During the COVD-19 pandemic, working from home has become the norm for so many across the country. Whether this new lifestyle is new to you, or you’re used to “WFH” life, these work from home tips and tricks will keep you happy, healthy, and productive in any home office setup.
To avoid soreness, take regular movement breaks.
While working from home without the dynamics of coworkers, water cooler chat, and in-person meetings, it’s easy to sit stationary at your workspace for hours at a time. To avoid discomfort and other health risks related to sedentary activities, set an alarm to go off every 45 minutes—it’s your reminder to stand up, stretch, move your body, and refill your water glass. In addition to helping with ailments often associated with desk work (like a sore back and neck), these short movement breaks actually increase oxygen in the brain and help you refocus when you return to work.
To get extra exercise, think creatively and go beyond a chair and desk.
In addition to regular breaks to stand up and move your body, imagine creative ways to stay moving while you work. If you’re taking a phone meeting that doesn’t require many notes, try going for a walk outside while you’re on the call. If you have a lot of desk work, try finding a space where you can work while standing for part of the time. Another way to sneak in some extra exercise while sitting at a desk is to invest in a balance ball chair, which helps strengthen your core, improve your balance, and keeps you in almost constant motion while you adjust and change positions.
To ward off loneliness, socialize regularly and check in with friends.
Decide on a regular time to have a video chat with your BFF (or a group of friends!) and stick to it every week. If you’re pressed for time, it doesn’t need to be long. Even if you only have an extra 45 minutes per week, keeping a regular social engagement brings a feeling of normalcy to your work from home life and makes you feel less isolated. If you can’t set up a recurring event, make it a habit to check in often with your crew through calls, texting, or whatever you are able to fit into your day. Text a funny meme to a friend and make their day!
How to keep balance in your day? Schedule your time, including time off.
Each day that you’re working, create a detailed schedule and stick to it. Make sure that you clearly delineate a start time to your workday so that you can relax, eat breakfast, and get ready for the day before sitting down at your desk. Schedule a lunch break and regular breaks as well, which will help you both relax when not working and refocus when you return to the computer. When your workday ends, make sure it actually ends! Sign out of work-related accounts and turn off notifications during your off-hours. If you need to, set an “away” message on your email so that your contacts know you will be checking emails during work hours only.
Maintain a healthy diet by planning in advance.
Unlike the office, when working from home there isn’t always the option to run downstairs to the coffee shop for a soup and salad. To avoid reaching for the most convenient food option at your house (which won’t necessarily equate to a balanced diet), make a point to plan your lunches and snacks in advance. You can even prepare your food ahead of time, including cutting up fruits and veggies for snacks and pre-making healthy lunches that just need to be reheated. Planning ahead can save time, stress, and help you stick to healthy eating habits each day.
Want to avoid a sore back? Switch up your working habits.
As most people don’t have ergonomic office furniture at home, many will make do with kitchen chairs, the couch, or other workstations that aren’t necessarily ideal for your posture and back. To avoid hunching over or other overcompensations for less-than-ideal desks, try switching to voice recognition for texts and emails whenever possible. This way, you can get up to move and stretch, all while getting through your long list of tasks!
Stay organized: set up a dedicated workspace.
Another way to separate your job from regular life when working from home is to set up a designated workspace, and make sure you keep it organized. While it might sound like a tempting idea to work from bed or the couch, setting up a dedicated workstation helps you stay focused on your job during work hours, and then relax later when you “leave” work at the end of the day. Keeping everything organized and in one place also ensures you’ll avoid the stress of your office correspondence and reports sprawling out into the rest of your life.
Set boundaries with your family and housemates.
Just as it’s sometimes difficult for people to separate regular life from a job while working from home, likewise it can be difficult for your family or housemates to respect your working hours! To avoid the constant interruptions that can happen at home, be clear about communicating your workspace and working hours. If these work hours are still being ignored, give a gentle reminder of when you will be available (during one of your break times, lunch break, or when work has ended) and quickly refocus on your work.
Stay on task and avoid distractions.
Working from home can create a whole new set of distractions. Some tricks for keeping on task include turning your phone face down, moving your phone our of arm’s reach (people often reach for their phones without even thinking about it), and using a time-tracking app which forces you to be conscious of your stop and start work times. Another great strategy to avoid constant distractions is to schedule specific social media and email checking times throughout your day so that you feel connected while still being able to focus on your job while “at work.”
Consider adopting the practice of a virtual commute.
A great way to delineate between your home life and your work life is to begin the practice of a “virtual commute.” Use half an hour before you begin work and half an hour when your workday is done to have some time to yourself; listen to music or a podcast, zone out and look out the window, reflect on the day, or relish whatever you enjoy during your regular travel time. It could be the best type of commute you ever have to make — no traffic!