Before COVID, working from home was a perk in some companies. Since the pandemic, many companies have most of their workforce working from home. And while some jobs may eventually return to the office, many will remain remote, at least for part of the work week. There are pros and cons to working from home, but you can decrease or eliminate the cons with a few small changes to your workday.
Working from home has great advantages: flexibility in your workday, time and money saved without the commute, and fewer interruptions from people stopping by your desk to chat. But it can be lonely and isolating. And in its own way, it can be distracting, especially if you start to get stir-crazy and allow yourself to be drawn away to other things (like social media) or grind and grind over some minor detail that you would have been able to get past quickly in a more stimulating environment.
It can even bad for your health. When we work at home, we might find ourselves rolling out of bed, heading to the home office, and sitting and staring at the computer without moving for hours on end. But in the workplace, you might have gotten up for coffee, carried some papers to a coworker, or gone to a meeting. This movement, even though not much, is important for your health.
So here are a few suggestions that can help you be happy, healthy, connected, and productive while working from home. Personalities are different – extroverts, introverts, and those in between will find their favorite ways to work, so let these suggestions guide you to what works for you.
Business calls: Plan calls in the morning or right after a lunch break, to help invigorate you to get moving first thing or to get back to work after lunch.
Videoconferencing: Most companies have instituted regular video meetings, but if yours has not, or if you feel the need for more, go ahead and connect with some colleagues on your own. It could be to chat about a project or it could be just a weekly social call to maintain that camaraderie and connection. I recommend video calls to get the best effect, short of actually being together. If possible, meet for lunch from time to time.
Connect with local business groups: There are lots of local organizations, some purely business, some with a philanthropic aspect, that allow professionals to meet regularly, develop friendships, and network. Even if you meet via Zoom, the connections are real, and they can positively affect both your mood and your business success.
Get up and move: Set a reminder if you have to, but take a few minutes every hour to stretch, get coffee, or do some eye exercises (yes, there are eye exercises for people who stare at screens all day). You need to get your lymph moving through your body, change the positions of your muscles, and give your brain a boost of happy hormones from movement and exercise. Try to plan a dedicated period of exercise of at least 20 minutes, 3-4 times per week.
Get outside daily: You have the flexibility, so use it! We all need fresh air and vitamin D from the sun, so go outside, even if it’s just to do your stretches on the back porch. Fresh air and exercise have also been proven to improve mood.
Vary your workspace: How about taking the laptop out to the patio? Move to a different room every few days, or go to a café to work for a few hours? Shared workspaces are useful for people who feel they need an office environment to really concentrate.
Give yourself some background noise: This is a personal preference. Some people prefer silence, others like classical music, others contemporary, and others just want office sounds in the background. Fortunately, you can go online and find whatever music you like, and even soundtracks of office noise (ambient or white noise). Experiment to find out what works for you, and you might find that, depending on your project, you change up your background noise to give you the greatest productivity.
Interact with a pet or family member: Often you’re not the only one in the house when you work from home. This can help alleviate loneliness. Walk the dog, have lunch with your spouse, and enjoy the extra time you have with them.
If you have to work from home, you can make it work for you, and you’ll probably find that you love the freedom and flexibility it gives.