Tips for Working from Home in Quarantine

Many people are either not going back to work in-person or are preparing for a quick exit soon after in-person jobs resume. I have been working from home since March and struggled for quite a while before discovering some useful tips that helped me stay on track. 

  1. Keep a regular routine

Even though I work from home, I still keep the same alarms and morning routine as when I leave the house. This routine reminds our bodies and minds that we are getting ready to go somewhere where we will need to be focused. 

2. Wear work clothes even when not leaving the house

I find that when I wear my pajamas, yoga pants, or casual gear while working, my self-evaluation starts to change. I begin to feel like I’m not doing anything because I don’t act or dress like I am working. Not only does wearing work clothes when working from home help with conditioning our brains for work, like #1, but it helps us feel better about the work we do and what we accomplish.

3. Wear shoes while doing work and only take them off during breaks or after work

This hits again on conditioning our brains for work. We want to keep as many factors the same when working from home as when we would leave the house. We are conditioned to become more focused and put our “professional hats” on after we do a specific series of things each morning. Wearing shoes is one of those activities we do while we’re working, and we likely don’t do when we’re relaxing at home.

4. Only do work in specific areas of the home

Our brains are creatures of habit. To help make sense of a complex world, we use shortcuts to help us quickly figure out what we should be doing next. If we work in every area of the home, we are going to start making associations between our relaxation spaces (e.g., the living room, bedroom, kitchen, home office, etc.) and work emotions (e.g., stress, focus, etc.). We should pick the spaces in our homes that we want to be associated with work, and only do work there. This will also help our minds prepare to do work when we enter these spaces because of this new association.

5. Keep work and leisure spaces separate

Like point #4, we’ll want to be strict about keeping our work and leisure spaces separated. Even if we must redesign some areas (not buying new stuff, just moving things around), we’ll want the separation to be clear. For example, if we do yoga in our home office, we’ll want to move our yoga space to a different room chosen for leisure. If we work in our family room, where we watch tv and relax, we’ll want to move our workspace to a quiet location chosen for focus and not for relaxation.

6. Get outside at least once per day, even if we don’t leave the yard

It is easy to become vitamin D deficient when we aren’t leaving our homes regularly. However, getting outside and getting sun is incredibly essential for the functioning of our body and our bodily organs. We can look up some outdoor activities we might want to try and add them to our schedule each day, even if that’s just sitting in the backyard and watching the clouds.

7. Make time for things we enjoy that are not work-related

When we work from home, we can be tempted to not keep regular work hours. Without setting this strict expectation, we have opened ourselves up to become overworked and become a victim of burnout. Even when we’re tempted to say, “one more hour and I’ll finish this,” we’re entering a slippery slope of regularly extending that one hour to two, three, or four more hours. If we don’t set strict boundaries for ourselves and expectations in the workplace, we open ourselves up for exploitation (both self-inflicted and by those we work with).

8. Set break times with people from work that we usually spend time with

It is no secret our social interactions have decreased drastically over the past several months. However, as we start to gear up to go back to work, we can begin to expand our network with technology. Set a Zoom time with our co-workers for lunch, if we regularly ate together. Have drinks after work remotely, if that’s something we used to do. If we’ve been socializing with people from work, invite them over for a socially distanced happy hour (masks and 6-feet). Whatever we do, we shouldn’t isolate ourselves inside our homes just because socialization looks different now. Contact with others is essential when considering symptoms of depression and anxiety.

9. Be specific in task allocation and how we schedule our day

Mentioned in #1, keep a routine, but make it fashion! Just kidding…It is essential, though, for us to make sure we are scheduling our days more strictly. When we are at home, it is easy for us to get off task with an at-home project, or simply just the apple tv right next to us (a key factor when choosing a workspace). If we aren’t specific about how we distribute our time, and to what, we can quickly get off task. Even if we haven’t been a planner user or a list-maker, now would be a prime time to start! Fill our days with activities and set timers if needed. Make sure to add breaks, include activities we enjoy, and don’t skimp on personal time!

10. Get up throughout the day and take steps equivalent to how many we’d take to and from work, as well as during the workday (Stay Active!)

Getting exercise is important when considering lowering our anxiety and symptoms of depression. Being at home all day, sometimes completely isolated, can take a toll on even the healthiest of us; however, we define health. We barely notice how active we are in the day just getting ready, going to and from work, and moving around while at work. When designing our days, try our best to add in activities that will allow for more movement. If we can’t, that’s okay, just make sure to add in more time before or after work to get moving!

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