A lot of people used to think that working from home was a dream. The key words there are “used to.” Employees who spent decades chained to a corporate desk all day once daydreamed about their lucky colleagues who had the privilege to conduct conference calls in their pajamas.
But now, as much of the world has been forced to stay home by the coronavirus pandemic, these same people are learning the actual reality: Working from home isn’t always so great!
Sure, there are perks. A bit more sleep. Better food. Nobody staring over your shoulder all day. An ability to get some laundry done in a pinch. But there are a lot of downsides too. Working from a home office — all day, every day — can often feel more like a nightmare than a dream.
Fortunately, there are ways to make the most out of it and stay productive even when times get hard. And you can get better at it over time. So with that in mind, try out the following five tips to help create a more productive and healthy home office.
1. Maintain a Regular Workspace
The first key to home office success is to actually have — and use — your home office. It definitely can be tempting to wake up and crank out a few emails from bed on your phone. Or extend your lunch break for a few hours while catching up on trashy TV on the couch and doing busywork. Nobody will even know! But these breaks from routine should be once-in-a-blue-moon indulgences, not the norm. Establish a set place where you get things done and stick to it as much as possible. Otherwise, your whole home will start to feel like a workplace, and it will become harder and harder to work efficiently.
2. Stick to a Schedule
Even more important than the where is the when. You cannot fall into the trap of working odd hours or staying logged in all night. It's very easy to do. Without a commute to break things up, it can be hard to delineate work life from home life. But it is essential to maintain separation. Just try to remember that you will never finish everything. Really, this is no different from the office but you had no choice but to head out eventually. So, no matter what the deadlines demand, always try to close the computer at 5 pm (or whenever works for you) and then stick to that schedule as strictly as possible each day.
3. Surround Yourself with Creativity
One great benefit of working at home is that it’s your home. Nobody can tell you what to do. And nobody is there to judge you for what your workspace looks like. Is it traditionally professional-looking environment? Who cares! Don't worry about anyone else and just surround yourself with what is important. Make your home office fit your personality with family photos, artwork, creative colors, and any other items that foster creativity. And don’t forget the plants. As many plants as you can. Nothing else can make so much of a difference to liven up a room.
4. Stay Connected to the World
Workplace drama can cause stress. But let’s be honest: As long as it’s not actually a toxic environment, all the gossip and interpersonal dynamics can be a little fun too. Really, the workplace is somewhere that we love to hate. And then there are your actual friends. If you are stuck at home in isolation, you will start to miss them. Modern tech tools for collaboration are definitely great for productivity. But you also won’t be productive long-term if you start bouncing off the walls and going a bit batty. We all need some human connection, so make sure to actually pick up a phone once in a while to have real interactions with other people. It will keep you sane and working better in the long run.
5. Get Some Exercise
Just like your mental and emotional well being, you need to pay attention to your physical health. With no commute and little reason to walk very far — even for lunch or going to meetings — it’s easy to become very sedentary. Not only is this bad for your waistline, but it can harm your performance. So be sure to get up and get moving. Every hour — at a minimum — you need to walk around the house a little bit. And since you should have more time in the day, try to take a long walk over lunch or find an at-home exercise routine that works for you. The mind cannot be productive if the body grows stagnant. Get a little bit of exercise so you can be the best you can be — from head to toe.