It sounds like a dream: skipping the rush hour road rage, the micromanaging boss and those 8 hours at a fluorescent-lit cubicle. But it’s a dream come true for those joining the rapidly growing work from home (WFH) trend. As of last year, about 43 percent of Americans reported that they were working from home from 3 to 5 days a week.
On the flip side, sitting in your empty house all day with only your cat as a gossip partner and no one to grab lunch with can quickly become demotivating and exhausting. Some studies report that WFHers grapple with greater levels of stress because there is no defined limit on the hours they can put in—working from home often means spending more than 8 hours a day in front of the screen, even on weekends and holidays.
Should you find yourself pining away for various aspects of the traditional workplace, you can always install a fluorescent light bulb in your home office. But for the other less tangible factors that you’ve come to know and love about the office environment, here are a few strategies to keep yourself from going bonkers while working from home:
Set work limits
Establishing a limit on the hours of work you do per day is critical to preventing burnout. If you work from home for a company and are supposed to be available during their business hours, stick to that schedule and only that schedule. If you’re working for yourself and putting in 16-hour days, seven days a week—well, realize that this isn’t sustainable. Set an alarm on your phone, set the oven timer, have your friend or mom give you a call—whatever it is, force yourself to take breaks often to walk the dog, get groceries, do laundry or dishes, go for a run, meditate or doodle in your coloring book.
Change up your scenery
Working from home doesn’t mean you always have to work from your house. Some people have the opposite problem of not being able to concentrate on work—and prefer to spend all day tackling household chores or playing with the dog or checking social media. In that case, you need to get yourself to a cafe, library or co-working space, which can help you focus as you would in an office setting.
Update: In times like these, i.e. Coronavirus (COVID-19) mandated WFH status, changing the your scenery can be harder said than done. Try setting up multiple workspaces (if you can) or make sure you can transition from sitting to standing positions at the very least.
Go forth and mingle
Socializing with colleagues, or at least being around other adult humans (not your kids or pets) is what many WFHers tend to miss the most. But there are ways to keep yourself from becoming a lonely hermit-like getting out of the house to work in a different space. You can also make lunch plans with any stay at home parents you know or with other office-going friends who take their lunch break nearby. Find out if you know anyone who is part of the ‘work from home’ club, and meet up with them for lunches and co-working sessions at cafes or each other’s homes. Try Meetup to seek out other WFH people.
Update: Can’t leave the house, utilize Facetime or apps like Houseparty to stay social and interact with friends and family.
Leave that device alone
We know you’ve heard it before, but to maintain your mental health, especially when you work from home, you’ve got to spend sufficient time offline every day. Don’t wake up and jump into your emails and social media accounts. Ease into your day—you’re going to be plugged in for hours, so may as well enjoy your screen-free moments while you can. Then once you’ve reached your established limit of work hours (see above) for the day, turn off your devices. When you’re done, you’re done. Going offline for the entire weekend, or whatever days you can take off, is seriously revitalizing too.
Perks will do you good
You know all those cool perks that many Silicon Valley companies offer their employees? Working from home means you too can have cool perks! Take a break for yoga or a nap in the zen room? Check. Bring your dog to work? Check. Yummy but healthy snacks anytime you want? Check. Notice that these neat corporate perks have a focus on maintaining employee health and happiness—because happy and healthy employees are productive employees.
The work from home can be life-changing, and once you’ve got a taste of the flexibility and freedom that this setup has to offer, you may never want to go back. Just be sure to leave the house once in awhile.
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