Since the pandemic began, it seems like the majority of us have done nothing but adapt and readapt to change. Managing changes in how our children are learning, how our groceries are purchased, and where our work is performed has become a juggling act. During these changing times, telework has become a new way of life for a record number of employees. Although many would argue that the benefits of working from a home office are vast, managing this new and ever-changing way of life during the pandemic can take a bit of a toll on our mental health. In my last blog, I offered tips for staying physically active while working from home. In this article, I’ll provide advice to teleworkers on how to maintain a healthy mind and positive outlook when the everyday balance of work, kids, chores, and COVID overload become too much.
I can certainly relate to change. In addition to dealing with all of the changes resulting from the pandemic, I recently moved to a different state, got married, started a new job working from home, and had a baby. Adapting to a new normal is an understatement! With all of these changes in my life, I have found it essential to establish new routines and carve out time to focus on wellness so I can maintain a high level of productivity at work. Below are some tips that you may find useful.
Routines Can Be Fun!
Making small changes to your work-from-home routine can go a long way in boosting productivity, increasing motivation, and improving mental health. People tend to be creatures of habit and grow comfortable in their routines…but those routines don’t have to be boring! Not only can routines help combat stress, but they can also help guard against poor sleeping and eating habits. Taking some simple steps to develop routines throughout the day will put you in the right mindset to be productive while working from home.
- Morning: Waking up at a consistent time each morning is shown to increase satisfaction in your personal life, with your finances, and with your sense of work-life balance. Research suggests that waking up early could be the key to peak productivity. Consider using time that would have been spent commuting to exercise, stretch, practice yoga, or anything else that helps relax your mind. Human error can occur due to fatigue, which can affect productivity, motivation, and mental clarity. Throughout your morning, take care of pets and kids if you have them, have breakfast and family time (technology free, perhaps?), and enjoy a cup of coffee or tea to kickstart your day.
- Mid-morning/afternoon: Remember to take breaks every hour or so, as your workload allows. A smart watch, like a Fitbit, can be set to alert you to get moving at predetermined times. Walking outside, breathing fresh air, and soaking in sunshine are good ways to refresh the mind and give your eyes a break from the screen. Stick to a healthy diet and avoid sugary snacking at your desk. Stay hydrated throughout the day and try to avoid overindulging in caffeinated beverages that will ultimately cause your energy level to tank. Many highly productive employees enjoy the benefits of lunchtime walks with their dogs or mid-day runs, or even have a workstation that can be adjusted to allow for standing while working.
- Evening: Working at home comes with a unique set of challenges. Keeping a routine is the best way to stay productive while balancing work with home responsibilities. When you work from home, it’s not as easy as leaving the office desk, walking out of the building, and away from the computer and files. Remember that just because you have access to work constantly does not mean that you have to work constantly. Consider a “digital detox” (a period of time to refrain from digital device usage) to help switch off the work state of mind. Enjoy family interactions, have conversations, and eat a healthy dinner together. Have a wind-down and bedtime routine that relaxes your mind and body to prepare for a full night’s sleep. A healthy work-home balance can lead the way to an increased ability to focus and a higher level of productivity.
Veni, Vidi, Vici
Okay, so we might not be conquering a real war like Julius Caesar but we certainly have to take the battles in front of us into consideration. Create a work environment that puts you in the right frame of mind to not just complete your tasks, but conquer them! Your workspace should be comfortable and inviting, but not one that is too distracting. Imagine how you would have your desk set up if you worked in a traditional office. Have pictures of your family and/or pets, soothing Zen gardens, and a layout that makes for a productive and efficient workday. Invest in a comfortable chair with extra back support, as well as wrist support for the computer keyboard and mousepad. Physical comfort is just as important as mental comfort when you are spending one-third of each weekday in your workspace.
Have an office space separate from other rooms in your home that could cause distraction. Having your workspace in living room areas or your personal bedroom may not provide a distraction-free work environment. Be sure your office space is well lit and clutter free - you want to enjoy your time in your workspace as much as possible. Correct lighting and a tidy work area can also provide an appropriate, professional background for virtual meetings.
Relax, You’re Home Now
Take a deep breath. When the workday is over, it doesn’t matter where your desk is, it is always a relief. Remind yourself of the benefits of having your work-from-home space if you ever start feeling overwhelmed at the end of the day. You’ve shed the commute – think of the savings on gas and vehicle wear and tear. Stretch those legs and remember to be kind to yourself. It can be hard wearing many hats in your home and staying productive amid it all. Considering all circumstances, you’re doing a great job! When your work is done, relax…you’re home now.