On March 13th, 2020, my partner and I were on our way to Shenandoah Valley National Park. That evening we received notice that on the upcoming Monday, we’d be under a stay-at-home order for two-weeks. Needless to say, it was a pretty unrelaxing weekend away. We crafted our plan to make the best of these two weeks, setting up separate workspaces in our house. As many of us know, two weeks quickly turned into months, and while it is a fortunate position to be able to work from home, there should be some structure to it.
Working from home has many benefits – better sleep, a very short commute, and the ability to work with your cat in your lap. But many of us were not expecting this to be a long-term situation. As a newbie to working from home, I researched some things to maximize success in working from home. Below are recommendations from experts that have worked for me.
- Establish good sleep hygiene. Do you really still need to wake up at 4:00 a.m.? If you love the tranquility and peace of that time, that’s awesome. If it’s causing you to make frequent trips to the coffee pot, maybe you don’t need to. Studies show that quality sleep can lead to higher productivity, mental clarity, and reduced stress – all of which are necessary as we face this global pandemic.
- Designate a workspace in your house and clear it off every night. A few weeks before the pandemic, I rescued a desk from a neighbor who was ready to part with it. Thinking it would be a cool project to redo someday, it quickly morphed into my everyday workstation. Some of us do not have the space to go into a different room. Even if you’re working at the kitchen counter every day, put your laptop, notes, coffee cups, and work bag away at the end of the day. You wouldn’t bring your work desk home from your office, so give yourself the same courtesy.
- Take a lunch break (or brain break) and try to log off on time. Of course, we all have days or weeks that require us to put in some extra time here and there, but if you can, take a break in the day and eat a good meal, read a book, or take the dog around the block. Studies show that instead of productivity decreasing during the pandemic, it has increased, leading people to forgo their schedules and keep working well into the night. Rheeda Walker, University of Houston professor of psychology explained, “We have to be able to disconnect. Psychologically, the mind needs downtime to reset. Most people are able to recognize that when they go on vacation … without opportunities to reset, we begin to see difficulties with concentration and more impaired memory because the brain is simply overworked.”
- Factor in a virtual commute. While I do not miss battling traffic in the morning, I do miss the commute in. Listening to my favorite podcast, audiobook, or album was a nice way to get into the work mindset. Many technology tools offer blocks of time for remote employees to take advantage of this concept of a “virtual commute,” but you can do this on your own by setting some time for yourself before and after your workday.
- Stretch. Many of us are improvising with furniture, postures, and locations of work. This can wreak havoc on your body, so take some time to stretch. It does not have to be fancy or prolonged, but it will help you in the long run. Here is a great list of stretches to do in and out of your chairs.
- Dress the part. What makes you feel best? Is it your finest threads or your coziest sweater? What will help you get motivated to do the job every day? Research shows that whatever it is, physically change into it. Many of us may be tempted to stay in our pajamas all day (and some days may call for that). But if you can, get dressed for work. There is a scientific principle referred to as “enclothed cognition” that basically describes “the influences that clothes have on the wearer’s psychological processes.”
Be proud of yourself for your work from home. Ultimately, you are your best judge of what works for you. Do you have any tips we’ve missed? Let us know!