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Staying Sane and Meeting Expectations While Working from Home During COVID-19: Part 2

August 15, 2020
Staying Sane and Meeting Expectations While Working from Home During COVID-19: Part 2 - Lark Health

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How is working from home going for you? It is just one more change that so many of us have made during the COVID-19 pandemic. Part 1 of this series talked about some ways to be more productive while at work. However, what you do outside of work hours affects your performance at work, and your well-being, too. Now, Part 2 of this series talks about what you can do before, during, and after your workday to support a better work performance.

Find A Space to Work

Curling up on the living room couch with a smartphone or tablet may be okay for checking emails on weekends and evenings, but that setup probably will not cut it as your main workspace. 

Having your own designated place to work can help you focus and be productive. Not everyone has an entire room available for use as a home office, and that is okay. The important thing is to have a space that is yours to use for working. It can be a corner of your bedroom or living, or even a large walk-in closet or a space in your garage. 

Set Up Your Workspace

To get started, it may help to think about your workspace in the office you worked in before COVID-19 hit. A desk, a chair, filing cabinets, writing utensils, sticky notes, a printer, paper, a bulletin board with thumbtacks, a white board with markers and an eraser, and a calendar or desk planner are common essentials. You may also want a few personal items, say, a photo of your family, but it is important to keep your workspace free of distractions. This may also be a good time to try a standing desk if you have not already done so.

If you are on a budget, it is important to think about what you really need and what you may be able to do without. Some of those items that you need may already be in your home. For example, if you mainly work on a computer and have very little paperwork, you may be able to get away with using your laptop on a household table instead of purchasing a desk. Similarly, before shelling out $500 or more for an ergonomic chair, it may be worth trying a chair you have at home with different arrangements of cushions and pillows to see if you can be comfortable that way.

Get Ready for Work

When working from home, some people prefer to mimic the routine they followed when commuting to the office. After waking, they might take a shower, get dressed in business attire, have coffee and breakfast. Some people take it to the extreme by leaving the house, driving around the block, and entering the house just as they used to enter the office.

Another option is to try some new routines now that you have a chance to do so. That could involve wearing more casual clothes or skipping makeup in the interest of skin health. You might take the time that you used for commuting and dedicate it to something that makes you happier, healthier, or both. For example:

  • Helping with the kids' morning routine if you never had time to do so before.
  • Exercising, or, if you usually exercise before your commute anyway, adding to your workout.
  • Reading for a few minutes (this can be especially nice if you used to read on public transit during your commute).
  • Meditating.
  • Eating a healthy breakfast, which includes both eating nutritious foods and enjoying your meal.

Trying several variations of your morning can give you a feel for what you like and what makes you most productive during the day. Eventually, settling on a single routine and following it consistently is likely to work best for you and your family.

Make Healthy Choices to Increase Efficiency

Taking care of yourself can improve not only your overall health and well-being, but also your efficiency at work. Efficiency can be crucial when working from home if you are unable to put in as many hours as you would want. Many of the same behaviors that improve health also improve efficiency. 

Exercising regularly is one of the most effective ways to increase productivity. When you exercise, physical and mental energy can increase as fatigue and brain fog decrease. Physical activity also reduces the chance of afternoon slumps, and improves your mood which can make you better able to focus on work. With so many benefits, time spent exercising is almost sure to be made up, and then some, with time saved by being more efficient.

Along with being physically active, careers and health can both benefit from getting enough sleep, eating well, and managing stress. Being at home gives the opportunity to eat more fruits and vegetables, swap in whole grains for refined ones, and reduce fried foods. 

Be Open to New Power Strategies

There is always something new to learn about yourself and how you can be your best self while working from home. Different strategies are worth trying until you settle on your own magic formula. These are some variables to consider playing with.

  • Taking longer or shorter planned breaks, or taking your "break" during the multiple unintended interruptions of your workday.
  • Using a more formal versus more casual approach with apparel and your workspace.
  • Starting work after a full morning with a complete breakfast, workout, and family time versus quickly getting in an hour before anything else happens in the day.
  • Working with background music versus in silence.
  • Being an all-day participant in your company's messaging system dedicated to small talk, versus being active only at certain times during the day.

Whatever happens, remember that you are far from alone. Nobody has ever faced this pandemic before, and nobody has all of the answers. Doing your best for yourself, your family, and your employer is worth a lot during this time.

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