It has been one year since we started hearing early reports about the coronavirus pandemic. Few knew at the time just how much our lives would change in 2020. Vaccines have begun to roll out, leading to hope for a return to normalcy. But it will be many more months before each American can be safely vaccinated.
In the meantime, many of us continue to work from home because of social distancing guidelines. If you have had trouble developing a good work from home routine, the beginning of the year is a great time to reevaluate and work on new habits.
Here are five tips for working from home for the long haul.
Setup a Designated Workspace
When you first started working from home, relaxing on the couch during the day probably seemed like a nice benefit. Ten months later, the lines between work and relaxation can easily blur.
A guest room, den, or basement are great spaces to use while working from home. If you do not have a spare room, turn a corner or part of a room into a charming office nook. Use a decorative screen or room divider for privacy and to block out distractions.
Once you pick the right spot, decorate it with a few photos or other personal items. Make sure to avoid clutter in your workspace and surrounding areas, though. A clean work environment can make you feel less stressed, anxious, and depressed.
Invest in Ergonomic Furniture
Suffering from lower back pain and headaches? Sitting slumped over a laptop on your bed or sofa might be the culprit. According to the American Chiropractic Association, back pain accounts for nearly 264 million lost working days each year. If you want to eliminate this problem, consider investing in ergonomic furniture for your home office.
Start with the chair—it should be adjustable to a height that allows you to sit with your knees at the level of your hips. Place your monitor at an arm’s length away with your keyboard positioned so that your wrist is straight while you type.
A standing desk is also an option to improve your well-being. Standing promotes better circulation, which can boost energy and alertness. It also helps relieve the pain associated with sitting for lengthy periods of time.
Reduce Potential Distractions
Working from home comes with a separate set of distractions than being in the office does. You might share a space with another family member who also works remotely, have kids doing virtual learning, or pets who love to appear on your Zoom calls. Being productive under these circumstances is an understandable challenge.
Concentrate on things you can control to reduce interruptions while you work. Use schedules and to-do lists to plan your days, and make sure others know when you should not be disturbed. Put your phone on silent while working on important tasks. If social media or news are a problem, use software that limits your access during the day.
Let the Light In
Lack of natural light can be a real downer, especially in winter when the sun sets before workday ends. If you can, consider setting up your home office near a window. Besides improving your mood, it will also promote creativity and help you sleep better at night. If this is not an option for your workspace, you can buy LED lighting that mimics natural daylight.
Bonus Tip: Plants can also be a huge mood booster! Bringing a little nature inside can reduce stress, increase attention, and make people happier.
Make Time for Yourself
It is important to set boundaries while working from home. Reports have shown people began working up to three more hours a day than before the lockdowns began last spring. Creating a schedule and sticking to it can help avoid the burnout that comes with being on 24/7.
Start your day with a morning walk around the block while you would normally commute to an office. Block out time to prepare and a real lunch instead of snacking at your desk. Drink water regularly to prevent headaches and fatigue from dehydration. Take breaks to move around and stretch throughout the day.
Working from home is a new normal that everyone will adapt to differently. But just because something is new does not make it bad. Figure out the routine that works best for your mental and physical health as we head into a new year.