Working from home is many things — it can be rough, tough, and unexpected, but it can also be rewarding, liberating, and empowering. The difference between a good experience and a bad one is mostly about being deliberate about how you look after yourself physically, mentally, and spiritually.
I’ve been working remotely for 8 years in both shared office spaces and from home. I’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way and learned a lot of lessons the hard way.
I want to share with you some of the discoveries I’ve made along the way that might also help you think about, explore, and develop your own personal version of working from home that makes it a rewarding experience.
Currently, we’ve seen millions of people suddenly start working from home. What most of us have done is jump feet first into it and start working in a kind of experimental or survival mode. But it looks like this might be a marathon more than a sprint, and if we want to own the experience, to make it ours, then we need to look after ourselves. Read on to learn how to stay sane and practice self-care when working from home.
The psychology of doors and bookending your day
Years ago, I read an article about how your front door is this psychological barrier between work and home. A lot of people after the commute home from the office will sigh or relax upon closing the front door behind them. Your brain switches from work to home. But what can you do when you don’t have the commute home anymore?
Habits and rituals are really important in helping you ramp up for work or slow down afterward. What ritual can you do at home that becomes a signal to your brain that it’s time to start work? It could be reading a chapter of a book, it could be a walk around your garden or apartment building. Whatever you choose, be purposeful in doing it at the beginning and end of your day.
If you are fortunate enough to have a separate room in your home for work, then use the power of closing the door behind you. The internal door can become a powerful symbol that draws the line between work and home time.
Celebrate the fact that you can tailor your own workspace
One of the benefits of working from home is that you have complete control over your workspace. In my world, happiness is a cat sitting on my desk! You get to design this space exactly how you want it, something we can’t do in an office.
At home, you get to choose where to work (you can always get the window seat!), what the space looks like, plus how many plants, photos, or other decorations you have around you. This can really help you to not only be more productive but also feel much better about working.
A message from your future self
One hugely important aspect of working from home is the chair you sit in. If you’re at home for an extended period of time, it’s critical to have a proper chair designed for someone to sit in for many hours a day — both for your health and sanity. There are many documented reasons why you should invest in a good chair. Imagine you receive a message from your future self. Don’t let that message be one of back pain and discomfort — get a good chair! Your future self will thank you.
Everything you do will be done better with more sleep
There is a significant link between how much (and how well) someone sleeps and their overall health and functioning.
With the daily commute now gone, you have maybe two extra hours a day. Investing one of those hours in sleep will bring huge benefits. Sleep researchers are discovering how sleep is vital for learning and memory, and how lack of sleep impacts our health, safety, and longevity.
Get up, stand up
Find ways to be active. Now that we’re not commuting, it’s important to get a little exercise every day. Maybe it’s as simple as taking a break to go for a walk or run up and down the stairs. Some people take their calls outside so they can walk while they’re on a conference call.
Taking frequent breaks can help you be more productive while you’re working at home. Unlike the office, when you’re at home, practically all your work takes place from your computer. There’s no need to walk to a conference room or your friend’s desk, and even the kitchen and bathroom are closer to you.
The Pomodoro Technique helps you boost productivity by incorporating mini, frequent breaks into your day. You work for 25 minutes, then take a 5-minute break, and after about 4 of these cycles you take a longer 15-20 minute break. Do push-ups or stretch during your breaks to keep yourself energized. You’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish in those 25 minutes when you have a timer next to you.
Be intentional with tech
Working from home can make people feel like they’re always on call even after working hours, but one thing you can do to keep your work and home life separate is to use your tech intentionally. Being intentional with your tech is all about shifting your mindset and making a few habit changes — try silencing all your notifications except for the really important ones and turn off your phone at the end of the workday. Notify your coworkers of the best times to reach you and ask when they want to be available. Using your phone and your tech intentionally during working hours will help you be more effective in your work, helping you relax in the evenings and better focus on spending quality time with your family.