Even pre-quarantine, more and more Americans were starting to work from home. Calls and meetings were going virtual, companies were finding cost-savings in remote employees, and the rise of the gig economy paved the way for atypical workstyles. Figuring out a proper work-from-home space is something that everyone could use right now, and most likely, in the future, as companies transition some of the virtual practices into permanent protocol.
Creating a space that makes you feel productive and free from distractions is imperative for your mental health, too. Without the option of even working from a coffee shop or coworking space, creating a proper home office is a new challenge for many. We’ll outline some steps you can take to carve out a workable space for your home. Some key things to think about are: good natural lighting, temperature control, comfortable and ergonomic furniture, and a strategy to minimize distractions.
1. Establish a Morning Routine
Going straight from bed ‘to work’ in the morning isn’t great for your brain or your productivity. Think about all that time you’re saving without a morning commute! Use that newfound extra time to establish a healthy morning routine like a walk around the block, light stretching, a short yoga or meditation practice, or journaling before you check your phone in the morning. Even if you spend just 5-10 minutes making coffee and putting on real clothes (it makes a difference!), it’s good practice to ‘get ready’ for the day and start off right. Create a routine that you can stick to, but don’t be too hard on yourself if you’re too tired or skip it one day. Remember, this is supposed to help you feel better, not stress you out more.
2. Carve Out a Specific Location in Your Home For Work
We’re all experiencing the rollercoaster of emotions that is this quarantine, and everyone is probably pretty tired of their own living rooms at this point. But, in order to attain some semblance of difference between work and down time, try and designate specific areas of your home according to function. Don’t sleep, work, and watch Netflix all from the same spot in your home. When the days blur together, any sense of regularity and rhythm is encouraged. It’s possible to distinguish work and ‘live’ zones even if you live in a small space - get creative with available work surfaces like the kitchen counter or dining room table.
3. Get Ergonomic
If you weren’t working from home before, you may not have optimal seating options and work surfaces. Working with that lap desk in bed or that really uncomfortable, but stylish, dining room chair aren’t going to cut it for your body long-term. You can invest in an ergonomic desk chair at home, or just make sure that you sit in something with a sturdy back support. You can even purchase a removable back support to affix an existing dining chair! Make sure your work surface is clean, flat, and allows you to sit comfortably with your computer at a level that works for your wrists.
4. Give Your Workspace Some Personality
We talked about setting the tone for your workday by creating a morning routine and getting ‘ready’ for work. If we’re going to be working from home for the foreseeable future (and it means more time in our homes), we should enjoy the space we’re living and working in. Keep your workspace minimal and free of clutter, but add a few choice items that spark joy, like plants or photos, much like you would your desk at an office. Keeping it neat and organized will help you stay focused, and a few personal items will boost your mood.
5. Take Regular Breaks
Working for long stretches without a break can lead to stress, exhaustion, and ironically, reduced productivity. Taking regular breaks from work will help to increase productivity and spark creativity. Even the littlest pause like looking away from your computer screen for 30 seconds can help your eyes and brain reset. Try getting up for a stretch or taking a walk around the block to jumpstart your circulation and refresh. Especially in quarantine, when screentime is up, try to unplug when you’re taking breaks and having meals - don’t be on your phone or surfing the web, enjoy your break!
6. Schedule Check-Ins with Coworkers, Friends, and Family
If you’re used to working around people, being isolated from human connection is a challenge. Schedule video check-ins with your coworkers to connect with people and maintain a sense of regularity. Try and be intentional about the kind of check-ins you’re having. Discuss daily and weekly goals, have more focused calls to talk through a project, or ask questions. If you’re the manager, make sure that you’re spreading positivity and encouragement to your team. People can feel very lost or disoriented during this time without their usual routine or team to support them.
7. Keep the News Intake to a Minimum
Taking care of yourself, mentally, emotionally, and physically, is so important during this time. There is a lot going in the world, and we’re not telling you to ignore it. It’s imperative that we all stay on top of what’s going on, are educated, and follow the right safety protocols, but it can also be very easy to spiral into a cloud of negativity. Keep your media consumption in a healthy balance with non-screen activities, social time, and physical activity. Make ‘reading the news’ part of your morning routine once you sit down to work or establish certain times of the day for news so it doesn’t take over your whole day. Consider putting a boundary on media intake like, ‘no news consumption after dinner’.
Working from home has come easier to some more than others, but we are adaptable and can do this! You might actually develop some new productivity habits that will help you in the long run. Remember, it takes time to adjust, so be kind to yourself and cut yourself some slack if you skip your morning routine one day or your dog barks on your Zoom call. We’re all figuring this out and doing our best.