As this unusual summer of 2020 winds to a close, the unconventional rituals we set in place at the pandemic’s start have gradually became routines.
For many of us, working from home has morphed from a novelty to a way of life. At first, we improvised, attending Zoom meetings in pajamas and answering emails from bed. But now, after half a year spent living with the pandemic, it’s time to reevaluate our habits. The truth is no one knows when this will end. A recent survey from analytics company S&P Global found that 67% of companies intend to implement working from home permanently. Unfortunately, using the top of your microwave as a standing desk isn’t a lasting solution.
As we enter the fall season, here’s how to continue setting an example for yourself while working at home, successfully executing the best at-home strategies.
In the early stages of the pandemic, many people launched into modes of high-octane productivity—convinced if they didn’t emerge from the quarantine mastering French cooking or playing an instrument. Others found it impossible to focus on anything at all, watching themselves struggle to complete simple tasks that had once been easy.
While we’re all forgiven during this pandemic for not operating at an above-and-beyond capacity, setting boundaries can go a long way toward reinstating a sense of normalcy to our work days. Try your best to stick to your regular schedule, and mandate breaks throughout the day. Science demonstrates that resting your brain increases creativity and productivity, so while it may be tempting to brush off a walk as a waste of time, remember that it’s actually the opposite.
“One of the most critical challenges is the sense that work never ends,” Juliet Funt, CEO of Whitespace at Work, recently told Fast Company. “Folks wake up, grab the laptop from the bedside table, and begin a 10-, 12-, 14-hour alternating cycle, flipping from laptop to kids to laptop to food to laptop, until they pass out over the screen and start the pattern again.”
Managers need to respect employees’ boundaries, too. This means clarifying when employees need to be available, and establishing policies about email and phone access outside of business hours.
Turn to alternate work spaces within your home
One of the hardest parts of working from home is mentally separating work life from, well, everything else. Without the buffer of a commute or designated space of an office, you run the risk of your days melting together into a muddled loop.
In order to combat this, it helps to find a space to work outside your home. In many places, cafes have opened up outdoor spaces, which will be especially pleasant as the summer heat gives way to fall. Parks and public spaces often have free Wi-Fi, as do some campgrounds. Take advantage of the transitioning weather and (safely) get together with friends or colleagues in someone’s backyard.
Depending on where you live, this might not be an option in the winter months—at least not without the aid of a powerful heat lamp—so get out and about while you can. Even if it’s just once or twice per week, getting away from your home can provide a sanity-saving mental break.
Invest in a comfortable setup
Sure, working from the kitchen table while your partner holds conference calls from the closet was a practical solution for a while. But now, it’s time to transition out of survival mode, and think about what you need to be productive in the long-term.
I encourage employees to submit requests for office furniture and supplies that will help them create comfortable work spaces at home. Invest in quality lighting (a favorite is the Dyson Lightcycle, which allows you to customize its color and brightness from an app). A good office chair will make all the difference when it comes to sitting for long stretches at time. Incorporating natural elements, like plants and other soothing design features, can also help you feel more relaxed and focused.
Consider if working from home is the right fit
These days, working from home is thought of as what our future will look like. Google has extended the option through the end of the year. Twitter and Facebook announced that employees can avoid the office forever, if they prefer. But that last part—”if they prefer”—is crucial.
COVID-19 has forced many changes upon us; quarantining for our health and the health of others is one of them. But this, most likely, won’t last forever. And some of us are simply not built to work from home permanently. When deciding whether to eschew the office, it’s helpful to consider the realities of staying home.
One thing to keep in mind is the intensity of your work-from-home experience during the pandemic versus a different time period. Think about how your situation may improve and become more tolerable after a certain time.
For instance, if you’re sharing your space with a significant other or children, how will your environment change if and when they return to work or school? On the other end, people tend to underestimate the value of social interaction. Will staying at home all day hold more appeal once socializing becomes easier?
Whether you thrive off social interaction or prefer it in bite-size doses, focus on your own personal preference and make plans to healthily socialize with intention.
Aytekin Tank is the founder of JotForm, a popular online form builder. Established in 2006, JotForm allows customizable data collection for enhanced lead generation, survey distribution, payment collections, and more.