With work-from-home becoming an inescapable reality for the foreseeable future, work-life balance has taken on a whole new meaning in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic. Working from home went from a niche perk to the global standard for millions of people. Huge segments of the workforce are having to adapt to full-time remote work for the first time, and it can be a big adjustment.
While remote work comes with its fair share of perks, it also comes with its own unique set of challenges. In this monumental behavioral shift, the average workday has extended by 48.5 minutes, and the number of meetings increased by 13 percent. Concerns about whether remote workers work as hard at home have been proven to be misguided and replaced with concerns about burnout instead.
Now, we could consult the experts and give you their best advice for working from home, but we thought it'd be more interesting to hear from real people. We asked some of our customers how they've been dealing with this new set of challenges. Here are some of our favorite work-from-home tips:
"Turn off push notifications"/"Hide your phone"
It's no secret that smartphones and social media can be addictive. They can be all the more distracting in a remote work setting, without the looming threat of a colleague or manager stopping by to check in.
These platforms reward us with positive social interactions that set off dopamine production in the brain. Like a lab rat in a maze, we keep swiping/tapping/scrolling for that next treat. Short of going cold turkey, there are a few ways to manage the love/hate relationship we have with our phones.
First, turn off push notifications for any non-essential apps. Unless you're a social media manager, Twitter and Instagram don't count. Reducing the number of dopamine triggers can help us wean off our devices, so we can focus longer. Another easy way to do this is to set your phone's display to black and white. Reducing screen time will ultimately be beneficial in your work and personal life.
"Time-Block your calendar for tasks"
One of the perks of working from home is being able to take care of the odd chore here and there: starting the laundry, letting the dog out, you name it. Now that most of our lives are confined to one space, remote working can become susceptible to all sorts of distractions.
Time-block your calendar so you have a clear-cut plan for what you're working on and when. Work in focused bursts instead of tackling things as they come. You can add in time for things around the house and quick breaks, but this will help you make the most of your time, on and off the clock. If you're a manager, try to pay attention to whether your employees work long hours without taking breaks–check-in if you think they might need to log out of Slack for a few hours for their own well-being.
"Motivate yourself with lists!"
This one goes hand-in-hand with time-blocking and you can probably guess why we're partial to it. In addition to helping you set an agenda for the day/week, crossing things off the list is a small form of celebration in and of itself (enable Flying Cat!). It's so satisfying to see all your tasks completed at the end of the day, take it from us!
"Keep up with your pre-COVID routines"
Remember your morning commute? We know it's tempting to sleep in since you're no longer commuting, but it may be worth it to try and preserve some of those morning routines.
Set aside the same amount of time as your normal morning commute for having coffee, listening to podcasts, and settling in to your day. Start your workday fully alert instead of groggily rolling out of bed and sitting down at your desk.
When you do make the long trek to your workspace, don't forget the pleasantries. Remote work can feel isolating. Face-to-face interactions are fewer and further between so check in with your co-workers on Slack or take a lunch break together on Zoom. Ask them about their family members, hobbies, or anything besides work and the pandemic.
Speaking of videoconferencing, don't forget about the ol' handy dandy phone! What good is being able to work in your pajamas all the time, if you're constantly jumping from video call to video call? Try a phone call in place of a video meeting if face time isn't a necessity.
"Tangible markers for when work begins/ends"
Fight the temptation to work from your laptop in every conceivable corner of your home. Find a spot in your house with good wifi and hunker down. Even if you don't have a designated home office, try to carve out a workspace, whether it's a desk or a specific cushion on the couch in your living room.
Start your morning routine with an alarm or set a specific playlist for the beginning and end of your workday. Clearly define your work schedule and let your peers and manager know. Create boundaries so your work hours don't bleed into your home life. Your family members will thank you.
"Go for a short run midday. Rejuvenates you for the second half"
As much as we hate to admit it, there is something to this. Regular exercise gets the blood flowing, helps deliver oxygen to your body, and releases endorphins which boost our energy levels. This can improve heart health, quality of sleep, mental well-being, and cognitive function.
"Five minutes of something called Pranayam, works every time"
If cardio isn't your jam, try some breathing exercises. Pranayama is the practice of breath control in yoga. In Sanskrit, "prana" means life energy and "yama" means control.
Meditation isn't just for emotional well-being either. Studies have shown that pranayama can reduce anxiety, reduce high blood pressure, and improve executive function (working memory, cognitive flexibility, and reasoning skills).
If you don't know where to start, our friends at Tap In host free, daily group meditations for all experience levels!
"Peppermint oil in your hands, then cup them around your nose."
If this one caught you off guard, you're not alone. This isn't just some Christmas voodoo. According to Inc., studies have shown that the scent of peppermint enhances alertness, focus, memory, and concentration.
Just think how delightful a peppermint-scented home office would be! Notably, eating peppermint does not have the same effect so there's no need to raid your dear grandmother's candy dish.
"Ration the snacks"
Our body converts food into glucose, which provides the energy the brain needs to stay alert. That's why making a poor choice at lunch can lead to afternoon slumps in productivity.
Try grazing throughout the workday to keep your glucose up. Make eating decisions before it's your lunch break and you get hungry. And, of course, be mindful of what you are snacking on.
Research has shown that the more fruits and vegetables consumed, the happier, more engaged, and more creative they tend to be. While unhealthy options may be quicker in the moment, you may be losing that same amount of time in sluggish performance later on.
The New Reality
Remote work has already stayed with us longer than anyone could have expected, and doesn't appear to be going away anytime soon. These are a few tips that have helped us make the most of working from home. How have you been adjusting to this new reality?