I am finding that there are some hidden benefits to this nasty Coronavirus after all. Most of us at one time or another have begged and pleaded to have the opportunity to work remotely! Well this global shutdown may have granted us our wish, despite the awful circumstances.
So look on the bright side! Not only do we get to save commute time and invest it back into our personal wellbeing and relationships, but, we also get to contribute positively to seven of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with our remote working footprint! It may not be easy for those of us who thrive on routine and social interaction or who value the separation of home from work, but a few good practices can smooth the transition. Here are my 7 habits that can help you stay healthy and balanced while working from home in these coming few weeks…let’s hope not months.
I have been a self-employed remote worker for more than a decade yet my video coaching sessions with clients across the globe feeds my social soul and keeps me from feeling isolated or lonely. The reason I have been able to build a successful sustainability coaching business by sitting in my quiet garden office is that I follow these 7 habits:
1 Stay Focused
It is easy to think that now you are at home, you can get the things done that normally go to the bottom of your to-do list. However, it’s important to keep to the same schedule you had in the office, or you can quickly find your time has disappeared with little to show for it. Use your saved commute hours to get those extra personal tasks done, rather than letting them distract you throughout the paid workday. Jacob Dillon writes a great article about the ways to train your brain to stay focused. This can be especially challenging for those of us with short attention spans, so be kind to yourself and buy a fidget spinner if that kind of trick might help.
What I do:
I am able to focus really deeply when I have set aside time for one task. However, most of my week is full of meetings and interruptions so I have to claim my focused time. I set aside Fridays as my “untouchable” day so that I can plan, reflect, do finances, work on special projects, etc. I also get up before everyone else in the house (although I am not a morning person!) to squeeze in my green tea and meditation solo time during the silence of the dawn.
One challenge of working from home is that you can feel a bit isolated. Remote work greatly reduces our human interaction, so try to find a few ways each day to get out of the house (unless you are self-isolating because of possible disease exposure, of course), and make sure you are scheduling in enough Zoom video calls to see and interact with other human beings. We need connection with others to be happy and feel a sense of purpose. We humans get energy from one another, even if we are introverts.
What I do:
I make sure to have at least four video conference calls a day, either with coachees or potential partners. I also force myself to get to the gym three times during the workweek, which allows some social interaction while keeping me healthy.
If you feel you are losing a bit of your routine and the separation of home from work, the best remedy is to schedule your day. Most time management courses will tell you to maximize the times of day when you are at your energy peak. This is even more important now that you won’t have as many meetings pulling you in or bosses leaning over your shoulder. You will be setting your own schedule more now, so it is important that you take the time to structure your days. Being organized is a key skill for remote working.
What I do:
I have a multi-colored calendar that allows me to allocate time in the day to various types of personal and work tasks. I stick to the allocated slots and don’t let myself wander into the kitchen and start doing laundry at 2pm. Who would want to do laundry anyways!?!?!
Some of us don’t have the luxury of having a separate room to hide away in during these home working weeks. However, if you can find even a closet to turn into a mini office, you will be better off than at the kitchen table. You need to find a space where you can lock a door and not see home tasks that might distract you. Let your pet come with you to keep you company but set clear boundaries if you have a partner, roommate or kids. They need to know when you are “home” and when you are at “work.”
What I do:
I used to have my desk in my bedroom, but I put up a screen to separate the small space and give me a sense of transition from bed to work. I did this for two years before building a garden office.
5 Reduce Inputs
It is easy to think that turning on the radio or having the news on the TV while working is a good way to multi-task. You may think that popping onto social media every 30 minutes keeps you up to date on critical developments like the supply of toilet paper at the store. But reducing inputs of noise and news is actually going to serve you better.
What I do:
I limit myself to 20 minutes of news radio in the morning (as I hit the snooze twice!) and check only LinkedIn for relevant feeds at midday. This frees my brain to stay disciplined about my schedule and focused on the content of my work.
6 Take Mindful Resets
We have all heard that we “should” (I prefer “could”) practice more mindfulness throughout our day. The approach that works best for me is the short 3-minute breathing reset. It takes just a few minutes after a restroom break to reset. This helps you to focus on your breath and get more oxygen to your brain. It also helps to slow down your heart rate and re-center.
What I do:
I do a mini-reset every time I use the ladies’ room. I do an internal body scan and take 6 deep breaths in and out, slowly. It really only takes me 1-2 minutes. This is just enough oxygen to get me through the next round of my day.
7 Mind Your Body
Your eyes will tire if you’re focused on a screen for much of the day. Your legs will cramp up and lose circulation if you are sitting for too long, and your energy will drop if you aren’t eating balanced foods. Make a plan to prioritize your body so that your mind can follow. Schedule in hourly water breaks and stretch breaks to keep hydrated and keep circulation up. Watch your ergonomic set up too, especially if you have to sit on a bed or sofa. If you have a poor body position for extended periods over several weeks, this can cause workplace injury.
What I do:
I fill up four liter bottles of SodaStream sparkling water at the beginning of the day and keep them next to my desk. I also prepare only healthful snacks in the morning so they are at the ready, such as cucumber with hummus, apples with peanut butter or a small cup of almonds. I remind myself to get up and move by setting a timer to beep on the hour. There are apps that help with this and mindful reset reminders. Apple’s Pause: Mindful moments app claims to help you regain focus and release stress just by moving your finger across the screen.
I hope that my 7 habits help to give you some new ideas about how to turn this ambiguous gift of working from home into a balanced and healthy reality. Please send me your comments and ideas so we can share them across our community.
If you would like to get support on creating the work life balance or the impact career you always dreamed of, please reach out by email to [email protected].