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Five Healthy Work Practices for Working from Home
With more and more people working from home, either from choice or necessity, it's important to know the best practices to stay healthy and productive
A lot has changed about how we work, and most people have no choice but to transition to working from home. But even before the pandemic, an increasing number of people bid goodbye to their onerous commute to become freelancers and telecommuters. Thanks to ever-evolving technologies such as Skype, Zoom, Facetime, Google Hangouts, Slack, and cloud computing, it’s no longer necessary to be in an office to be productive. In fact, most tasks can be done just as effectively from home.
Working from home can be one of the greatest perks of doing freelance work. But as appealing as remote work sounds, it comes with several challenges. What if you need something important from the office that you have no access to? What if loneliness takes over and you experience time management problems? What if you lose connection with colleagues? What if you’re overwhelmed by other home-related distractions like family members, pets, and electronics?
To create a successful work from home environment, you’ll need to change some habits and routines. Investing in organizational software—such as ProjectManager—can help you stay on task, but you have to put in the effort.
It’s all about creating a balance between work and personal life, and that can be a tough adjustment. Here are some handy tips and best practices for working from home.
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Working from Home: Healthy Practices to Stay Productive
- Setting a Healthy Routine
- Proper Ergonomics
- Exercise Regularly
- Find Work-Life Balance When Working from Home
- Dealing with Family Members and Coworkers
Let’s go over each one of them in detail.
Setting a Healthy Routine
We are creatures of habit – and that is because routine helps us both mentally and physically to prepare for things. One of the benefits of working from home is flexibility. It might be tempting to roll out of bed and onto your couch and starting checking emails or browsing through social media, but you’ll need to establish a schedule when it comes to working remotely.
What’s goes into your schedule is a guide on what you’re supposed to do at a specific time. Get up early in the morning, take a shower, prepare a cup of coffee and take breakfast, then get dressed as if you’re actually reporting to work. You don’t have to wear a suit and a tie, but you’ll need to prepare for the day the same way you do while going to the office. Set regular working hours and include breaks and meal times. In the end, a routine can be extremely powerful at helping you get started every day.
Many offices offer in-house employees adjustable monitor stands, wrist supports, stand-up-desks, and other tools to help combat risks related to ergonomic or musculoskeletal ailments, such as carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis. The main focus is to help you maintain a neutral spine – one that stays in its natural curved shape. Ergonomics, or fitting a job to an individual, can also help reduce instances of muscle fatigue and increase productivity.
Unfortunately, many of us likely don’t have the same workstation setup at home. Having an ergonomically optimized workspace helps you work safely and efficiently. It is imperative to have a proper workstation to prevent such injuries irrespective of where we might work. Since you’ll be working from home, you can make some simple adjustments to your workspace to help optimize your posture and improve your comfort when working from home.
Common ergonomic best practices include:
- Working from a desk with enough knee or foot clearance.
- Adjusting your chair and monitor to proper height and distance. You can use a rolled-up hand towel or pillow or for extra lumbar support.
- Positioning your laptop or desktop screen inline with your eye height.
- Using an external keyboard or mouse
- Maintaining a good posture. When sited, ensure your shoulders are relaxed, your back is supported, and there is no unnecessary pressure off your knees.
- Reducing glare due to lamps or overhead lights.
Like any other working environment, having breaks in between your working hours is incredibly important to let your brain and body relax. Exercises are known to naturally increase endorphins which further increases happiness and interest levels, all of which are essential for productivity.
Having a timer that reminds you to get up and stretch or move can be of much help. It’s important to focus on active stretching especially for the upper and lower back since you’ll likely be sited for long hours working. If you feel a bit lazy, opt for quick walks around the neighborhood.
Whatever you do, make sure you don’t work yourself to the bone without having a break away from the screens. Studies have shown that regular breaks can significantly improve productivity levels and an individual’s ability to focus.
Find Work-Life Balance When Working from Home
Striking a healthy work-life balance is always a tricky thing to achieve, and working remotely can make it even more challenging. Sure, there are many benefits to working from home, but it requires prioritization, proper planning and scheduling, time management, and productive techniques to help you manage your workday and complete the tasks in your schedule quicker.
Everyone's definition of work-life balance takes a different path, but there a few basic rules you can observe to get the best out of it.
Create a Designated Work Space
Dedicate a spot in your home for working, and be wary of distractions. You will be spending most of your time alone, without coworkers nearby to motivate you to stay busy and productive. Similarly, your home presents a new set of things that you might be tempted to do during working hours. Kids, pets, electronic gadgets are all sources of distraction at home.
If you have the luxury of space, select a neat and clutter-free spot to become your new office. Whichever place you choose, make sure you have the following tools of work:
- A monitor: Get a good monitor or laptop, an external keyboard, and a mouse.
- A standing desk and office chair: Get a desk or table that is designed for computer use. Also, use a chair and include some form of cushion such as a pillow for lower back support.
- A microphone or speakerphone for communication.
- A power strip (if you can get one), and ensure your working space is near a window.
As tempting as it may be, avoid working from the bed. Getting too comfortable can negatively affect your productivity, plus it’s best to let your bed become a place where you can go to escape from work.
Working from home means that you probably won't be leaving the house any time soon. That doesn’t mean that you should spend your entire day in pajamas. Part of the normal working routine includes changing into work-appropriate attire. Dressing in clothes that you would rock outside of the home helps you get into the right mindset for work. Additionally, getting physically prepared for the day ahead makes you feel happier and gets you in the mood to work.
Treat your home office as a real work environment. Once you're done with your work, try changing your outfit to mark the end of your daily work routine and the beginning of quality personal time.
While working from home has numerous benefits, it can create a disconnect with your team and work structure. Even when you have a pre-planned work schedule, it’s important to touch base and catch up with your team.
Thanks to telecommuting tools, it has become easier for employees to connect with each other. If your company has communication tools such as Slack, publicize your hours when you can have conversations with your colleagues. Make sure your coworkers are online when you need them. Having proper communication helps you quickly solve problems and stay focused on your work.
Have an End of Workday Ritual
On a normal workday, the evening commute marks the end of work. As terrible as it may sound, the commute is a form of ritual that creates a break between work and home.
Working from home is different. Even with a strict schedule, it’s quite easy to find yourself getting caught in your work and putting in extra hours. Having an end of work routine can help you wind down from work-related responsibilities and set yourself for a productive tomorrow.
When you’re done with work, turn off your computer, tidy up your workspace, make a quick to-do list for the next day, and leave "work." The simple act of stepping away helps you transition out of work mode and into home mode. Most importantly, be patient with yourself as you learn to adjust to the new situation.
Dealing with Family Members and Coworkers
Of course, you might be working from home but still have people around. Communicate beforehand to your parents, siblings, spouse, and kids on what you will require of them when working from home. Let your kids know that you’ll have certain tasks that you must complete, and you can take frequent breaks to be with them. If they want to reach you during working hours, let them know they should knock before they come in, text you when necessary, or slide a note under the door. Also, make it clear that once you’re done with work, you’ll come back and check on them.
Working from home also means setting boundaries for your work family. Let your coworkers know your "office hours," and stick to them. If you set the precedent that you'll jump on a work task at all hours of the day, it can be hard to break people of that notion.
There are numerous benefits to working from home. Equally, there are many challenges, such as ensuring you remain focused and do your best work. You will have to make several changes to your schedule so that you can remain as productive as possible.
While this doesn’t happen overnight, finding ways to keep motivated and work positively can help you achieve a lot while working remotely. It’s easy to get spoiled a little bit while working at home, especially when the commute is no longer in the picture. Strive to find a work-life balance with your routines and keep making small adjustments to improve. Eventually, you’ll be proud of your ability to adapt, and you’ll begin to witness growth in many areas of your life.