Working from home may seem great in theory but as many Americans know it might not be as good as it seems. As thousands of companies have transitioned to remote positions over the past several months many of us are experiencing what it is like to work from home. This new style of working may be testing your motivation, your patience, or even your sanity.
In order to slow the spread of corona virus many people are experiencing the perks and drawbacks of remote work. It may seem great to only need to put real clothes on from the waist up for your Zoom call. It may also seem convenient to be able to sit in bed while you work, but many have reported a dramatic decrease in productivity and motivation. So how can you stay motivated when you’re working from home?
Designate a Workspace
First and foremost I cannot stress enough to avoid working from your bed. Your bed should be for sleeping. Working from a excessively comfy location, such as your bed, increases the likelihood of becoming drowsy and succumbing to a mid-day nap.
In addition to causing problems during your work day, working from your bed can also cause problems when you try to sleep. If you are consistently doing brain work from that location your mind may have a hard time settling down when you are ready to go to bed. Your brain won’t recognize the bed as a place to relax and decompress if you are also using that space for work.
You’ll be more motivated, and hopefully stay on task, if you have a designated place that you “go to work.” If your bedroom is the only place you have privacy then think about setting up a desk or separate table. Maybe you sit at the dining room table. No matter what you pick you should try to consistently work in the same place. This will help you stay on track because you’ll feel like you have a schedule.
We definitely aren’t suggesting that you can never leave your designated work space. It’s also a great idea to work outside of the home. Find a quiet coffee shop or bookstore if your work allows for you to be in public. Sometimes switching up the location can be helpful, especially if it’s a public place, because you’ll be less likely to get distracted by household tasks or pesky roommates.
Try designating specific times you can work from outside the home. Are you working from the local coffee shop the first Friday of every month? Are you enjoying your workday from a park table once you hit that big goal? Decide what feels right to you and start to make it a part of your working lifestyle.
Avoid Distractions (As Best as You Can)
Distractions are inevitable – both in an office setting or while working from home. Try your best to set boundaries, with yourself and others you may be living with. Can the dirty dishes in the sink wait until after you’re done working? Can a phone call be returned at a later time? It is so easy to get preoccupied with other things while working from home, especially because you’re literally surrounded by things that need to get done (this is another reason why you should find a particular workspace).
If you live with other people it may be important to set boundaries with them as well. Are you available to chat during your “lunch break” or are you off limits between certain hours of the day? It will be up to you to decide how to limit access in order to help you stay motivated and productive. It is not recommended to allow others to have access to you whenever they want. This can, for obvious reasons, cause excessive distractions and will really limit your productivity.
Set a Schedule
While the majority of workdays are from 9am-5pm this does not mean that an employee is working every minute between those hours. There are rules and laws surrounding how much time an employee can spend working before a break is allocated. This applies to remote workers as well. This can be especially important if you’re working from a computer. Your eyes will also benefit from some breaks. First and foremost, allow yourself the time to have a real lunch break.
On top of that, allow yourself predetermined breaks. Are you taking a 10 minute break after each hour? Every two hours? Scrolling through Facebook or Sirius Survival doesn’t count as a break. Step away from your workspace or computer and do something different. Take these few minutes to accomplish a task that has been distracting you. Use this time to check in on someone who has been trying to get a hold of you. Grab a snack or do some push-ups. Taking short breaks more frequently is known to help increase productivity.
In addition to taking breaks it is also important to have a set start and end time. Working from home can sometimes mean you don’t set an alarm in the morning. This may be so, but you should still decide what time you are “clocking in” and “clocking out.” Don’t let yourself push back your start time inevitably and then you find yourself getting to work at 8pm. Decide ahead of time when you will “go to work” and when you will shut down for the day. For some people working from home is an excuse to sleep in and stay in your pajamas all day but for some the opposite can be true. You may be more likely to push the limits and work overtime because you’re home anyways. Just because you may be sitting on the couch doesn’t mean you are working less. Your brain needs time to reset and recharge so take the time away from work as well.
Practice Self Care
We all deserve a break. Whether we’re working from home or commuting to work it is important to know when to take time for yourself. Just because your office is the next room over does not man you don’t need to destress after a day’s work. Along with taking appropriately timed breaks you should also be mindful of how long you are truly working. Are you constantly checking your work e-mail, even when you’re off the clock? Learn to set boundaries.
Physical health is just as important as mental health. If you work from home you may find you are a lot more stationary than if you work in an office. This can be especially true if you are working on your computer for long stretches of time. Try starting or ending your day with a workout or a walk around the block. Be mindful of your posture when you’re sitting. Are you slumped over? Are you tensing your jaw or shoulders? Instead of sitting all day try standing at the counter or table for several minutes at a time instead.
Start Your Morning Right
Similar to creating a designated work space and having a schedule you should also start your morning off on the right foot. It doesn’t matter if you are set to begin work at 6am, 9am, or noon. Your day should start with several things. Be sure you eat breakfast. You may just be drinking coffee to get your day started, and that works too, but having something in your system will set you up for success. After doing that you should probably shower and get dressed. I’m not saying you should put on a suit and tie just to sit at the kitchen table, but you should change out of your pajamas. Starting your day can look different to each person but having change – quite literally – will help you get in the zone. Put on real clothes, wash your face, and settle in to your “office.”
Another suggestion, and this may be a lot trickier, is to stay off of social media first thing in the morning. Research has proven that being on social media first thing in the morning, and in general, can impact mood and productivity. Instead of scrolling through Facebook before rolling out of bed try drinking a large glass of water instead. Take time, maybe during your lunch break, to check out the apps. Beginning your day with them, however, can bombard your mind and cause you to think about other things instead of staying focused on the task at hand.
So many people are now experiencing what it is like to work from home. You may be enjoying the perks as well as struggling with the drawbacks as well. Use these tips to help you over the next weeks and months. If you, or the company you work for, ultimately decide to stay remote after the pandemic you may be glad you picked up these tips and strategies.