Making the shift to working from home can be challenging. Here are seven simple steps you can take to stay healthy, productive, and always professional.
We are in unprecedented times. Change is always uncomfortable, even threatening, but thriving in challenging times requires us to rise above our fear of uncertainty to both see and embrace the new opportunities that are emerging around us.
Working from home—the right way—is suitable for both employees and employers. Businesses across the board have seen unprecedented benefits from instituting work-from-home policies such as increased productivity, decreased attrition rate, and reduced employee absenteeism.
But, working from home can be isolating and stressful, and distractions at home can throw you off course, and your health can take a hit, too.
All is not lost. Being aware of the pitfalls and making a proactive plan to avoid them can set you on the right track to successfully working from home. Here are seven ways to keep healthy, happy, and productive as a work-at-home professional.
1. Structure Your Day
Managing your time well is the key. Failing to implement a daily structure is the most common problem that workers transitioning from an office job to working at home encounter.
Not needing to rush out the door at 8:00 am can make each day feel like a relaxed weekend morning. However, proactively setting your daily routine helps you not only maintain control of your day but also helps keep you focused and productive.
Start each day by making a personal calendar or a to-do list and set priorities and daily goals. Stick to your routine like your job depends on it. It does.
Tip: Don’t forget to block out time for deep work, along with time for yourself: lunch, bathroom breaks, stretching your legs, even checking social media.
2. Dress the Part
You’ve heard this before, it’s reliable advice for job interviews, but it’s just as relevant when working at home. It can be tempting to relax one’s dress or grooming standards, forgo shaving or make-up, or even take Zoom, or Skype calls in sportswear. But, getting up and getting dressed helps you set the right might mindset for the workday ahead. It’s a psychological hack.
Maria Sharapova, a five-time Grand Slam winner, put it best, “When you look good, you feel good. If you feel good, you will always perform your best.”
3. Get Your Daily Sun
While you might love the extra time dropping your daily commute gives you, staying at home all day can be detrimental to both your mental and physical health.
Spending some time outdoors in the sun is even more critical for remote workers, given that 42% of Americans are Vitamin D deficient. Sunlight also helps your body release serotonin, one of the hormones that lift our mood. On the other hand, a lack of ample daylight can make you feel clinically SAD (seasonal affective disorder) and depressed.
Remember to schedule 10-15 minutes a day for time in the sun. This can be time you use to take the dog for a walk, help your spouse with grocery shopping, or play outside with your kids.
4. Stay Active
One of the upsides of being an office employee is that moving is a built-in part of your daily routine. Dashing from one meeting to the next, getting up and downstairs, or walking down the street to grab lunch or a coffee is all activity that adds up.
Remote work can mean a more sedentary lifestyle that, over time poses real risks to your health. Sitting disease is a real thing that can lead to weight gain, create problems with posture, and increase blood pressure. Daily exercise helps guard against these and brings the added benefit of a boost in confidence, improved well-being, and relief from anxiety and stress.
Remember that time gained by skipping your commute? Use it to schedule some daily exercise. Here is a physical activity calculator you can use to check what amount of workout do you need to stay healthy. If lifting weights or running on a treadmill isn’t your thing, there are more straightforward ways to get your circulation flowing. Get a DeskCycle, or go for a relaxing walk in nature.
5. Eat Well and Keep Hydrated
Most of the time, we eat not because we are hungry but because we are bored, tired, distracted, or stressed. To compensate for these emotional lows, we reward ourselves with comfort food that doesn’t take much effort to prepare.
The best way to fight unhealthy eating while remote working is by stocking your home with healthy food. Skip the sugary snacks and reach for fresh fruit and vegetables, small amounts of nuts, or even an energy bar when you need a boost. Choose salads, whole grains, and lean proteins instead of chicken nuggets, fried or processed foods for lunch.
In his book Atomic Habits, James Clear, describes this strategy as creating a “choice architecture” around our daily environment. It’s hard to say no to the Cheetos and Coke just in the next room. You can set yourself up for success and make it easier to resist the temptation to eat junk food when you nip the problem in the bud—at the grocery store.
Drinking plenty of water is another way to combat unhealthy eating and brings the added benefits of boosting your metabolism and improving mental acuity. Keep a bottle of water on your desk at all times and set hourly alarms on your smartphone or post reminders on your monitor to take small sips throughout the day.
6. Track Your Work
Working from home offers employees more flexibility when it comes to their schedules, but being able to log in or out whenever you want can have a downside, too. Research shows that remote employees work 1.4 days more on average than their office-going counterparts.
How can work-from-home professionals avoid this overwork trap?
Tracking your work hours gives you a clear view on when and how you spend your time. Stretching working hours for personal convenience or to look flexible to your team inevitably leads to making yourself available outside of office hours. Over time, this can lead to work-related stress, burnout, and an upset of your work-life balance.
Tracking your time also works hand-in-hand with keeping a schedule to help you optimize your productivity. There can be many distractions while working from home, and so staying focused is critical. Actively managing your time with a time tracking application can help you do that.
For employers, there are plenty of apps such as Toggl, Time Doctor, and TickSpot to track employee hours and keep a tab on projects. For work-from-home employees, solutions range from being mindful and manually timing your hours to using automated apps such as Calendar.com or RescueTime.
7. Get Some Face Time
Communication within remote teams can be challenging. When employees don’t share the same physical space, they can feel disconnected from their coworkers or out of the loop on parts of the business. They also miss out on the comradery that overtime builds the trust and connection; any great team needs to work well.
Make video calls part of the way you stay connected during weekly meetings, check-ins, or any problematic one-to-one conversations. Maintaining face-to-face interaction with your colleagues is a very effective way to boost morale, stave off loneliness, and make everyone feel valued.
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