You may have adjusted to working from home, and maybe you’ve established your routine and figured out what works best for you. But we’ve all developed some bad habits over the last year too, so it’s always a good time to take stock and see how we can improve our daily lives and make our work days more satisfying and productive.
For many of us, working from home was only an occasional practice before the coronavirus pandemic of 2020. Since the onset of social distancing behaviors, U.S. working from home rates peaked at 51% in April 2019 and have remained steady at between 33% to 42% depending on the study.
This trend will not change any time soon; a Gartner survey of company leaders found that 80% plan to maintain employees’ remote work ability for at least part-time after the pandemic, and 47% will maintain full-time work from home for employees. A PwC survey of 669 CEOs saw similar results, wherein 78% agreed that remote coordination will remain for the long-term.
Even for those who have become accustomed to working from home, after a few months it is easy to let good habit slip through the cracks. Furthermore, as many workers transition out of “holiday” and “new year” mindsets, it can be difficult to get back to the same energy and productivity habits as one might have had in October or November. For those that could use a reminder of which remote work habits to prioritize, make a real effort to realign your behavior and schedule to the tips below.
Set up a dedicated work space
Even if you do not have a separate office room, experts agree that having a dedicated work space can have a tremendous impact on how well we work from home. While it can be tempted to work from your bed or the sofa, that can only last so long before back pain and eye strain will take a toll, not to mention the relaxed positioning discourages efficient working. Arriving at your designated work space will set a tone of focus and productivity for the rest of the day.
The right furniture will make all the difference, irrespective of where your home office goes. For those that want something that takes up the least amount of room possible, while fitting in with home décor, a minimalistic standing desk is perfect.
Standing desks are a perfect way to alternate your position during the day between sitting and standing, giving you an energy boost during the midday slump and mitigating the detrimental effects of sitting day after day for extended periods of time. Furthermore, an LED standing desk lamp can also be the ideal accessory to ensure that you can read all your documents with a clear view of everything in front of you, handle all the clutter, and position your lighting to minimize glare and eye strain.
Do your best to find a comfortable and ergonomically supported chair and to maintain a comfortable height for your desk or table. Proper sitting posture can have immediate effects to reduce back and shoulder pain, improve focus, and improve blood flow for better health outcomes.
To enhance your body’s natural mechanics, try an external keyboard if you are using a laptop. If you can enjoy some sunshine or fresh air from your seat, it's even better. For several hours a day, prop your laptop up on books or find a higher countertop to work on.
The thought of working in pajamas is appealing to just about everyone, but even when you're at home, dressing for your job has a real psychological advantage. Of course, you do not need a full suit and tie, but it pays to take the time to get properly dressed. It will help get your mind into "work mode" and stop the urge to remain in sloppy "pajama mode." Plus, when it comes to using Skype or a similar video chat platform, it looks a lot more professional.
Take breaks throughout the day
Make sure daily breaks and a real lunch break are included in your schedule. Enjoy the entire break without being tempted by email chimes. Working remotely is a major change from the previous in-person working style for many of us, and breaks to socialize and distract from your work will allow you to continue adjusting to the new normal.
Move throughout the day
Whether you are at a standing desk or seated desk, there are plenty of easy exercises to integrate throughout the day to keep your blood flowing while still working. Weather permitting, take a walk around your neighborhood for fresh air and new inspiration. Continue regular exercise routines through at-home or gym exercise while maintaining social distance practices.
Establish and stick to a daily schedule
With a regular routine, your body will receive natural signals for the start and end of your working day. Perhaps your productive day starts with a cup of coffee/tea, or a walk with the dog, or a hearty breakfast, or a reading routine with your child. The self-discipline to stick to a regular routine will pay off later with productive and efficient working time. This means sticking to regular, sane working hours.
Furthermore, consider the benefits of not commuting. Without a daily commute to and from the office, you gain one of two hours of extra time per day. However, this does not mean it should be re-allocated toward extra work; rather use this time toward to “personal” side of work-life balance.
Do not work right before it’s time to go to sleep, or you will risk prolonging your relaxation time and getting a bad night’s sleep. Although your work space is only ten steps away, resist the temptation to work into the night. According to a study from the Sleep Foundation, you need at least 30 minutes (or more) away from the computer screen before you go to bed in order to get a good night’s sleep.
The best part of working from home is the flexibility to meet your personal goals and maintain work-life balance, which cannot happen if you are constantly responding to emails from 5AM-11PM. Create a normal working routine where you start and end at a specific time, and never respond to emails on your phone in bed while ignoring your partner.
Use calendar blocks to your advantage
For important personal activities, literally add blocks of time to your work calendar which coworkers cannot schedule over. Since you work remotely, people believe that you will be accessible at all times throughout the work day, even if folks are across different time zones.
However, time to cook and enjoy dinner with your family, walk a dog, and put kids to bed is critically important to maintaining your sanity while working from home. Get ahead of the curve by adding personal time blocks early, especially for one-off events like a family birthday or other important occasions.
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WRITTEN BYMolly Stoneman
Freelancer passionate about design, travel, and innovation.
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