If you’re not used to working from home, it can be a real challenge to get used to. This is especially true because it’s different for everyone. For example, some people are more prone to distraction outside of an office, while others get so deeply focused they forget to take breaks. Since Union Square Media Group has had a work-from-home program as well as a number of full-time remote team members, we thought we’d share some of our best tips for making the transition to working from home easier.
Maintain your routine.
One of the best things about working from home is that you don’t have to deal with a commute. You don’t really have to go anywhere at all, which can make it tempting to work in pajamas or roll out of bed right before you have to log on. However, this can also make it really difficult to get in a work-ready mindset. Maintaining as much of your normal routine as you can — like working out, getting ready, making a cup of coffee — can help you get in the right mindset.
Set up a dedicated “office.”
When you’re working at home, the lines between work and life balance can get blurry. It can be tempting to work from the couch, but you might also find yourself slumping in an uncomfortable position after a while. Plus, when your couch is comfy, it’s harder to remember to get up, stretch, and take necessary breaks. Setting up a “work-only” area can help you focus better, whether it’s an entire office room in your home or a quiet corner with a desk. If you’re not sure where to start, check out Princeton’s recommendations for making your workstation more ergonomic and comfortable.
The other benefit of setting up a dedicated office area is that it can help you minimize any distractions. Regardless of what we may think, the human brain isn’t very good at multitasking, and you may find the TV you turn on as “background noise” captures most of your attention. The other methods for preventing distraction comes down to knowing yourself. If you’re a person who can’t work in a messy environment, take a few minutes to tidy up at night so you’re ready to start fresh in the morning. If noisy traffic breaks your concentration, try using headphones and instrumental music to get back into a state of deeper focus. If you find yourself distracted by digital devices, try using apps that limit your time on distracting websites and apps.
Breaks are an important part of the workday, too. If you’re someone who gets into cycles of deep focus and forgets to stand up for hours on end, try setting hourly alarms or reminders. These can help remind you to stretch your legs and neck and drink some water. If you stare at a computer or screen all day, breaks are important for preventing eye strain. Instead of sitting at your desk and trying to muscle through a problem, consider taking a brief break. It can give your brain a moment to disengage and refocus, which in turn can aid in problem solving.
Stay connected with coworkers.
Needless to say, working from home means missing out on all of the social interaction that comes with an office. Loneliness and feelings of isolation can negatively affect mental and even physical health, so it’s important to take steps to stay social. Even though your coworkers are probably busy, it doesn’t mean you can’t set aside some time to chat. Some offices with remote employees have implemented digital coffee breaks where employees can get on a video call and catch up with one another.
Unplug when the day ends.
Because you’re not physically leaving the office and don’t commute anywhere when the day ends, it can be difficult to leave work behind. It’s easy to think “I’ll just finish this one task” and get caught up in extra work. While this dedication is admirable, it doesn’t necessarily lend itself to a work-life balance. To combat working extra long hours, set a schedule with designated work times, log off when you normally would in an office, then shut down your computer for the evening. (Remember what we said about maintaining a routine earlier?)
Take care of yourself.
Have you ever noticed your lower back or knees being stiff after you sit for long periods of time? Or you feel a little more anxious than usual after being indoors all day? Studies have shown that people who sit all day are at higher risk for chronic health conditions. Fortunately, taking care of your physical health at home is easier than ever with fitness apps. As a bonus, you typically don’t need special equipment, and many of these apps offer free trials.
Taking care of your mental health is just as important as your physical health, especially in times of stress or crisis. Luckily, there are apps for almost everything from mediation to online therapy to techniques for managing specific mental health issues. Headspace, 10% Happier, and Talkspace are just a few.