As more and more countries enter lockdown, many office workers are learning the perils of remote work life. It’s not all bad of course, but it can be a tough time finding motivation and keeping focus, and it’s important to build structure in your life if you want to be able to get any actual work done while still maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
That’s why we’re here today: many of the staff at CodeClouds work remotely and we’ve learned to develop healthy work habits that have served us well during these periods of extended isolation. These are our top tips for staying sane while working from home.
Designate a Work Space
One of the biggest issues we encounter is that remote workers have issues separating their work life from their home life. If your bedroom is your office, then after you clock out you’re still going to feel like you’re in the office. That can play with your mental state and exhaust you even when you’re not working. At its worst, it can cause insomnia and serious anxiety—it’s impossible to sleep or relax when there’s a nagging voice saying you should be working.
The best way we’ve found to overcome this is having a very clearly designated work space: have a desk or table set up to be “office-y”, and work from there. You don’t use that space when you’re not working, and your brain quickly learns to keep the two halves apart.
It doesn’t need to be that developed, of course. I’m in lockdown at time of writing and can’t just go out and buy a new desk, and I’m not sure it’s worth the investment anyway. I just have a specific chair in the living room that is The Office Seat, and when time comes to clock out I move from the The Office Seat onto the couch.
Build a Schedule
As we’ve already discussed, one of the primary issues we encounter when working from home is the inability to switch off. Another way to help alleviate this is to build a tight, coherent work schedule to give structure to these less-structured days. Take your lunch break at the same time every day, check your work email at the same time every day, designate blocks for specific activities and try to keep everything coherent.
That’s not always possible (our jobs aren’t always predictable!) so it’s good to build in some flexibility, but not too much—you need to make your job feel like your job, so your brain knows how to leave at the end of the day.
Your Lunch Break Matters
When we first started talking about the idea of remote work, employers worried that employees would be lazy and avoid working, but the truth ended up being the opposite: the lack of clear delineation between work and home life created unexpected stressors and meant that staff just worked and worked and worked until they burnt out.
So if you’re working from home, you need to remember that you’re still obligated to take breaks, to get lunch, to walk around the block and clear your head. It’s important that it fits within the structure you’ve created, so plan space for it. You shouldn’t just be taking the whole day off or anything, but you don’t need to feel guilty about taking your full hour to get some fresh air. Take time and make space where you’re not working, so you can work more efficiently.
The office group chat has never been more important than it is right now. In the absence of water coolers and face-to-face interaction, we’re all going a bit batty. This can be incredibly destructive to productivity. This is why group chats, Slack channels, and other sorts of digital water cooler replacements are critically important. Keeping in touch with your colleagues with help to keep you sane and on-target—it’ll keep you in the office headspace while also allowing you to let off steam.
Don’t Get Distracted
Netflix is probably the single biggest WFH productivity killer in existence, though smartphone notifications are probably coming up on its tail. They’re bad enough, but once you start adding in kids and pets and other responsibilities, it can be very easy to get sidetracked. Some of these things are inevitable (kids need looking after!) but there are some things you can control responsibly.
Personally, I recommend having a no-distraction hour every day, where your phone is on silent and you solely focus on work and nothing else. Making it a concentrated burst helps to keep you honest: it’s much easier to start at an hour and build outwards than just try to go cold-turkey on distractions. If your kids are old enough that they understand, then let them know when your no-distraction hour is and try to position it at a time when they’ve got something else keeping them busy.
This is a method of creating structure, but it’s one that’s important enough that it deserves its own section. You’re probably accustomed to setting macro-deadlines for projects and tasks, but setting micro-deadlines (e.g. “I need to answer this email by 2pm”) and having them written down somewhere can give you a huge productivity boost. Tools like Trello or Asana can be a huge help here, or even something simple like having a pad beside your computer.
Doing this on a more micro-level also prevents small tasks like emails from monopolising too much of your day. Allocating specific amounts of time for specific jobs is a crucial part to building structure into your day.
A Room With A View
Especially with us all stuck inside, it’s crucially important that you’ve got enough sunlight. Studies have shown that sun levels and exposure to nature will elevate your mood and help to reduce stress. This leads to less anxiety and better productivity. I’m hammering on the point a bit, but the main risk of working from home is that it can take a serious emotional toll on you and you need to structure your work in a way that’s healthy. You can’t be productive if you’re sick or anxious, so look after yourself for the sake of your job.
All of these ideas coalesce around the same basic ideas: working from home lacks structure and stimulation, and you need to work to get both back into your life. Follow these 7 steps, and maybe you can finally start to feel normal again.
If instead of working from home recently you’ve been laid off and are looking for work, CodeClouds is always hiring. If you’re looking for a web designer job in Kolkata, head on over to our careers page and apply.