Thanks to COVID-19, many of you are at home most of the time—whether you want to or not.
I’ve done most of my work from home for the past 7 years. I’ve learned a few things about how to do this productively without destroying my health or sanity. Let me share my thoughts with you:
Create a routine
When you don’t have to show up at the office at a specific time, and no one is watching over your shoulder, it’s tempting to just let go of having a schedule at all. This is usually a mistake. In fact, having a regular routine may be even more critical when working at home. I’d suggest:
- Waking up and going to bed at a proper time
- Getting dressed before work (just as you would if you were leaving the house)
- Scheduling your week with periods for work, exercise, meals, rest, and personal/family time
This will help create some much-needed stability and focus in a very chaotic and challenging time.
This is always important—not just when you’re working from home. Use an app to remind you to take regular breaks. I recommend a short (e.g., 5 minutes) break every 30 minutes to look away from the computer screen and move around a bit, then a longer every hour. During the longer breaks, I’d suggest:
- Doing some push-ups, sit-ups, or squats
- Doing some stretching
- Going to get a cup of tea or water
- Saying hello to your kids or playing with your pets
Taking breaks helps to release the pressure valve and keep you fresh and productive throughout the day.
Create and maintain boundaries
When you’re working from home, it’s all too easy for work to simply take over every waking moment (and maybe some sleeping moments also!) of your life. You must establish boundaries between your work and personal life—for your own benefit and your family’s too. For me, this involves:
- Setting a time to start, and be finished with, work each day
- Powering down and/or putting away my computer when I’m not working
- Turning off notifications on my phone when I’m not working
- Doing a digital detox/screen-free day on Sundays
Again, this is something we ought to be doing no matter where we work. But it’s particularly relevant when working from home because the pantry and refrigerator are always just a few steps away. Establishing set meal times (see #1 above) can go a long way toward preventing stress-related overeating.
Go easy on yourself
Working from home can be a big adjustment if you’re not used to it, and that’s even more true during COVID-19. The house might feel crowded and not conducive to work. And maybe you’re under a lot of stress with work, or financial difficulties, or illness in the family.
COVID-19 is stretching us in countless ways, and in a situation like this, it’s important to cut ourselves some slack. It’s okay not to be as productive as you usually are. It’s okay to spend more time with your family. It’s okay to do a little more self-care than you typically do.
This is the invitation and the blessing of COVID-19. It’s forcing us into a different way of being.
And if we allow ourselves to simply go with that flow, we might be surprised at what we discover.