How to Improve your Work-from-Home Life

Words: Robyn Samuels

Working from home has many perks, like not having to spend exorbitant amounts on fuel commuting to work and back home, avoiding sitting in traffic for half of the day, seeing more of your kids/family and wearing sweatpants all day everyday, right? But the downside to this is that the lines between work and home can become blurred since ‘home is work’ and ‘work is home’. It can also be challenging to navigate WFH life when the 9-5 scales get tipped – suddenly, working overtime becomes more frequent and the perpetual myth of work-life balance becomes a malfunctioning seesaw. So, what’s the solution here?

Working from home hardly working?

Since the pandemic, many employers and businesses have decided to make a temporary solution a permanent one. While it can be a convenient arrangement, there are also some challenges to deal with beyond tech malfunctions. Whether you’re a seasoned WFH profesh or just started a remote position, it’s necessary to find your groove and identify what works for you – with a few simple changes your work-from-home life could improve.

Make your workstation work for you

Creating a comfortable workstation is essential. Many people working from home have made-do with what they have available like a dining room table and chair, but long term this isn’t going to help productivity. Something as simple as having an ergonomic chair that supports your back and a desk at the right height could improve your work-from-home environment. If you are able to, create a dedicated area that is solely for work purposes, so that when you are finished for the day, you can walk away and leave it behind you. Set-ups that need to be moved on a daily basis will become tiresome very quickly.

how to improve your work-from-home life

Create a clear distinction between your personal space and your workspace.

If possible, avoid sitting in your bedroom, this space should be associated with relaxation and invite good energy. The memory foam of your mattress shouldn’t absorb all the stresses and seemingly ‘kind regards’ the work day might bring.


Create healthy boundaries

Living at home with others or sharing a workspace with a housemate presents challenges when you have back-to-back meetings or need golden silence to focus. Living alone is more flexible, as you dictate many activities in your day. Still, for others that are parents or are living with parents, there might be an expectation to do chores around the house during work hours. Communicate your working hours to them and devise a plan; you could try putting up a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on your door accompanied by your meeting times to avoid awkward interruptions.


Take regular breaks

Contrary to belief, being planted at your desk for eight hours straight isn’t going to increase your productivity – you’re more likely to just get a stiff back and locked knees in the process. An office environment might involve trips to the water cooler, stepping out for lunch or taking a stroll to your colleague’s desk to inquire about a project, but those who work from home can get tunnel vision while working. Hours could pass by, and before you know it, the work day is almost over. Try to get up if you can and stretch periodically between meetings. Stretching helps increase blood flow to your brain, even a 3-minute stretch works. Step outside for some fresh air and see what the birds are up to.

how to improve your work-from-home life

Movement is not only crucial for physical health reasons, but also for maintaining mental health. If your job requires you to be creative, a 30-minute to an-hour walk might get those creative juices flowing.

Remember to take regular breaks throughout the work day, and step outside for fresh air and sunlight. Exposure to sunlight helps regulate your melatonin levels, which might improve your sleep quality.


Food for thought

Newsflash – coffee isn’t a meal replacement! Working in an office environment usually means coordinating lunchtimes with colleagues or going to the canteen for a bite, but this isn’t the case when you WFH. One can easily get sucked into work and forget to eat throughout the day, which almost sounds impossible since the fridge is probably near your desk, but it happens! Having a healthy and substantial work lunch is essential to your well-being and productivity. If this is a challenge for you, consider meal-prepping lunches for the week ahead – cook larger portions for dinner and reserve lunch for the following day.

WFH

You might also feel the pressure to be online constantly, even during your lunch break, because you’re not physically visible to others as you would be in a normal office environment. If this is the case, communicate that you will be on lunch break if you are not near your computer. Certain work applications even have status settings like ‘lunch break’ or ‘commuting’, which helps communicate things without feeling like you have to rush back to your desk during your break.

If you need some lunch inspiration, try these quick, easy and healthy work lunches. Loadshedding can often be frustrating and mess with your lunch break, these loadshedding meal ideas will keep you charged for the day.


Managing your time & productivity

Working from home means having to be more effective at managing your time and projects. If you struggle with time management and often lose track of time click-clacking away at your keyboard, create a schedule for yourself with times allocated to each task. Setting a reminder on your mobile device can also be useful.

work-from-home life

Plenty of time and project management tools exist online; great examples include monday.com, Toggl, Google Calendar, etc. If you struggle with time management, taking regular breaks could help increase your productivity. Try The Pomodoro Technique as a test.

Different productivity techniques work for different people; it’s important to try and figure out what works for you. Perhaps play a little music to stimulate your mind and creative thinking – preferably something instrumental without lyrics, as this can be distracting.


Dealing with isolation

Remote working has many benefits, but isolation is one of the downsides. As much as it’s healthy to spend some time alone, the reality is that people need people – even introverted individuals. Make time to call a friend/your mom or take your lunch break someplace other than your desk. If you need a change of scenery, perhaps ask a nearby coworker if they would like to schedule a work session at a coffee shop.

Whether you are a manager or employer, it’s important to confer with your employees about the quality of their working environment. There are bound to be high-stress periods during peak seasons depending on the nature of the business you’re in, but ensure that you are doing your best to create a supportive environment for your staff.

Schedule a check-in with them – ask how they could be better supported in their role, or host a monthly meeting if you live in the same city – in-person conversations are better than talking on screen.


Mental health checks

It’s important that you are able to separate yourself from your job and recognise that although you invest a lot of your time and energy into work, you are not your profession. Create time for your family, friends, pets and yourself; remember to do activities that bring you joy and cater to your personal and mental health needs.

how to improve your work-from-home life

We’re often told to not bring our work home, but those who work from home might struggle to do this as these environments are integrated. Respect your personal time as much as you respect billable hours.

Spending time outdoors can help minimise the negative impacts of isolation, especially for those who live alone. Surrounding yourself with nature or immersing yourself in socially stimulating environments can boost creativity and allow you to gain perspective.


Routine is a form of self-care

One of the perks of working from home is that you could virtually rock up to your desk in PJs or sweatpants on any given day. It’s a balance between business on the top and party from the waist down, right? But wearing your PJs or sweatpants consistently can have a Groundhog Day effect, and create a sense of disillusionment.

work-from-home life

Thriving in a work-from-home environment requires routine. Implementing a daily regimen is needed to create a sense of normalcy – we wouldn’t get anything done otherwise.

Routine is often viewed as a negative word, but feeding into routine actually fosters self-care. Prepare your outfit the day before work, that way you have something to look forward to like taking your bra off or kicking off your shoes at the end of the day.

Something as routine as wearing shoes whilst working at your desk might bolster your productivity, as we typically put shoes on when we have things to do or places to go. Having time to reflect on the day and doing a mental check-in before the humdrum of the day begins can help get you geared for work. Give yourself at least two hours before you officially start the work day – factor in the time it would have taken to commute. Whether you spend the time going on a morning walk, reading or meditating is entirely up to you.


Limit your screen time

Working from home also means more screen time, with virtual meetings and remote working. Constantly staring at a screen negatively impacts your eyesight and could induce migraines. Whether mobile or computer-based, excessive screen time also affects your quality of sleep.


Sleep is for the sane

Eight cups of coffee and all the energy drinks in the world aren’t going to make up for lack of sleep. Since working remotely, many have reported having to deal with higher volumes of work. Additionally, work hours could easily bleed into your personal time when working from home. Bear in mind that staying up or working ’til ungodly hours leads to sleep deprivation, which is not only counterproductive, but could also affect your mental health.

work-from-home life

The blue light emitted from your screen or hearing your notification dial tone also spikes up your heart rate, making it more difficult to fall asleep. Avoid sabotaging your rest by binge-watching shows – that ‘one more episode’ can wait until the weekend.

Lack of sleep might cause ‘brain fog’, mood swings, or induce headaches – further resulting in decreased productivity levels, not to mention being a grumpy colleague. Know when it’s time to call it a day or night. Remember to establish healthy limitations and prioritise your tasks by creating a realistic schedule and tracking your performance.

What are some things that help improve your WFH life?

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