If you’re one of the many Americans now working partially or full-time from home, you’ve likely become familiar with both the benefits and pitfalls of having an in-house office. On one hand, you’ve got a lot more flexibility—on the other, your work life has probably started to bleed into your personal life a little more than one would prefer. For those that will be converting to this new way to living, here are ten strategies to make work-from-home work for you:
1. Designate a specific working area or space.
While this might seem like a no-brainer solution, this is one of the best ways you can separate your working hours from your relaxing hours. Not only do they provide that needed distinction, but dedicated spaces can also increase your focus and help signal to your brain that it’s time to engage.
2. Create a morning routine.
The patterns we follow in the morning help set the tone for the remainder of the day. Now, it’s totally okay if you’re not a morning person—not everyone is! If you’re new to making the most out of the early hours, start with a few basics:
- Don’t open your phone for the first hour that you’re awake. While it might feel like you’re disconnected, you’re actually allowing more space to connect with yourself.
- Start the day with a tall glass of water, instead of diving straight into coffee. A hydrated body and mind is able to perform better and regulate its own internal systems.
- Do something that inspires you. Whether it’s reading a chapter of your favorite book or stretching on a yoga mat, a simple fifteen minutes of inspiration can help kickstart your day.
By developing our own morning routine, we better position ourselves to have a successful workday, no matter where we end up.
3. Schedule regular breaks.
Okay, so you’re already a hard worker: are you taking care of your need for mental breaks? Just a few minutes throughout the day can provide a necessary release from the stressors that naturally come through meeting invites, report requests or project deadlines. One of the benefits of working from home is that you might have all you need to take the perfect break right from your living room.
For example, why not schedule a 30-minute block to level up on a video game? A recent survey reported that roughly 73 percent of gamers saw that their time online acted as a welcome tool for anxiety and stress management. Just a few minutes away from your laptop could make all the difference in your attitude toward the workday.
4. Find the best time management system for you.
Amid all the distractions of social media, packages arriving at your front door or even loud neighbors, it can be hard to focus. Often, the best solution to maintaining focus is developing a consistent time management practice. If you’re not sure what works best for you, try starting with the Pomodoro Technique, developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980’s. The process looks a little something like this:
- Pick a task from your prioritized task list to complete.
- Set a 25-minute timer.
- Work on your task, without taking any breaks, until the timer is up.
- Take a five minute break.
- Repeat until you’ve completed four cycles and reward yourself with a fifteen or thirty minute break.
Not too bad, right? As you find the time management system that works best for you, be diligent in adhering to those principles so you can maximize your time on the job clock (and maybe even finish early for some extra relaxation).
5. Over-communicate to avoid misunderstandings.
Without clear and concise communication, it can be difficult to manage expectations and needs with your fellow coworkers. While it might feel like overkill, don’t be nervous to state and re-state your thoughts, ideas and requests to ensure that all parties understand what you are trying to communicate. If you realize there are breakdowns in your internal messaging processes, consider speaking to your boss about how you can leverage tools like Slack or HipChat to better enhance communication.
6. Invest in upgraded office furniture.
Tell us right now, does your back ache? Have you been experiencing extra neck pain? Are your hands and fingers sore from typing all day? There aren’t uncommon issues that corporate or employees that work from a desk face. Consider purchasing office furniture for your home set up that minimize risk for sustained injuries. This can include anything from standing desks to ergonomic chairs or hand cushions.
7. Integrate exercise into your workday.
Exercise is an important part of keeping both our minds and bodies healthy—but going to the gym can often be intimidating or inconvenient to visit for some. To improve both your focus and general wellness, find minds to incorporate low-risk exercise into your day. Ideas could include taking a brief walk to get coffee for breakfast, stretching during your lunch break or catching a round of golf between meetings. For those that want to go the extra mile (pun intended), consider purchasing a treadmill desk for exercise double-duty during your conference calls.
8. Schedule time to connect with your coworkers.
Especially throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, interactions have been limited between coworkers, friends and family. Even if you enjoy the solitude, it’s still important to schedule time to reconnect with the people you work with. If you’re not open to a longer happy hour or virtual game night, consider scheduling a fifteen-minute “tea time” with a colleague to catch up during the day and see how they’re doing. You might be surprised how the small break is a welcome change in your stream of meetings.
9. Turn off notifications once your workday is over.
Trust us on this one: you need to close your laptop for good when the day is done. One of the biggest complaints of work-from-home employees is the lack of barrier between their work and personal life. Don’t be afraid to set boundaries with your colleagues and let them know that once five o’clock hits, you’re off the grid and the notifications are muted.
10. Don’t hold yourself to an impossible standard.
No one is going to get this perfect at first. If you’re struggling to set a morning routine or aren’t focusing as well as you’d like, it’s okay. Instead, find small and measurable goals you can work toward—and celebrate those small successes along the way. Over time, you’ll be able to fully adjust to this new normal and thrive as a work-from-home employee.