When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and suddenly forced many of us to start working from home, no one knew how long it would last. It was easy to assume it would be a temporary change. But now, many of us find ourselves in the same work setting. You likely did not receive a playbook for best practices when working from home. If you find yourself stressed out with your work from home (WFH) life, here are some solutions for ways to correct common bad habits.
#1: Neglecting Your Routine
Working in an office every day allows us to build a natural routine. A set arrival time means you get up at the same time each day and have a morning routine that gives you enough time to get ready, eat breakfast, get your kids off to school, and get to the office on time. You likely schedule your workouts, plan your family meals, and tend to your responsibilities ahead of time because you have a good sense of what your day will look like. This structure happens naturally over time and may not be something you even have to think about.
When working from home, it is easy to lose our sense of daily structure. Waking up every morning and just winging it can be quite stressful, and may in turn lead you to feeling anxious, overwhelmed, and less productive. When you lack a schedule, you end up wasting a lot of time – your most precious professional resource. Lack of a schedule can also lead to destructive personal habits, like irregular sleep patterns, unhealthy eating, and a lack of exercise.
Solution: Design Your Personal Routine
- Write out a schedule for your entire day from wake-up time to sleep time, with consistencies from day to day. Schedule time for work, and also for breaks and the things that you enjoy. Also, address any other bad habits (like social media, perhaps?) that might be sucking up a bit too much of your time.
- The secret to creating good habits is repetition. So, do your best to stick to your new schedule, review it daily, and make tweaks as needed. Soon you will establish patterns in your day that help your schedule stick and become natural.
#2: Getting Distracted
Do you find yourself jumping from task to task, checking your phone at every ping, not completing tasks, and feeling a general lack of focus? Getting distracted is not a problem exclusive to home workers. However, working from home offers additional non-work-related distractions that you won’t find in an office.
Imagine someone scrolling through emails, shoveling in quick bites of lunch, giving the cat on their lap a few scratches, and participating in a Zoom meeting, hitting mute and responding to their kid’s question… all at the same time.
While it may feel good to tick a few things off the to-do list, it’s important to understand that multitasking actually makes you less efficient. Research from the American Psychological Association shows “even brief mental blocks created by shifting between tasks can cost as much as 40 percent of someone’s productive time.”
Solution: Do Only What You are Doing Now
- Organize your tasks into a list and prioritize each item by importance. Start at the top of your list and complete the most important tasks first. Next, tackle the quick and easy low-hanging fruit. Don’t start another task without completing the one you are on.
- Reduce home-life distractions by having an established workstation. Find a space with a door that you can close – or even lock – to let your family and pets know that it’s work time. You could even hang a sign on the door letting your family know when you will take a break and can help them.
- Schedule time to check emails and return texts. Turn off notifications so the constant pings are not pulling you away from completing your tasks.
#3: Never Logging Off
When you work and live in the same place, it’s very hard to draw the line between where work life ends and where home life begins. Many WFH employees tend to overwork, and find themselves re-opening their laptop throughout the evening. There’s always something to do; it’s easy to find problems to be solved or last-minute tasks that can get closed out. These temptations can easily pull us away from our family, friends, and much needed time to relax. Constantly being in productive-mode can be exhausting!
Solution: Commit to Finishing Your Workday Without Guilt
- Establish set work hours, and remember to block off time for your lunch and breaks. Schedule these into your calendar as appointments.
- Try physically leaving your workspace at the end of the day by going for a walk outside or running a quick errand so your mind can shift from work mode.
- Place your laptop out of sight when you pack up for the day, and remember to turn off notifications on your cellphone, too.
- Use out-of-office responders or other tech tools to communicate to your co-workers or customers that you are out, and that you will respond when you return to the office.
If you are one of the many who are working from home, I hope you find these tips useful. You might even have some good tips of your own. Please share your own experience and advice in the comments section below.