You can easily search for articles related to how to develop healthy work habits while working from home. Over the years, I have had the opportunity to work from home in a variety of positions, some due to heavy travel while other times due to family needs or convenience. In every situation, it didn’t take long to identify what was NOT working for me!
Every employment and family situation will be different so we know there is no single “right” way to work from home. I have compiled a list of things that have helped me make the best out of my work from home experiences that assisted me with reducing stress and maintaining my physical and mental health
1. Designate and decorate a work area
If you are working from home on a regular basis you want to have a comfortable space that minimizes distractions and disruptions. By designating a space, it will also make it easier to set boundaries with family/housemates on what is allowable on your “work time”. While you are setting up your space, be sure to make it a pleasant environment that you will want to spend time in, i.e. add plants, pictures, music, etc. that you would have in a regular office setting.
2. Use the right resources/equipment
If doing your job requires a lot of sitting, have a good chair. If your job involves frequent phone calls or computer work, have a headset or check into multiple monitors to increase work efficiency. Having the right equipment and resources can have a big impact on your stress levels and your health whether you are in an office environment or at home. Don’t skimp on equipment and technology just because you are working from home. There is nothing worse than having a sore back or neck at the end of your workday no matter where you work.
3. Start your day with purpose
Yes, that means have a schedule and get up and go like you would if you were going into the office. While your clothing choices may be different, like shorts instead of skirts or dress pants, most people find getting their day started at home the same way they would if they were leaving for an office keeps them on track and ready to take on their day. When you act like you are on vacation it is easy to lose your sense of urgency and lose track of time and let work projects fall behind.
4. Follow your “office” hours
If you have set office hours, follow them. If you don’t have set hours, then consider establishing some. When you work from home, having set office hours helps you and your housemates establish boundaries for interruptions and family time. While some employers worry that employees working from home will work less, that is often not the case. Instead, employees often have a difficult time ending their day even though they have friends and family waiting for their time.
5. Take breaks and meal periods
Sometimes employers fear that employees that work from home will take extra breaks and longer lunches. Unfortunately for us, that is usually not the case! Many employees that are working from home for the first time find it difficult to step away from their workspace and if you can hear the phone or email notices from other locations in the home, often feel pressured to return early.
When working from home be sure to make it a priority to step away and take breaks and meal periods to maintain better productivity and engagement in the work that is left to be done.
If you find that when you take a break or meal and time gets away from you, set a timer or other reminder device to keep you on track.
6. Take “media” breaks
Working from home often involves an increased use of the phone, computer systems and virtual meetings appointments. Be sure to plan time for technology breaks to rest your eyes and ears and just disconnect from technology to recharge your senses. There really is such a thing as “phone fatigue” and “webinar fatigue” especially with the increase in virtual meetings.
7. Be mindful with family/friends
If you are working at home and family and friends are present, then distractions and disruptions can be more frequent. While it is a nice perk to be there when your children arrive home from school or your roommate is making lunch for friends, you may also need to set boundaries so others know when interruptions are discouraged. Boundaries can be set by communicating office hours to your family, closing doors and hanging signs just as you would at the office.
8. Plan in Face to Face interaction
Even if working from home is more productive for your work tasks, humans are generally still social beings. You will want to build in lunch dates or other meetings with family and friends to keep your social needs in check. For some people, working in the office even one day a week (if possible) helps provide human interaction to avoid feeling isolated from their team.
9. Create new routines for yourself and your new “coworkers”
You may find you have more time available with family and friends once your commute time and other work related preparation tasks are reduced or eliminated. Children and pets are great resources to fill that extra time, whether it be taking the dog for a walk in place of your morning commute or helping your children with homework during your afternoon break.
Use your lunch period for walks or exercise that wouldn’t have been possible when working in the office. While it may feel good to sleep in sometimes, you will likely feel better about using that extra time on things you haven’t wanted to do in the past but had no time for. Many people working from home for the first time notice a dramatic decrease in activity levels. You may have to add additional activities into your day just to break even with previous activity levels.
10. Keep your kitchen stocked with healthy foods
You may not have to pack a lunch every day, however without a healthy meal plan or meal prepping you may fall into the pit of “work from home weight gain”. Even though food may be readily available when working from home, if you don’t provide yourself with healthy choices then it won’t be long before the weight gain occurs. Make it a priority to stock your kitchen with healthy food choices and plan your options for snacks and meals. At the same time monitor your activity levels to ensure that your activity levels are appropriate for your food choices to maintain the balance you may have had when working from the office.
Many of the items covered here may seem obvious to many, however when you change your routine dramatically (like working from home), you may also need to revisit your routines and habits to make sure you are able to maintain optimal balance between work and home life. If you want to enjoy working in the comfort of your own home, of course you want the experience to be comfortable as well!