When it comes to remote work, it looks like it is here to stay. Thanks to COVID-19 drastically changing the way we live and work, employers have realized employees can remain productive working from home, and more companies are hiring for remote positions. However, the shift to working remotely is a big change from daily office life. It’s definitely an adjustment going from interacting with coworkers in real-life to staring at a screen all day in your own little bubble.
Here are some things I’ve learned along the way that helped save my sanity during the last year. Hopefully incorporating some of these tips into your life will make your work/life balance a little better – whether you’ve been working from home for a while or are about to start a new remote position.
Keep your morning routine: If your pre-COVID commute involved driving to the office instead of a walk down the stairs, you might be tempted to think you can sleep in and turn on your computer right before your work day officially starts. That’s not a good idea. You should still keep your “going to work” morning routine from before. That includes getting dressed and brushing your hair – even if you don’t have any zoom meetings scheduled that day. Not only do you not know when an unexpected work crisis will require an urgent video call, just the act of getting dressed for work helps mentally prepare yourself for the day ahead.
Maintain your workday schedule: Depending on the type of work you do, you might need blocks of uninterrupted time to focus on your task. Go ahead and silence your phone and email notifications so there won’t be any distractions once you get started. Schedule time on your shared work calendar so your coworkers know you’ll be unavailable for non-urgent items during those hours.
If possible, try to stick to a similar schedule from your non-remote days. For example, if you used to take a mid-morning coffee break with your coworkers, take a few minutes to refill your cup at home. If your lunch break used to include a stroll around your office building, that’s a great habit to keep up (or start!) at home.
Manage your workspace: Try to keep your home life from creeping into your home office. Ideally, your office should be a space that is dedicated to work only. But even if you don’t have a separate room to use solely for work purposes, you can ensure that your work area remains neat and organized. It’s a good idea to maintain a space that is always “zoom-ready” (as I like to call it). That means no personal items like unfolded laundry within view of your computer’s camera.
Set boundaries: When work is at home and you’re always at home – and therefore also always at work – it’s easy for the lines between personal life and work duties to blur. Sure, one of the perks of working from home is being able to toss in a load of laundry in between meetings, but on the other hand, it can also be easy to feel like you should be available 24/7. If your phone beeps with a new email notification during dinnertime, don’t feel obligated to reply. Unless you’re an actual ER doctor, work isn’t actually life-or-death. (Even though it can feel that way sometimes!)
Take care of yourself: People were not designed to spend the majority of their time sitting in front of a computer, but these items will at least make you a little more comfortable while you work.
- If possible, invest in an ergonomic chair, keyboard, and mouse. Your back and wrists will thank you.
- Get up and walk around or stretch for a few minutes every hour or so. This will help keep your blood flowing to your body and your brain so you can keep those creative juices flowing!
- Stay hydrated. Even though you don’t have a water cooler to gather around with your office buddies anymore, it’s important to drink water (and not just coffee) throughout the day.
- Eat at a regular time each day, and try to take an actual lunch break away from your desk. A little change of scenery and a blood sugar boost will get your afternoon off to a great start.
If you have other tips or secrets to successfully working from home, let us know! We can all benefit from the shared learnings of this pandemic life shift.