I love working from home. I like the peace and quiet it brings me, and how much more focused and productive I can be when I'm not in an open-space office. However, it's an adjustment to make, and with the apocalypse that's heading our way and forcing more of us to "WFH", I would like to share some of my best tips to adapt to working from home.
First things first, remember that you will need to work on your boundaries when working from home. After all, your house is your home turf, no-one will see what you do, so the temptation to wear nothing and eat all the snacks might be quite... overwhelming at first!
Here are a few things to help you create healthy boundaries between your work and your personal life. These are merely suggestions of things that may work for you, so feel free to pick and mix for a better experience!
I - The timetable
II - Keep your body in shape
III - Keep your mind in shape
IV - Social life
V - Work environment
Defining clear-cut starting and ending times for your day and lunch break means you are less at risk of never taking breaks. If you struggle with stopping, announce those times to your teammates so you can hold yourself accountable, and so that they know when you're about to log out. However, don't be too dogmatic. If you're in the middle of the best piece of work ever and you feel like carrying on, then don't feel guilty for doing so!
In order to make the transition from home to work easier, keep a defined routine as you may have had when going to a physical office. Set your alarm up at your normal time, get breakfast, get some exercise, shower and show up to your laptop at your given start time. You can even give yourself a commute by taking a walk around your area before you start working!
Wearing regular working clothes can also be a good way to make the boundary between home and work clearer. Even though the temptation to not get out of your PJs can be strong, making the effort to dress enough to be able to out at a moment's notice is very helpful. A good in-between is to wear gym clothes, which are comfier than regular clothes, dressier than pyjamas, and give you 0 excuses to not exercise when your brain tries to get out of it.
Stay hydrated. If you're the kind to forget to refill your cup once you've drank it, or you look at it and think "I'll fill it up later", you may have more luck getting a Very Big Water Bottle. I've been using Camelbak's 1.5L Chute bottles for 3 years, and I only need to fill mine once a day, which gives me no excuse to skip on drinking water!
Unless you always cook, or your food delivery budget is unlimited, or you live in a food court, chances are you may to have to cook more than you did before. In order to not spend your entire lunch breaks cooking, I recommend sticking to simple recipes when you need to cook, or batch-cooking for a week at a time so that you can simply re-heat your delicious meals. The great things about cooking are that you will likely save a bunch and eat healthier if you didn't already cook!
Snack smart. If you know you have no self-control when it comes to snacking, and that you're the kind of person that inhales a packet of cookies in a split second, it might be best for you to rethink your snacking strategy. Buy boring snacks that won't entice you so much (rice cakes, anyone?), or keep them healthy (a slice of cheese will satiate you better than a biscuit) and keep them far enough away that you have to consciously decide to go get a snack. Try not to take the whole packet with you, but rather restrict yourself to a couple of pieces/items so you don't eat all of it at once.
Probably my single favourite thing about working from home, take naps! You finally don't have to pretend you're a robotic being that's always awake and never tired during your workday, all it takes is 20-30min of closing your eyes and you will reap the benefits of being that little bit more rested by being more focused and productive after having had a nap. If you're a coffee drink, scientists recommend drink your cuppa before your 20min nap, and you get a double energy boost when waking up.
Keep your body moving. You're likely going to go out a lot less, you might stop going to the gym, and not walk as much, but keep some time during your day to do some exercise. Go for a 30min walk or run, get a mat and do some yoga, or a HIIT training session, or a 7-min training session, or if you can afford it, a bike trainer or an indoor bike! Here are a few programmes and apps recommendations:
Down Dog has a series of app to which they're giving free access until April as we all deal with COVID-19. Yoga, HIIT, 7-min training, it's all there so grab your mat and get sweating!
C25K - The Couch to 5km programme is a running training plan to help you start running from scratch. Many versions and apps exist, many of them free and available on iPhones and Android (or Garmin if you have their smartwatch!)
Yoga With Adriene - A delightful Youtube channel where yogi Adriene will walk you through easy and short (15-30min) routines that focus on different parts of your body. I like this routine to keep my hips and lower back relaxed and stretch them after sitting at my desk for a while.
Zwift - If you have a bike and are thinking of getting a bike training, invest in Zwift to get more fun out of your workouts, and push yourself that little bit harder in your training.
Strava - And to keep track of all your exercise sessions, sign up to Strava and start recording! They offer integrations with smartwatch apps, or you can enter your sessions manually.
Your body is not the only thing you should take care of when working from home. Keep your mind in shape by practicing gratitude and compassion. It will help you appreciate the small things and worry less about, well, everything, and maybe especially COVID-19 at the moment.
If you feel anxious by the news reporting, consider taking a break from it entirely. Anxiety is often brought about by uncertainty, and while we crave certainty, the news does not bring any of that, you we end up feeling worse and worrying more. Take a step back, and go to a happy place instead.
Practice meditation to help you refocus faster when you find yourself spiralling out into negative thoughts. Apps like Calm, Buddhify or Headspace have a bunch of guided meditations to help you get started, build a habit or find short-term relief during anxious times.
Communicate with your coworkers. Tell you teammates what you're doing if you're going to be away from the screen so that they don't expect an instant reply when you've gone to find lunch. Let them know what time you want to start and end, when you're available to pair, what time you'll be out for your driving lesson, or your run, or your appointment.
Also, organise social time online! Plan one-on-one calls with your favourite coworkers to chat about everything and anything. Get your company to set up a team-wide Zoom call at lunch time, or create a tea break Google Hangout that people can drop in and out of for some light relief.
Stay in touch with the people who matter to you. Call, text, email, Slack, Zoom, Discord, Facetime, Whatsapp, etc. Whatever works for you, but ask for updates, see how they're doing, and catch up to see if everything is fine!
Find online activities you can do with friends. Video games (Mario Kart and Stardew Valley can be played with other players online!), watching and live tweeting or messaging what happens in TV shows and series, exchanging silly snapchats, etc.
I've kept the work environment for last as it is an important one. I live in a house share with a desk in my bedroom and do not have a family, so you may have to adapt to your own circumstances!
Set up yourself as comfortably as you can. If you have the space for a desk (Ikea makes some tiny ones), consider investing in one. If you have a kitchen table, don't hesitate to use it if you can't get a desk and are reluctant to sit in a sofa or on your bed. This will make it more comfortable to work, but it also does not let your brain associate your bed with work (or the other way around, when you just feel like sleeping simply because you're in bed).
If you have the space and/or the money, consider buying a monitor to plug your laptop in, should you wish to work on a bigger screen. Alternatively, you can buy a laptop stand to raise your laptop and avoid neck and back pains from looking down at your laptop. It's a cheaper investment, and takes less space than a monitor. I own this one and it's served me very well, as I cannot quite fit my laptop and a monitor on my teeny desk.
If you get one of those, consider investing in an external mouse and keyboard, to make the experience more comfortable than awkwardly typing with your hands above your elbows. If you have not explored the wonderful world of mechanical keyboards, now is your chance! Also a special shoutout to my vertical mouse, which looks weird and feels very weird at first, but that has helped me avoid Repetitive Strain Injury over the last 5 years by making sure my tendons are correctly aligned when I need to use it.
If you do own an iPad and work on Mac, the latest ones ship with the Sidecar app, which extends your desktop and lets you use the screen of the iPad as an external monitor. I have an iPad arm that I set up to have both screens side by side, and it works a treat.
Invest in headphones that are comfortable, have an inline mic, and have noise-cancelling features. Sony, Bose or even Apple all have excellent noise-cancelling products that will let your work without being distracted by the neighbour's kids screaming outside, or the dog barking, or the washing machine being too loud. Being able to hear and be heard reliably is key to working remotely.
You don't have to put the video on. Sometimes it's nice to see everyone's face and make sure everyone is engaged. It lets you see if the person is at their desk or turning around to pet their cat or care for their baby. But you don't have to. Sometimes it's nice to leave it off so that you can fidget to your heart's content, or so you can run get a delivery, or because you're in your bedroom and it's not tidy and you don't want your boss seeing it.
So, what does it look like to work at my desk? Just like that!
1 - My Camelbak Chute 1.5L to stay hydrated all day long
2 - My vertical mouse and mechanical keyboard (Anne Pro 2 w/ Kailh Box Red + GMK Vaporwave), for a better typing and navigating experience
3 - My laptop stand, to keep my screen at a better height for my eyes and neck.
4 - My iPad + Mac Sidecar set up, ft. the iPad arm to hold it in place!
5 - Handcream and lipbalm, to moisturise my overwashed hands and keep my lips happy.
That's it for me! I will be writing specifically about working remotely, the software I use, how to stay engaged when you're remote, etc., but I wanted to dedicate this post to my set up and my tips and tricks for healthier boundaries when working from home.
What about you, what are your favourite things to do to make your WFH experience better?
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