Many offices are making the call that employees should work from home into 2021. While this is great for stopping the spread of COVID-19 and keeping us safe, I think it’s also safe to say that some of us are losing our minds as we hit our fifth or sixth-month mark of working from home.
We can’t change the fact that our companies are making these calls, but you know what we can change? Our home office and the way that we structure our days when we work from home.
Here are the non-negotiables for healthy at-home office space and mentality to give you a WFH refresh to be more productive—and more importantly, stay sane—at work.
Create a schedule
Depending on how lax your company and supervisors are, you might already have some kind of schedule and daily structure. However, if you don’t, it can be helpful to create one. Now, it doesn’t have to be set in stone and you can change it as you need to, but here are a couple of main pointers and benefits:
- Have a clear end time for work every day. When working from home, it can be really easy to get sucked into working late. However, this will only add to feelings of burnout and stress. This is one easy way to set boundaries with work...more on that later!
- Optimize your time by scheduling all your meetings in a way that works best for you. Meetings can throw us off track when we’re being productive, so if you have the power to choose the times of your meetings, use this to your power. Depending on the type of person you are, maybe you’d like to get them all out of the way in the morning so that you can work uninterrupted throughout the afternoon, or maybe you’d like to save your meetings for later in the day when you are craving social interaction. Figure out what works best for you and roll with it.
- Schedule in breaks. This one is for the workaholics! Sometimes, if we don’t make it a point to take a break, we won’t take one. When we are working from home and are not leaving to go buy lunch or coffee, we might find ourselves glued to the computer screen all day without breaks. No matter your profession, you deserve a lunch break and a few short breaks throughout the day. Schedule these in your calendar so you don’t forget to take them. Breaks are so important for productivity and our mental health.
Create a space
Still don’t have a proper WFH set up? This could be messing with your workday. You don’t need a whole separate room to have a nice home office set up. The following things can help:
- Use ergonomic products. If you’re constantly sitting hunched over on your couch with your laptop on a pillow on your lap, well, this isn’t ergonomic at all. Invest in a nice back cushion for a chair if you don’t have an office-grade desk chair, or maybe even a laptop stand and separate keyboard. Look at your pain points and figure out what products can help you feel more comfortable working.
- Separate your WFH space from your pleasure space. Whether you are living in a house or a studio apartment, see what you can do to compartmentalize your work area and separate it from the space that you wind down in. This could be as simple as closing your laptop and putting away your laptop stand to keep things out of sight and out of mind at the end of the day.
- Beautify your space. Just as you’d decorate your cubicle in the office, why not spruce up your surroundings at home? Getting nice frames for a few pictures of loved ones or a little desk plant can make all the difference.
It’s crucial to set boundaries in all aspects of your life for your wellbeing. If you don’t set boundaries with work, you’re going to end up allowing your work to take over your personal life. Small steps like these can help you to stay relaxed when you’re not working:
- Don’t check your email outside of work hours, especially on the weekend! Unless your job really requires you to answer every email super quickly, don’t give yourself the extra stress. Allow yourself to unplug when you’re not clocked in.
- Speak up if your boss is giving you more work than you can handle. If you feel like your boss is taking advantage of you, or simply has unrealistic expectations of how much work you can complete in the day, speak up. Instead of suffering in silence, ask if you can get assistance from another coworker, or delegate the work if possible.
Distractions can be really rough when we are working from home, but it’s possible to get those distractions under control:
- Communicate with housemates/family members who are distracting. More boundaries! If somebody in your household is being loud and distracting while you’re trying to work, politely ask if they can keep it down, at least temporarily. They might genuinely have no idea that they’re bothering you. If this isn’t an option or doesn’t work for you, you can’t go wrong with noise-canceling headphones and peaceful music.
- Keep your phone in another room. If texting and social media are big distractions for you throughout the day, try leaving your phone in another room while you need to be extra productive. You’re much less likely to get out of your seat and go into another room to check your phone than you are to open it when it’s just a few inches away from your laptop.
- Try the Pomodoro Technique®. Work on one task and only that task only for 25 minutes, and then take a 5-minute break to do whatever you want—check your phone, get a snack, etc. Focusing on only one task instead of multitasking can keep you focused, and the timer can create something of a pressure cooker which can be really beneficial for certain types of workers who have trouble focusing. You can use the Tomato Timer website to time yourself.
There you have it! We need to get comfortable with working from home since this will be the norm for a while now. Even making just a few of these adjustments can create a big positive difference in how you feel while you’re working and while you’re not.