Are you one of the “lucky” ones that have been allowed to work from home amid the COVID-19 pandemic? I use the term lucky very loosely because while we are fortunate to remain employed during this frightening time, having a job that is deemed essential usually comes with its own set of stressors. I have always been envious of people who find a job they love that pays the bills and also provides morale. None of my employers have managed to do both. Some could not even manage to do one if I’m being honest. As someone that has been working from home for over a year, there is a definite learning curve that if ignored can result in a detrimental impact to one’s mental health. Normally a homebody, I quickly realized that when I began working from home, I never wanted to be there anymore. The reason was that I could not differentiate my work life from my house. The saying is, do not take your work home, but how is that possible when you literally have to do just that? If you love your job, this post probably is not for you, but feel free to stick around. For everyone else, here are my tips for separating the two for anyone struggling.
Designate Space: Just like in an office, the most important thing with productivity is assigning your own workspace. If working in bed makes you more productive, fine. Otherwise, find a spot in your home that you can use solely during your work time. Once you have designated space, decorate it like your office. Even if it is just a desk. You can add photos, a snack cubby, tissues, figurines. Anything that will make you the most efficient worker. Low on space but still want to take it to the next level? Find a room divider from the thrift store and use it to create a mini-office. Having a speaker that can play while working can also be a beneficial perk that may not be available in the usual setting. This will become more important later. As I mentioned, everyone does not love their job. It is so easy to transfer those negative feelings about work into your own home once the physical location becomes the same. Creating a workspace is necessary because you now have the option of leaving that bad energy in one area versus hating the whole house. Surviving social distancing will be impossible if work and home do not have a distinguishing feature.
Set (and keep) hours: If possible, take this time to set your own hours. Maybe your employer will allow online time to be earlier or later than usual. I have always been against the 9-5 workday because I do not typically do my best work until after 11. This could be the time to optimize your own productivity simply by shifting the start time. Once the hours are set, stick to them. When working in the office, do you go home, then go back to the office if you remember a task from earlier? Probably not. Keep that same energy when you work at home. If you work a shift from 9-5, shut down at 5:01. Statistically, people work more hours when they work from home simply because they lose track of time. Also, people will work more because they feel as if they are not doing enough because they are home. Americans already work more hours than in other countries. Meaning we spend more time at work than with our families. Why add MORE time to that? Whatever you missed can most likely wait until tomorrow. If possible, do not open your computer at all outside of work hours. There is such a slippery slope from “just checking emails” to spending the rest of the day completing unnecessary work tasks.
Eat lunch outside: Yes, you still need to take a lunch break. Even working at home, it is still the law. Being home all day can get boring for even the most reclusive of introverts. Since you are already in the house, try to take your lunch break outside. Especially since the weather is starting to get nicer. By outside, I mean in your own yard, patio, parking lot, car with the windows down, etcetera. Public spaces like parks and picnic areas are still largely off limits. Also, a vital key to immunity is getting sufficient vitamin D and what better way to do that than going outside? Restaurants are mostly open for carryout only and delivery. Which means you still have the option of eating a lot of your favorite foods. No options to go outside without contact? Easy fix. Open your curtains and windows. This lets the sunlight in and you can still feel the fresh air on your skin. Anybody that has pets knows that they gravitate to the sunspots throughout the house for a reason. Follow their lead.
Set Time To Vent, Then Block Your Brain: My day job has a high turnover because it can be extremely stressful. At the end of the day, I have learned that I need time to vent about things that frustrated me. It is easier to move on to something else when you have acknowledged what bothered you and why. Give yourself anywhere between 5-30 minutes to vent and after that, block your brain. Even just journaling it with a glass of wine in hand can be helpful. When I start worrying about work after my allotted time, I will literally tell myself to “stop” and immediately find something to do. It is mandatory for me because if I allow myself to harbor on that one thing that irritated me, I will lose sleep. Another way of blocking your brain is watching something funny. I love watching bad cooking videos and shows like Nailed It. The terrible creations the contestants cook up keep me laughing for hours.
Working from home does not have to be a jail sentence. Since there is no immediate end in sight, making the best out of an inconvenient situation will prove to be most important.