Things have changed pretty drastically for many of us around the world. If you’re one of the people who has found yourself working from home for the first time, you might be struggling with isolation and motivation. There will be people who tell you that working from home is the best thing ever. Many people who have never done it, think that it’s the ideal situation, but for those of us who have done it long term, you might find a different answer.
Working from home is difficult. Don’t get me wrong, it’s also great, but it’s not easy, and it’s certainly not for everyone – and that’s ok!
I’ve been working from home since 2013. Statistically speaking, people who work from home are actually more productive overall, especially at the beginning. That remained true for my experience as well. I got WAY more work done when I first started working from home, but it got harder as time went on and, over the last 7 years, I’ve learned a lot on how to keep going productively.
Communication is Key
First and foremost, being most effective and working remotely is going to require lots of communication between you and your employer, but also any team members you have. It might feel like you’re being micromanaged, especially at first, but you have to work out that trust and process. Given that many of us are working from home because of an extreme circumstance, that might be a little harder to get used to at first.
But communication isn’t just necessary for your work environment. When you start working from home, you’re already going to lose a good bit of your daily socialization. Add in the quarantine situation we’re all in and it’s that much more daunting. It’s really important to reach out to friends and family to chat and still get in that socialization we need. For me, starting streaming really made a big difference.
You Still Need Sunshine!
I think people take this one for granted a lot. Maybe it’s just growing up in Florida, but when I was a kid, we were always told that playing outside was good for us and that we needed sunshine and good ol’ vitamin D. All jokes aside, it’s actually pretty true. There are many studies that have been done that link a vitamin D deficiency to depression. You cannot get those good good vitamin rays through glass either, so make sure that you’re stepping out for some fresh air once in a while.
Look Away – Your Eyes Will Thank You
Many of us in desk jobs know that eye strain from monitors can be pretty bad, but eye strain in general has a pretty easy fix. According to my own optometrist, for every 20 minutes that you look at a screen, you should be looking at something in the distance for 20 seconds. I’ll be honest here, in practice, this seems like a lot. Your eyes are muscles, so staring at something in close range all day, will cause them to hurt when you try to focus on something far away. I tend to just get up every once in a while and look out the window, or glance back at the bunnies. Anything to bring that wider range back to your eyes in a way that feels a little more natural than staring at the right corner of the ceiling and counting to 20 (hahaha). You can also invest in blue light blocking lenses to help, or have the coating applied to your glasses. It will help with the burning you might feel at the end of the day.
Don’t Work and Relax in the Same Spot
This one can be a little tricky. Not everyone is going to have the space to set aside, but if you can, keeping your work space separate from your normal space can help a lot. It’s easy to get locked into sitting at the same desk all day because you go from work into games or the internet or whatever it is that you do after work. If you don’t have the room to separate, try and take a break between work and relaxation time at your computer. Take a walk, have dinner, watch some tv. It might not seem like a big deal at first, but in the long run, it makes a pretty big difference for both your mental state and your motivation.
If you can, make sure that you have a good chair and a decent desk or table to work at. Follow Mom’s rules! Sit up straight, don’t work in the dark, and don’t sit too close. Stretch from time to time and keep your workspace clean. Your eyes, back, and shoulders will thank you.
Keep A Schedule
Most of the time, when I tell people that I work from home, they assume that I make my own hours. While my boss does offer my a large amount of freedom, our office hours are still 9-6 everyday. Maintaining that schedule for myself is pretty easy. If that’s not the case for you, I’d highly recommend putting a schedule in place for yourself. Even if it’s just a general idea, it will help keep you more motivated. It will act as a mental separation of relaxation time vs work time and will help keep your mind in that productive work space. It will also help you keep track of days and not fall into that place of feeling like you’re in a constant state of work – whether you are or not.
Get Dressed Like Normal
I won’t lie to you, I struggle with this one sometimes. We’re currently on the 2nd week of quarantine here, and while I already work from home, I usually try to do my hair and makeup, and get dressed on my lunch break. In the past, it’s helped for me to do these things before work in the morning, but I also work a lot at night, so getting up earlier, when I technically don’t have to, is a little difficult. It’s really easy to get caught in the “this is pointless” mentality and stay in your pajamas all day, but I promise you, you’ll have an easier go of working from home if you get up and get dressed. By all means, leave the dress attire for work, but rolling out of bed and going straight to your desk really starts to take it’s toll. Today I forced myself to “look like a human being” because I was getting into that work slump. It might feel silly if you’ve been avoiding it for a while (and I get that, I really do), but try to stick with it for a while. There’s a pretty great chance that it will help you feel better overall.
Work Time is Work Time
I know we touched on this a little bit, but in this case, I’m referring more to distractions. When I first started working from home, I felt like a super star. Between proofs, I would pop the laundry in the dryer, load the dish washer, sweep the floor. Over time, that can get more and more tedious and it easily turns more into working in between doing all those chores, which tanks your productivity.
On Background Noise
If you’re feeling antsy while you work, try popping on some music. You’ll have to find the kind that works best for you, and it might change depending on the mood you’re in, but finding your groove, so to speak, can really help as well. Sometimes music is a bit much for me, so I’ll pop on documentaries (usually on history and archaeology) and will have it set in another tab in my browser so I can listen while I work. 9 times out of 10, I could re-watch it fully later and have no idea what I heard, but it’s good background noise. Audiobooks are another great source, but they won’t work for everyone or every job. You might find that it’s difficult to read emails or, that you’ve missed the last chapter of the book you’ve read and will have to listen again. I tend to leave these for times when I don’t really have to read or focus too much – usually when I’m working on something with a lot of detail and a complicated design.
The Fridge Proximity Problem
You’ll realize this one on your own, but make yourself work for snacks. Don’t keep them on your desk – you will absolutely eat that whole bag of cookies. Instead, try taking an amount to eat at a time and forcing yourself to make the trek back to get more if you really want them. You’ll be surprised what you won’t do for a klondike bar. 😛
Working from home isn’t the same for everyone. In the excitement of the process and freedom, it’s easy to miss out on some of the important aspects of taking care of yourself. I love my job and I love working from home, but sometimes it gets really hard – both mentally and physically.
Stay Positive Friends <3
Icons provided by artists on The Noun Project!
Communication by Nithinan Tatah , Sunshine by Kamil Shah, Glasses by Icon Island , Desk by Adrien Coquet , Schedule by Tezar Tantular , Dress by Smalllike , Working by dDara , Sound by Milan Gladiš