How to Work From Home Without Going Stir Crazy
Updated: Aug 11
YOU NEED TO EXPERIMENT
The very first thing to remember when you’re establishing a new routine of working from home is that what works best will totally vary from person to person. You’ll need to find what helps you stay focused, engaged and productive and that’s going to take a little time and experimentation. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you’re getting started.
CREATE A SEPARATE WORKSPACE
It’s helpful to have an area in your home that mentally prepares you for being in work mode. It doesn’t have to be a dedicated office with a door (thankfully, since that’s often impossible in small living spaces). But it should be an area that’s designated for work and not a place you normally go to relax like your bed or your sofa. It could be a small table set up in a corner of the living room or bedroom, or a laptop at the end of your kitchen counter. Ideally, it will be a place where there aren’t too many distractions (the TV or bed are going to call to you eventually) and that you can set up in a way that your brain and other members of your household can clearly see is designated for work. All that said, if you really think you can be productive with a laptop on your sofa, then go ahead and try it, but just remember, you’re going to have to experiment a little to figure out what really works best.
ESTABLISH A DAILY ROUTINE
In our 24/7 technology culture, working from home can create a non-stop feeling of being on the clock. While its nice to be able to create your own schedule and not feel the pressure of needing to be at your desk by 9am on the dot, not having designated on and off times can quickly lead to a lack of work/life balance and ultimately can lead to feeling burnt out. If you can, try to start work around the same time every day and designate a time when you’re officially off the clock (Cue the whistle!)
In addition to scheduling a start and stop time, make sure to incorporate breaks into your day. This is where the advantages of working from home come in! But don’t just use your breaks to throw in a load of laundry or wash the dishes -- doing something pleasant is also important. But beware the difficulty of pulling yourself back from “just one episode” of that show you’ve been binge watching. Whatever you choose to do with your time on your breaks should be easy to put aside again when its time to get back to work. It’s also important to try to get outside at least once during your workday to get a little fresh air and move your body.
DON’T SOCIALLY ISOLATE
One of the nice things about working in an office is the regular interaction you get to have with other people. Working from home can get lonely, even if you’re regularly in video meetings with colleagues. You’re going to notice quickly how many fewer social interactions you have each day unless you actively make sure to reach out to chat socially with friends and colleagues. Why not try calling a colleague each morning for a brief call to say hi or send a quick message when ordinarily you might have stopped by someone’s desk on your way back from the bathroom.
MAKE SURE YOU HAVE THE RESOURCES YOU NEED
This one might seem obvious, but until you actually start working from home you might not think of all the things you actually need to get your job done. For example, you obviously need a decent computer to work from home, but do you also need to have a large monitor, or two? Is your internet connection fast enough for those video meetings even when your son or daughter is watching Netflix in the other room? Noise cancelling headphones, all the software programs you normally use, a good cell connection, these are just the beginning of what you might need to think about to make sure you're able to stay productive.
BE SURE TO END THE DAY
So hopefully you will have gotten a lot of productive work done, taken social breaks to connect with colleagues, and have gotten up to stretch here and there throughout the day -- but as a final strategy, I think it’s important to have some kind of a ritual to designate that it’s the end of your workday and the beginning of your time off. One way to do this is to physically leave your house at least for a few minutes at the end of each day. Other options might be to take a shower or bath to unwind or call a friend to debrief and tell them about your day. Whatever you choose, it’s important to officially end each day.
Written by: Erin Olivo, PhD