You’re probably working from home. I’m working from home. I’ve been working from home since March 13 when we said things like “Wow this will be different for a little bit”. But now that it’s been 138 days (for me) working from home, it’s time to make sure you’re keeping yourself safe and healthy!
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A quick note first: If you’re a healthcare worker or a frontline worker who is out in the midst of the pandemic keeping the world moving: Thank you. I can only imagine how difficult it must be every day to climb out of bed and put yourself right in front of it all, so on behalf of everyone who doesn’t have to: Thank you.
In the first few days (and weeks) of working from home, I’m sure we all had the same reaction: What a fun adventure to do something different. However, it’s now been months, and with the chances of going back to an office anytime soon rapidly diminishing, it’s important that we all take care of ourselves.
You might have noticed that over the last few weeks, or in the coming weeks, the shine has rubbed off the concept a little, so I thought I’d write about how to get that back. I’ve worked from home on and off for years now, so I’m going to whip out some of my favorite tips and tricks.
We’ll do this week by week and we’re starting with: routine.
Routine is very important
Every day of your working life (before March 2020) involved some element of: wake up, get ready, go to work, work, lunch, work, go home, eat dinner, live life, go to bed.
Half of those steps have gone away but in order to keep in tip-top shape, you should try and replicate them as closely as possible to keep yourself happy, healthy, and sane.
It might seem silly but I promise you that you need this in your life or work is going to become a boring chore, even if it’s close to
Ok, you can give yourself a little bit of a sleep-in now that you’ve got some time up your sleeve but resist the temptation to sleep-in way past your normal wake-up.
Not only will it make it impossibly difficult down the road when you one-day are back to work, but it’ll start to creep and then you’ll find yourself waking up with less energy and less inspired to actually go do you work.
Don’t let that happen, jump on it early! Set an alarm and stick to it, jump out of bed, and start your day. Sleep-ins are for weekends.
The key to all of these is normalcy.
You don’t have to dress up in a suit and tie if that’s what you wore to the office but have a shower, get yourself up and about, make breakfast, and maybe even change from your overnight pajamas into your day-time pajamas if nothing else.
This breaks the flow between the wake-up being at home phase from the work-phase, which will ultimately make it easier for your brain to switch gears.
Brush your teeth, eat some breakfast, have a coffee, and if you normally turn on the news… don’t, it’s barely worth it.
Go to work
Sure, you’re not commuting in the regular sense (and that’s very smart) but fill that time with something other than being at home or being at your new “desk”.
Get outside, walk around the block a few times, explore a street that you’ve never been down before, or try and see if you can discover something new about your neighborhood.
Put a mask on, stay away from other people, and explore for 30 minutes!
You never know what you’ll find, and it will feel like you’ve relocated yourself, even though you’ve ultimately ended back at the same address (shhhhhhh don’t tell your brain).
Try and move yourself to your workspace (more on that next week) and then stay in that area as much as possible.
Don’t let yourself slip to the couch because it’s comfier, and pretend like you’ve removed yourself from some of the amenities that your apartment has (damn you, Netflix). I know lots of your apartments will be small and it’s difficult, but this space can even just be the desk itself, or the table you’re sitting at. That’s your office. That’s your kingdom. Put a pen cup on there and go forth.
Don’t just snack when you’re hungry.
If you’re like me and you’re working from your kitchen, it’s surprisingly easy to start looking through the cupboards when work is boring but don’t do that.
Set a time for lunch for the week and stick to it. For me, it’s 12:30 pm and it means that I get a little bit peckish by noon but then push through for an extra half hour to make those chips I like with my sandwich extra tasty.
I also plan for a 3pm coffee break every day, and sometimes there’s cake. Treat yo’self.
Work some more
You’ve made it this far, keep on going, but don’t work yourself to the bone.
Just because you’ve probably got your computer and everything available 24/7, it’s most important that you define the edges of your workday. When you’ve knocked off, it’s over. Don’t “do one more thing” when you get an email wherever possible. I’m a sucker for that one.
Defining this will mean that while you’re at work, you will actually want to… work!
You’ll be fine for a few months thinking about work 24/7 but I guarantee you will start to burn-out and then you’ll wonder how it happened.
If you normally finished at 5 pm, keep doing that, and if you normally finish later, that’s fine too, just set the boundary prior to the clock getting there.
How about another walk? Get outside, you’ve probably been in all day! Now is the time to stretch your legs and think about the workday, digest, plan for your evening!
Just like lunch, it’s important that you keep regular dinners. Plan ahead if you can, because then some stress is off your shoulders, and get take-out sometimes if you can, you deserve it!
Watch TV, watch a movie, play a board game, talk to your housemates or partner, get on Zoom, arrange a socially distanced catch-up. Do something! Don’t let this get you down too far. Embrace the new opportunity! Learn a new skill. Whittle something.
Go to bed
Just like waking up, this is important too. Don’t stay up all night!
I know, you can now because you can sleep in, but you shouldn’t. You should go to bed and get a good sleep and be ready for tomorrow!
On this: Keep your bedroom (if you can) as a sanctuary for sleep.
If you work in your bedroom, you’ll find it harder and harder to sleep because you’ve joined together your workspace and your sleep space. This isn’t voodoo, it’s simple psychology, try the best you can to separate these spaces physically.
Give yourself a break
Ok, I sound like a pretty hard-ass taskmaster, I know. But if you can lean into as many of these as possible, you’ll find working is much easier in the long-term.
Once you’ve got a bit of a standard grip on these and it feels a bit more like a regular day at the office, you’ll find that giving yourself a break is much more rewarding when you really need it.
If you want to knock off early on a Friday because you’ve finished everything and you love a shower-beer (I’m looking at me, Josh), then do it!
Don’t drive yourself crazy, but set the standards so that you can enjoy the good times.
Weekends are not for work.
Yes, your new home office is in the kitchen and when you wake up on Saturday, it’s still the same kitchen, but avoid the temptation to jump on for 5 minutes just to check anything.
This will be noticed by the people around you and result in you going crazy fielding calls and emails at all hours. Those around you will come to expect that you work 24/7 and you set that up yourself.
Saturdays and Sundays are for solitary rooftops and socially distanced picnics!
Stick to a routine. Whatever it looks like.
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