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If there’s one work trend that the andemic accelerated like never before, it was the increase in remote work. Zoom fatigue other stressors (see: kids learning from home) notwithstanding, the transition has been relatively smooth.
In a January 2021 survey from PWC, 83% of employers felt that their company’s adaptation to virtual work has been successful. Also noteworthy: 55% of employees said they would prefer to work remotely three or more days per week even after pandemic concerns have completely subsided.
Of course, some people would love to return to a normal office environment, but find that corporate policies are keeping them at home a while longer. Still others are enjoying the remote-work lifestyle, but find it could use some improvements. Here are a few ways to enhance your experience.
Set clear boundaries
When you work in the same place that you live, it’s all too easy for the boundaries between work and home life to blur. This is a problem that goes both ways. If you are answering work-related messages at the dinner table, your family won’t be too thrilled with you. On the other hand, if you allow your family to constantly interrupt you throughout the day, your productivity will go down and you’ll need to work longer hours to get everything done.
As IT firm Envision Consulting explains in a work-from-home guide, “Set expectations with your team (and those you live with) around your availability during the day. It can be a challenge to switch ‘off’ from work when you don’t leave the office — or switch ‘on’ your workday when you don’t leave the house. If needed, set clear intentions about work time and home time to avoid burnout or being ‘always on’.”
If you find that the boundaries between work and home have slipped in the months since you started remote work, start by setting distinctive start and end times for your work day. Communicate to your family that you will be unavailable while “at work.”
Tell those from your office that you will not answer messages before or after your work hours. Then, consistently follow the standards you’ve established.
Schedule regular breaks
Closely related to boundary-setting is the idea of taking breaks throughout the work day. Studies have found that “movement breaks,” in particular, are important for stay-at-home workers because they negate the toll constant sitting can take on body and mind.
If you sit at your desk all day, you don’t just put yourself at higher risk for obesity and heart disease. You can also become more anxious and depressed. A short walk, or even a stretch and yoga break, can greatly improve your well-being. In reality, anything that gets you away from your desk (and no longer thinking about your current task) will help.
Taking a short break every hour will actually make you more productive, not less. Breaks help you avoid decision fatigue and stay motivated to complete the task at hand. By refreshing your mind with a short break, you can also improve creative thinking.
So, if you’ve gotten into the rut of trying to get everything done all at once so you can be done with your current task before your kids need you again, call a mental mulligan. Set an alarm for each hour if needed, but don’t neglect your breaks.
Clean up your workspace
While many people purchased laptops and maybe even an ergonomic work chair for their home office, these two things alone don’t make for an ideal workspace. You need to create an environment that puts you into a productive mood, even if you don’t have a room you can claim for yourself.
If you’ve been working from home for several months, chances are you’ve allowed a fair amount of clutter to accumulate in your workspace. However, as Joel Falconer explains for Lifehack, “Even if you are anti-minimalist, you should declutter. We’re defining clutter here as distracting material, including mess. Nothing is worse for your mental state than living and operating in a mess. Expect lethargy and crankiness and a particular level of apathy towards your state of affairs. Anything you don’t use on a daily basis should be put away, and anything you don’t use should be thrown straight in the bin.”
Outside of a houseplant (which can boost your mood and productivity) and maybe one or two personal items, your work area should be kept as clean as possible. Old notes and papers can pile up all too quickly if you don’t eliminate them on a regular basis.
There is no denying that while working from home can be convenient for many, it also comes with its own unique set of challenges. By taking these steps to improve your work environment, you will be able to better enjoy your day to day routine, while still remaining productive.