Suddenly, you find yourself working from home for the first time.
For many of us, working from home offers new challenges. Our homes are designed for comfort, entertainment, and socialization—not work productivity. That’s why it can be tricky to blend the rhythms of home with the focused concentration needed for work.
But don’t worry—you’re not alone in learning how to work from home. To encourage social distancing and avoid spreading COVID-19, many employers have asked their employees to work from home.
Here are six simple tips to maximize your working-from-home experience.
1. SET UP A WORKSPACE
You’re going to be spending a large chunk of the day working, so set yourself up for success with a dedicated workspace.
This doesn’t mean you need a magazine-worthy home office. You’re just looking for an area of your home that you can temporarily devote to full-time work. It can be difficult to work at the kitchen table or in the living room, for example, if you need to break down your work station at the end of each day and set it back up the next morning. This pattern gets old quickly since it takes up time and puts you right in the middle of high-traffic areas.
Instead, look for a space in your home that is less chaotic and (relatively) free of distractions. This could be a bedroom, seldom-used dining room, or even your porch (weather permitting, of course). Now’s the time to get that beautiful window view you’ve always wanted!
This is also a great time to get creative. Could a vanity or low dresser work as a desk? How about setting up a folding table in a corner of the house where it can remain undisturbed for the next few weeks? Once you have your “desk,” gather the supplies you need to work (computer, wi-fi access, pens, paper, etc.) and move in.
2. STICK TO A SCHEDULE
One of the most challenging parts of working from home is the blurring of work and home tasks. It can be tempting to throw a load of laundry in the wash during the day or jump on your computer at night to check on a few work emails. While working from home definitely has advantages in being able to do this, too much intermingling of work and home tasks can leave you feeling unproductive and unable to ever be truly “off the clock.”
To avoid this, set up a routine for your workday. Have start and stop times and share them with other people in the house so they know when you’re working. If you’d like to get chores done during the day (which is certainly a huge perk of working from home), plan short ones and when you want to do them so they don’t grow too large.
This is also a great time to create the schedule you’ve always wanted. Think of the time you’re best able to focus and plan your most brain-taxing work for that time block. And perhaps most importantly, don’t forget to schedule in some breaks throughout the day. When working in an office, you’d naturally get breaks when someone comes in to ask a question or there’s an impromptu meeting to attend. Working from home severely limits these gatherings, so make sure you’re setting aside time throughout the day to mentally reset and refuel.
3. DRESS FOR WORK
A key part of successfully working from home is being able to get in the right headspace. Getting up on time, dressing for the day, and traveling to work are all steps that your brain associates with beginning the work day. You can capitalize on that ingrained habit by sticking as much to that routine as possible when working from home and that includes dressing for the work day as you normally would.
Does this mean it’s time to pull out suits and formal wear as if you’re doing a presentation? Not necessarily. Business casual is great for working from home. You’re just trying to take advantage of your brain’s programming to switch from home mode to work mode.
While working in pajamas all day sounds like a dream come true at first, this habit can leave you feeling lackluster by the end of the day. By taking the time to dress in the morning as you would for work (even if you won’t see anyone in person), you start the day fresh and productively.
4. GET SOME SUN
When you’re creating your daily routine, be sure to schedule a little dose of sunshine outside. You’ll still want to respect social distancing, of course, but a quick walk around the block can do wonders for rejuvenating you in the middle of yet another working-from-home day. Not only does it help clear your mind and break up the day, sunlight has other health benefits, too.
Exposure to sunlight increases serotonin, a feel-good hormone released by the brain, which acts as a mood-booster and helps you feel calm and focused. Sunlight also helps stave off seasonal depression, build strong bones, and even prevent some cancers. Check out https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/benefits-sunlight for more information about the benefits of sunlight.
5. GET EXERCISE
Another way to make sure you have a great work-from-home experience is to schedule a bit of exercise each day. It doesn’t have to be much—even a quick muscle stretch can help a day pass more easily.
Here are a few ways you can get some movement while working from home:
- Try a video workout. Whether you want high-impact cardio before starting your day or a low-key yoga stretch during lunch, YouTube has just about every type of workout you could imagine.
- Go for a walk in your neighborhood. As long as you’re following your local guidelines for social distancing, you can go for a walk around the block to get some fresh air and exercise. If you’re staying inside with others, invite them along!
- Stretch right at your desk! Here’s a video on desk yoga to get you started: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tAUf7aajBWE
6. KEEP CONNECTED
Perhaps one of the most important ways to avoid feeling isolated when working from home is to stay in contact with coworkers. While in-person water-cooler talk may be limited for now, you can still maintain connections with your team through video and phone calls, email, Slack, and texting.
Also consider scheduling regular meetings to check in with your team. Since people are no longer on-site to quickly form ad hoc project meetings, it can be helpful to have a dedicated time people can count on to go over questions they have and tasks that need brainstorming.
Meetings can also have the added value right now of providing social interaction. For some, working from home means days where they see no one else. Don’t underestimate the power of a quick check-in to boost team morale and reduce loneliness.
Working from home is a great opportunity to flex your creative muscles as you develop a routine and environment that works for you. Feel free to share your tips for a great working-from-home experience with your coworkers so you can all benefit.