The one-year mark of living with COVID has come and gone, and for many of us, that means a year of working from home. In some cases, this can feel like a gift, and other times it feels like the burden of never being away from your office—because you never are! And, of course, working from home during a pandemic adds a whole different set of factors into this situation.
We’ve got 5 easy-to-implement tips on how to make working from home work for you, now, whether you’ll be going back to work soon or maybe not for the foreseeable future. These are takeaways you can try out today. Let’s get to it.
1. Get Up and Move
Working from home during COVID means that you’re now likely spending a lot more time on screens, on the phone, and at your desk.
Instead of walking over to a co-worker’s desk to ask a question, you’re typing an email. Instead of walking down the hall to the meeting room, you’re Zooming. Instead of meeting a client for coffee, you’re making another call.
To counteract all of this sitting and interacting with equipment, it’s important to work in some “get up and move” throughout the day. An easy method is to set a timer for, say, every 20 to 30 minutes. Every time it rings, get up out of your chair and move.
Swing your arms. Do some jumping jacks. Stretch your hands to the sky and back behind you to stretch out your chest. It doesn’t have to be much, but make it something. Consider using one of those breaks to get in a walk, even just around the block. Or go throw the ball with the dog.
The idea is to get yourself out of the seated, forward leaning position; get some blood moving; and give your eyes and brain a break and time to refresh. Give it a go—like maybe even right now!
2. Be Easy on Yourself
Seeing as we’ve been at this COVID life for over twelve months means that we’re really used to it, but that also means it may be wearing on you. This is a long haul. And things still feel off and weird. Also, a lot of us are dealing with kids at home; sick family members or friends; constantly rearranging schedules: disruptions and stresses that are being caused by this massive shift in our world. With your work life and home life—and, really, all parts of life for everyone you live with—all in one place, what happens in one arena is very likely going to spill over into the other.
If you’re having a tough time staying focused on work, keeping up with your schedule, or, heck, even remembering what day it is, give yourself a break! And know, you are not alone. If it’s feeling like the world is a bit too much right now, readjust. Look at what’s on your plate, and make a realistic assessment of what you can do and what’s going to just have to wait.
And, when your Zoom doesn’t work or you’ve forgotten an appointment or you just can’t return that email because you have to help your kid with homework, don’t beat yourself up. Give yourself some grace. We’re all going through it in some way, and everyone understands that things today just aren’t normal.
3. Get Dressed, Get Outside
Oh, it’s fun to work in your PJs all day. It’s hilarious that you can show up for a board meeting with a suit jacket, dress shirt, and tie, while you’re still in your sweats. It is awesome to not have to sit in traffic every day.
And while all of that may be true, these rituals of prepping for the day, from head to toe, and moving into and out of our homes do serve some healthy purposes. To the latter, getting out and getting some sun on your face or even just some fresh air helps wake us up and keep our circadian rhythms flowing well. It’s also an opportunity to move!
And, going through the routine of getting ready for the day signals to our psyche that it’s time to be alert and get to work. It helps shift us from “morning wake-up” time to “ready and focused on work” time. You can even implement a casual Friday and make “yoga pants all day” a special treat.
4. Make a Separation
It’s so convenient having your work at home. But, sometimes it’s too convenient. You can work all the time. And that’s exactly what many of us are doing, especially since many of the things we used to do aren’t available to us right now. Why not just get one more thing at work done instead? The trap of constantly being available is an easy one to fall into. So, how to avoid it?
Put some boundaries on your work life. When your work day is over, close your work computer. Turn off work alerts on your phone. It may help to have your working hours in the signature of your emails and in your voice message.
In this same spirit, give yourself breaks throughout the day. It may be tempting to eat lunch at your computer, but you will benefit from 30 minutes or a half-hour away: it’s a time to refresh and reset, and conquer the rest of the day.
5. Make Your Space Nice
For all those people who didn’t have a home office before the pandemic and who will be returning to their regular office at some time in the future, your home setup is temporary. This may mean that the aesthetics are an afterthought.
But consider, you are currently spending a lot of hours in this space, however not permanent it might be. So make it nice. Put up a few photos. Get some flowers. Do you have the organizational tools you need? Are you comfortable? If you’re stiff and sore at the end of the day, check how you’ve set everything up, and adjust as needed.
Be sure this is a space you enjoy and that it facilitates your productivity and focus.
There are upsides and downsides to this COVID work-at-home time. But for many of us, it’s not going to last forever, at least not in its current form. So, embrace and enjoy the benefits available to you today—it won’t be every day you can do yoga poses in your work space without getting some questioning glances by a co-worker, after all.