Top Tips to Help You Sane While Working From Home
Working from home has gone from an alternative to the norm in less than a year. Zoom saw its shares surge, clothing retailers bet big on sweatsuits, and food delivery apps experienced unprecedented growth. However, it’s not all virtual happy hours and luxurious home latte machines. For some, working from home feels like a slow descent into madness. From slow wifi to noisy neighbors, there’s a litany of distractions that can stifle productivity. Here are nine ways to stay sane while working from home.
Give yourself a “commute”
A classic UC Davis transportation study found that the ideal one-way commute was 16 minutes. Those 16 minutes are more than just getting from one location to another; it’s a unique time that allows people to get into “work mode.” While working from home, commute times have been cut down to the time it takes to walk from the bedroom to the living room. Try setting aside 16 minutes in the morning and 16 minutes at the end of the workday to do an activity that serves as your “commute.” Catch up on a podcast, listen to a mood-boosting playlist, or take a walk around your neighborhood. By creating a transition into and out of your day, you can develop healthier boundaries between your work and home life.
1. Optimize your workflow
Rather than working until the work is done, try the 52/17 rule or the Pomodoro Technique. The 52/17 rule is used widely by consultants, creatives, and everyone in between. It calls for 52 minutes of work followed by a 17-minute break. Similarly, the Pomodoro Technique calls for work sessions of 25 minutes followed by a five-minute break (and a 15-minute break at least once every two hours). Think of it as a HIIT workout for your brain. Planning for breaks (and actually taking them) helps boost productivity and prevent burnout.
2. Be intentional with your breaks
Ok, so now you’re taking breaks. To maximize effectiveness, be intentional about how you spend your time. First, you have to remove yourself from work when you take a break. That’s kind of the whole point. Use the time to read the news, fix a snack, or fluff the clothes that have been sitting in the dryer for three days. By giving breaks a purpose, you’re able to stay away from distractions while working. You’re not stressing about when to do something because you know you’ll have the time to do it.
3. Stay connected
Whatever happened to small talk? In the age of remote work, it’s easy for socialization to fall by the wayside. Although it’s a bit more logistically challenging, human interaction is an integral part of any organization’s culture. Think of someone you haven’t talked to in a while and reach out to them. Whether you take five minutes or forty-five, catching up with someone can help them feel seen and appreciated.
4. Create boundaries (literally and figuratively)
In addition to creating separation between your work and home life, it’s just as essential to give space between yourself and the other members of your household. Establishing boundaries allows you to maintain focus on the tasks at hand. Designate a specific room or area as your “home office” so that others know not to bother you. This works well in homes that have extra space, but if it’s not an option for you, headphones are your best friend. Good noise-canceling headphones will act as a barrier without taking up any space. It’ll save your sanity (and potentially your relationship).
5. Minimize the harmful effects of blue light
If your daily routine includes waking up and immediately checking your phone, working on a computer all day, and falling asleep to Netflix, odds are you’re being exposed to an incredible amount of blue light. Experts say, “Exposure to light suppresses the secretion of melatonin, a hormone that influences circadian rhythms.” If you experience eye strain or have trouble sleeping, blue light may be the culprit. To combat this, use the “nighttime display” settings available on many laptops and mobile devices. They use warmer hues instead and can be turned on and off with relative ease. Additionally, blue light filtering glasses are an inexpensive and convenient way to protect your eyes. Using these technologies could lead to one less thing keeping you up at night.
6. Stay tidy, but save domestic work for the end of the day
Under normal circumstances, you wouldn’t be able to vacuum or do a load of laundry between meetings. So why try to do this at home? While it may be tempting to knock out chores throughout the day, consider how much time you’re spending on non-work-related tasks. It’ll take twice as long to get things done if you’re constantly unloading the dishwasher or reorganizing the refrigerator. Unless the mess is proving to be a major distraction, cut yourself some slack and save the chores for later.
7. Make time for movement
Feeling antsy? You’re not alone. Downloads of health and fitness apps grew by 46%
worldwide this year. If virtual workout classes aren’t your thing, find other ways to incorporate movement into your day. Walking around the block, going up and down the stairs in your building, or taking the dog to the park are all simple (and free) ways to get active without much effort. Physical activity is nature’s mood booster, and studies have shown that just 12 minutes of vigorous exercise can fight off deadly diseases and make you live longer.
8. Put on your Monday best
Another building block in the divide between work time and leisure time is your wardrobe. It’s unnecessary to get fully suited up every day, but it does help give your pajamas a break. Find a few outfits that give you equal parts comfort and confidence and keep them in a steady rotation. The routine of changing into and out of “work clothes” (whatever that means to you) helps create firm transitions in your day.
9. Invest in the right tools
Is your desk a proper desk, or are you sitting in bed with some strategically placed pillows all day? Having an entirely separate space might not be feasible for urban dwellers, but consistently working in an area away from your bed can make a world of difference. There are plenty of online retailers with desks, chairs, and other WFH essentials designed for small spaces. Additionally, small doesn’t have to equate to low quality. That cheap desk chair is tempting, but your back will thank me later when I suggest investing in furniture that’s built to last. If you really want to go the full nine yards, look into a high-resolution webcam, extra monitor, and a privacy device like Fortress One. It uses artificial intelligence to constantly protect your network traffic, keep your data private, and keep your shopping and viewing habits anonymous.
Many companies left their offices thinking they’d be gone for maybe a few weeks, not months on end. In the transition to work from home, some details such as data privacy got overlooked. Lack of social interaction and brewing coffee at home are minor inconveniences, but nothing will drive you crazy like having your data compromised. Additionally, there doesn’t seem to be much of a rush back to the office, as major corporations have extended their work from home policies into 2021. This means it’s important now more than ever to create healthy habits and invest in the right tools. Whatever you choose, stay healthy, stay safe, and stay sane!