Seven months and counting into the pandemic, you may be experiencing a rut brought on by working from home full time. Things that used to seem like benefits – like more family or personal time – may have turned into stressors. And the reality of sharing office space with your family or another long day with no personal interaction may have caused you to hit the proverbial wall.
But we’ve all hit the wall before in our work lives – your job isn’t stimulating anymore, you hate the commute or technology has outpaced your knowledge. And just like every other wall, we have to tunnel under, go over or blast our way through.
Following are some tips on how to change your routine…again…to make sure you’re productive and happy in your new work environment for the long haul.
Create structure: Gone are the days when there was a beginning, a middle and an end to every day. Now the days roll into each other and it no longer seems to matter if it’s Monday or the weekend. Experts suggest that the more we establish a routine and stick to it, the happier we’ll be.
- Replace your morning commute with a long walk outside before turning on your computer every day. Walking in the door can provide a sensation of the start of business and time to get to work.
- Take breaks and talk to people. Most of us aren’t used to spending the 8-hour workday never leaving our desk or chatting with a coworker. Build time for little breaks back into your schedule.
- Find something to look forward to at the end of the day. One of the most challenging aspects – whether you’re at home or in the office – is the loss of after work activities. We used to look forward to going home to our families or out to dinner with friends. Now there’s no definitive end to work and the start of leisure. It just all blends together. One option for overcoming this challenge is to schedule an activity you enjoy that will provide a clear transition. Arrange a zoom call with a friend, plan to give yourself a pedicure or set up a virtual dinner party with your family. And put it on your calendar so you stick to the plan.
Stay healthy: If you’re one of the many who gained the quarantine 15 (some say 19), you know how dangerous having the fridge within steps of your office can be. And how easy it is to lose track of time tied to your desk
- Pack your lunch. If you used to take your lunch to work prior to COVID, you either ate it, resorted to snacks stored in your desk, or spent time and money to purchase something else. At home, it’s easy to snack your way through the cupboards and fridge without a solid plan. Instead – try packing a healthy lunch the night before. And actually eating it the next day. Psych yourself out by packing it in a lunch bag and blindly reaching into the fridge to grab it. If you’ve done the work to prep in advance, you’re less likely to get sidetracked later. It’s also important to step away from the computer and take a lunch break. If you’re focused on work and not what you’re putting in your mouth, you might be eating a lot more than you think.
- Here in Minnesota, winter is coming. So if we didn’t get a walk in before work, we’re likely going out over lunch. Gym equipment has experienced a peak in sales the last few months so if you purchased a treadmill or stationary bike, get on it. Lifting weights or a 30-minute workout video are also good options.
- Keep calm and carry on. Of course, health goes beyond the physical. Make sure you’re taking care of your mental health as well. Meditate, download a mindfulness podcast, listen to music or combine mental and physical exercise with a yoga session.
Stay Productive: Your home is your happy place and you’re surrounded by all the things you love. You’re also constantly reminded of all the chores that need to be done. Tune them out and tune in to work.
- Limit TV and social media. If you’re easily distracted by the constant pings of new messages on Facebook or your newsfeed, simply shut them off. Remove them from your work computer entirely to avoid temptation. According to a recent CDC survey, anxiety rates in the U.S. are three times higher than they were a year ago. A large part of that is due to fear of the unknown and the negative headlines we’re faced with on the national news. Keep the TV turned off and quit searching the internet. Stay informed but don’t get bogged down in the constant news cycle.
- Stay focused. There are always things to be done at home and you’re never going to be caught up. But remember, that was true before you worked from home as well. Chores are just that….chores. Sure, we’re all guilty of throwing in a load of laundry or emptying the dishwasher, but keep housework in its place. That’s what Saturday’s are for, right? WRONG! Once you’ve had your healthy lunch and gone for a quick walk, throw the load of clothes in the washer and get back to work.
- Keep Organized. When you were in the office, there might have been some pressure to keep your personal space presentable. You didn’t want your coworkers or an important client seeing your desk buried in paperwork and peanut butter. Pay the same respect to yourself and your home environment. Keep clutter to a minimum. Confine your work space to one section of your home. And tidy up at the end of every day so you have a clean, fresh starting point in the morning.
Of course, those dealing with kids at home, trying to share an office with their spouse, or managing a business or staff are facing a whole different set of issues. Check out the following for more tips on these and other challenges.
The last suggestion – find humor where you can. Call that one special person who can make you laugh no matter what. Watch an episode of Schitt’s Creek over lunch. Or find the cutest kittens ever online. Take a few minutes every day to do something that makes you smile. You’ll be happy you did.