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While most of us feel like our lives have returned to normal since 2020, many aspects of life around the world have undergone a radical transformation. Perhaps the most obvious of these is the workplace. According to the Pew Trust, six in ten American employees still work remotely. About the same number choose to work from home. For many, this transition has its challenges. But there are strategies to make a work-from-home life more fulfilling and productive.
Disable work mode
The most prominent hill to climb marks a firm line between work hours and home time. While it’s true that employers appreciate the flexibility that remote workers bring to the company, it’s tempting to check text messages or emails for those who work from home. Boundaries are essential in life, and the most critical boundary for telecommuters is drawing that line in the sand.
During the pandemic, students complained that they spent more than seven hours in front of a computer plus three hours doing homework. This 24-hour mentality is not healthy for children and is not suitable for those of us who live from a home office.
One suggestion to counteract this is to set the alarm clock exactly at the end of work every day. This can remind us that the day is not all about work. Another option is to set up a voicemail that tells you what times you are available to callers. It is essential to change our mindset from work to rest; however, it is just as important to pass our free time without worrying about work.
Related: Remote Working Continues: Are You Ready for the New Way of Living?
Beat the time crisis
Burnout is common in working from home. We may feel the stress of being alert and trying to meet a deadline while longing for our time to decompress.
As a company leader, employees must set their hours and clear boundaries. When employees can create their office hours and set those boundaries, they are healthier and happier. These are simple moves that keep employees working while helping everyone’s productivity. Who hasn’t had a brilliant idea while hiking, skiing, or just meeting friends for dinner and having a deep conversation? Treating employees as whole people is important, and it’s just as vital for us to treat ourselves that way.
Having lists and schedules is also a great way to stay on track. Staying organized can give us the more personal time we crave, even when we meet work deadlines. By sketching a daily schedule on paper, even in a diary or on a whiteboard, we can use the time efficiently. It can be rewarding to watch our lists shrink to the last item and help us transition into that needed time away from work.
Related: Working from home leads to record levels of burnout. Is a 4-day workweek the solution?
Improvise the workspace
Many of us feel that our home office lacks personality and efficiency. If that happens, it might be time for a makeover. Working in a chaotic space like a cluttered living room or a dirty kitchen can be distracting. It is essential to have a place where we can feel productive and stress free.
For some, working from home is too quiet. Then white noise or an inspiring playlist can help. Music is an effective stress reliever and can help with learning and focusing.
Good lighting and the right office furniture can make all the difference in how our bodies feel when we cross the finish line of the day. Standing or rotating desks can help with comfort and efficiency. Thinking about the design of the workspace – the lighting, plants, the right desk and chair and the right equipment – creates a positive atmosphere for the working day and gives us the necessary energy for all the plans we have in our free time.
Keep the energy
Stress can take over at any time. Planning breaks is vital for the mind and body. Every moment of our time is valuable so that we are whole, healthy and free to participate in whatever we do – at work or not. These breaks can be as simple as going outside for a breath of fresh air or going out into nature for a few minutes. Even in a high-rise apartment, there is usually a roof terrace or courtyard to enjoy the blue sky or smell the blooming flowers.
The therapeutic effect of nature does not have to be a wilderness experience. Gardening isn’t just for living on a large estate. Houseplants, flowers or home-grown vegetables can be kept indoors or on a balcony. Nurturing nature calms the mind and gives a sense of accomplishment. Getting in touch with nature can make it easier to get back to work.
Structure and planning rule the day
Preparation is key to controlling our time at work and at play. It is essential to pick a time for the workday to prepare. Working remotely means teams from all over the world come together to get things done.
When we work, we can start our “day” with personal tasks, such as walking the dog or eating a quick breakfast. Then it’s time to clean up and set up the workspace. This could be a time to create the day’s to-do list or check responses to emails sent the day before. Developing a pre-game strategy is the key to productivity. This strategy can avoid the feeling that the work “never stops” as we have taken our planning into our own hands.
Another critical strategy is affirmations. The role positivity plays in our lives cannot be overstated. This can be as simple as saying out loud, “It’s going to be a great day!” or “I believe in you!” or “I’m going to be productive today!”
Positive mantras can help us stay focused and motivated. We can free ourselves from the daily work by saying, “You did your best!” What we tell ourselves will resonate with our body. This will make the transition to family life meaningful and something we can look forward to while we work.
Dress for success
Our clothes are part of how we see ourselves and can affect our mental health. It is essential to strike a balance between dressing for productivity and professionalism versus dressing for the comfort of working from home. In an article summarizing the findings of mental health psychologists, a writer at the University of Edinburgh reported that good hygiene and clothing choices can affect our mental outlook.
Wearing professional clothing that provides comfort can affect work productivity and posture. Distinguishing between professional work clothes and home clothes will make the transition between work and home easier.
Related: Why You Still Need to Dress for Success
Let’s get ready
Meal prepping is a great way to save time and make the workday run smoothly. To make multiple meals in advance can give you more room in the day to get work done. The internet is full of recipe suggestions for those struggling with what to make. Consider using a slow cooker or crockpot for early prep. The healthiest meals often only take a few minutes on a stovetop and with few ingredients. Finding an effective storage system is also essential. Freezing and refrigerating leftovers can save the day when we’re short on time and can’t leave the desk for long.
Related: 12 Ways to Eat Healthy No matter how busy you are
Create a party routine
Celebrate the end of the day with a nighttime routine. A night’s run, a soothing face mask, a walk in the park, or a bowl of ice cream — even meeting friends at a restaurant — can help our mental outlook.
As more of us move to remote work, self-care is most important to our personal lives and productivity. Feeling confident, creative and rested during our day can help us grow as individuals and make us a more valuable part of the team, helping us learn to celebrate and embrace all the roles we play in life.