10 Tips for Working From Home in 2021
By Oswaldo Ledesma | January 26th, 2021.
The novel coronavirus outbreak and the pandemic certainly have our world upside down and for many, this means a whole new way of working remotely. We remain hopeful that with the distribution of the vaccine we are on the way out of this historic chapter, but even with the vaccine, it might still be months before restrictions and lockdowns everywhere are lifted.
I want to share with you a few tips from my own work-from-home experience of over three years, including the last year with Covid19 and all the changes it brought along with it.
I hope you find the following tips helpful to better navigate the life of working remotely.
1. Establish working schedules
It's very important to know the times when you start and finish your working day, if you work for a company that already gives you a standard 9 to 5 shift then you already know when you're expected to be available.
If you're running your own business online or if you're self-employed then you need to establish the hours of the day when your attention will be on your work, it's extremely important to schedule breaks and take them consistently, for many people a healthy concentration span lasts somewhere between 75 to 90 minutes, this is a good period of time to concentrate and get your work done.
During your breaks disconnect from work and use the time for yourself, move your body, eat a snack, drink some water, whatever makes you feel good and ready to go back to business, a good break of 15 to 20 minutes can do wonders to maintain your productivity throughout the day.
2. Create transition routines
When you wake up, shower, have a coffee, and then commute to your office every day, you have a transition routine that helps you set your day in motion to start working, and even though I'm sure you might have enjoyed the extra hours of sleep the first few weeks or months, by now, it's becoming challenging to start your day at home.
Working from home requires a lot of discipline and sometimes it feels very hard to kick-start your day when your living space is your everything space. You need to create transition routines that indicate your mind when to get in and out of working mode.
Transition routines could be anything from getting dressed as if you were about to go out, meditating in the mornings, listening to your favorite news podcast, going for a walk or enjoying a good breakfast. Whatever suits you best to boost your energy and motivation before you start working and also to slowly indicate to you that it's time to call it a day when your working hours are over.
3. Personalize your office space
Think of the things in your life that give you purpose and look for something that you can put on your desk or the office space that reminds you of it, purpose gives you destination.
I've learned that I work the best when I'm the happiest, so for me a happy person is a productive person, that said, you should totally personalize your office space with things that make you feel good, maybe pictures of places you have traveled to or friends and family members that inspire you to do what you do.
Plants and paintings are also a very good way to give your office space a good touch of life and joy, maybe a vision board, a list of goals, a list of places to travel to and visit after the pandemic, etc. Feel free to be creative and disruptive, there's no one around you supervising your desk or “decoration code”. Make your office space your own and make sure you feel happy when you are there.
This might be a bit tricky when you're a digital nomad, in which case your office space probably changes every month or week, sometimes even every day, if that's the case, look for the views, working next to an ocean, or in front of a mountain is an incredible source of inspiration, but again, if you're a digital nomad I'm sure you know about this.
4. Set rules with the people around you
Maybe you live alone and this doesn't apply to you, but maybe you have a spouse who is also working from home or children studying from the living room, maybe you have your parents and siblings around or maybe you have roommates who also have to stay and work-from-home.
No matter what your living situation is, when you have people around you it becomes an issue when the voices and constant noises interfere with your work, make sure to set rules with them about what you need to be able to perform and carry out your activities, don't take for granted that the people you live with will automatically adjust and understand that you need some quiet time and interruption-free hours during the day.
Just make sure that they know that working from home doesn't mean being available for regular home activities, with the pandemic many people are probably in the same situation, remember we are all going through a collective experience and we need to have each other’s backs.
5. Communicate your needs
We can only do so much when we don't have the necessary tools to perform a task if you're working from home and you don't have what you need to work it's your duty to communicate it to your company or whoever can facilitate you a way to get what you need.
When you don't have a proper desk, chair, and equipment to work, chances are you might start underperforming and if you don't communicate it on time you might start getting in trouble. Overcommunicate what you need or if you have any issues with your internet provider, computer, phone, stationery supplies, etc.
Take care of your well-being by watching a small tutorial about ergonomics and the best practices to set up an office from home, then make a list of the essentials that you don't have at home and send it to your supervisor or employer.
If you´re running your business online or are self-employed, start getting the things that you need to function, remember the concept of an MVP (minimum viable product) and collect the minimum number of things you need to work productively from home.
6. Draw the lines between your professional and personal lives
It takes time and practice to switch from office space to living space when those spaces are literally the same, your office space might be two steps away from your bed or just one room apart from your living room or your kitchen.
Stick to your working schedules and avoid household distractions, this might be especially hard if you are very order-oriented, like me, it honestly takes a lot of effort to remain on track when you have OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) personality traits that make you do things just a bit more passionately than your regular neighbor next door.
Leaving your home office to go to the kitchen for some water might become a 20 minutes journey of cleaning and order if you don't draw clear lines of when to work and when to be your regular self at home.
If you can, it's also a good idea to maintain a separate phone number just for your work, after your schedule is over turn it off and disconnect from it until the next day.
7. Take good care of your mental health
Mental health is probably one of the most underestimated aspects of working from home, especially during a pandemic.
Remember to be kind to yourself and patient with your own learning curve, working from home and going complete digital mode overnight might be an overwhelming experience, don't get too invested in the news or anything else that disturbs your mental well-being.
Anxiety, insomnia, and depression have been very constant symptoms in many of the people I know that have had to quarantined themselves during the novel coronavirus outbreak, also shelter-in-place orders or mandatory lockdowns have been very upsetting to our regular way of life, especially when we don't have any physical contact with others over prolonged periods of time.
Look for a mental health professional if you feel like you need it, or even if you just want to develop some mechanisms to cope with the current times and prevent any mental burnout.
Meditate more often, read books that allow your imagination to move to different realities that make you feel better, call a friend that you haven't talked to in a long time, do whatever works for you.
8. Manage your energy
Observe your own self and learn the ways in which you spend and renew energy, then start to rhythmically keep a balance between the amount of energy you spend and the amount of energy you renew.
Be mindful of your diet and the foods your body needs, our energy requirements tend to diminish as evening approaches and our metabolism slows, try to eat more calories earlier in the day and fewer in the evening, look out for professional advice from a dietitian or nutritionist if you want to create a custom-made nutrition plan that best suits your needs.
Drinking water is always a good source of physical well-being, also good sleeping habits and breathing exercises can help you feel energetic during the day to do not only your work but all types of activities.
Bear in mind that at some point you are going to have some stressful moments, don't let them consume much of your energy, don't forget that depending on how we manage stress, it can either overwhelm us or serve us as an opportunity for growth.
9. Exercise your body
Exercise daily, it doesn't have to be something extraordinary, allow your body to do as much as feels comfortable, stretch your muscles throughout the day and establish an exercise routine.
If you are still not sure about going out to a park because of social distancing and Covid19 restrictions, maybe jumping a rope in your house, garden or apartment might be a great substitute. If your regular gym is still closed then try to do similar exercises at home.
Exercise does wonders to produce happy hormones like endorphins, dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin, so make it a habit and give your body a good dose of happiness through exercise.
10. Socialize with your friends
Last but not least, don't isolate yourself, it's important to continue building strong relationships, look for a way to stay in touch with your colleagues, co-workers, and friends.
Perhaps an in-person meeting is still out of the question, but video conferences or regular phone calls might be just as engaging, make some snacks, grab a drink, slouch a little, and have a nice conversation with your favorite people.
Healthy relationships involve a dynamic of giving and taking, talking and listening, valuing someone, and feeling also valued in return. Continue building and strengthening a nice support network, especially during social distancing times like the ones we're living.