updates, push notifications, news (especially right now) and other updates constantly streaming in, it’s easy to get sucked in to the vortex that is your phone. Put that bad boy in a drawer where it is out of sight and out of mind. If you have a smart watch, consider disabling notifications.
8. Talk to Someone: Working from home can be isolating, even with a pet or kids nearby. Make sure you are scheduled to talk to at least one other adult human during your day. Maybe it’s a phone call instead of an email exchange, maybe it’s a video chat, whatever the case, speaking with someone can really help to improve your mood and get your creative juices flowing.
9. Take A Break: Grab a coffee, get up and stretch or even do some light housework. In the office, you might chat with a colleague, or run out for a quick coffee, so be sure to schedule in those quick breaks from your computer screen just as you would naturally do in the office environment. Your eyes will thank you and you’ll probably be more productive in the long run.
10. Stimulate Your Senses: Put some flowers next to your computer, let the natural light into your work space, keep a fluffy rug under your toes, listen to your favorite song, rub some scented lotion on your hands, keep a piece of art or a family photo in your line of vision. All these things stimulate your senses and since we experience every space with our five senses, you mine as well make them pleasant. I’ve found doing these little things really help me feel more productive, creative and even a little less stressed.
We don’t know how long we’ll be facing the realities of this new world, but hopefully these tips help make the best of it.
Stay safe. Stay well. Be kind to yourself.