These days,working from home is no longer the exception, it’s the norm. According to data, up to 42% of the US workforce now call their home as their primary full time office.
With such a dramatic change in environment comes a lot of adjusting for WFH workers. We’ve compiled a few of the most important rules to follow to ease the transition.
Stick to a Routine
Edgar Rice Burroughs got it right when he said that humans are creatures of habits. By having a routine, things simply take less effort and time. This is especially important to remember when you’re working from home, where it is very easy to arbitrarily alter your own routine, and ruin both your health and productivity in the process.
As humans we all have an internal clock that affects our cortisol, melatonin and insulin production. This is responsible for how our energy fluctuates throughout the day.
By sticking to a routine and maintaining a good work-life balance, you’ll avoid burnouts and be even more productive at home.
Identify when you’re most productive and build your schedule around it. If your peak productivity hours are in the morning, try to finish your difficult tasks during that time. Then, you can take it easy in the afternoon with the simple tasks.
Having a pre-work routine is very effective in getting you into work mode. For some, this means going for a quick jog, taking a shower, or even getting dressed as if you’re going to the office.
Likewise, a transition ritual will help you turn off your work mode. This could be something like making a to-do list for the next day and straightening your workspace.
Once your work hours are done, refrain from doing anything work-related. This includes checking work-related emails, updates, and messages.
Uphold your Regular Sleep Schedule
Just as it’s important to maintain a sense of regularity during the times you’re awake, going to bed and waking up at the same time every day is also crucial. Having a regular sleep pattern is beneficial for both your physical and mental health.
For people working from home, it’s very tempting to burn the midnight oil and work late into the night, knowing perhaps you can just wake up later in the morning the next day. Resist at all costs!
Our bodies have something called a circadian rhythm, a natural process which regulates our sleep-wake cycle in a period of roughly 24 hours.
According to Dr. Michael Breus, author of the “The Power of When”, there are 4 chronotypes in general:
Wolf - Wolves are nocturnals. They have two productivity spikes which are noon to 2 PM and later again in the evening.
Lion - If you’re a lion, you prefer waking up early and having an action-packed morning. You’re exhausted when evening comes so you hit the sack early.
Bear - Bears are the most common type. They have a circadian rhythm that follows day and night. Bears sleep well and are ready to tackle difficult tasks mid-morning. Come mid-afternoon, they have a big dip in energy levels.
Dolphin - People in this chronotype are light sleepers and may or may not have a sleep routine. They work best from mid-morning through early afternoon.
You can take the sleep rhythm quiz to find out which category you belong to and when you’re most productive to adjust your sleep schedule accordingly.
Once you’ve identified your circadian rhythm, it’s crucial that you preserve it. Common culprits that can disrupt this sleep-wake cycle are:
Frequent work shift changes
Frequent changes in the time you go to sleep and wake
Lack of sunlight exposure
Poor sleep hygiene
When you’re working from home, it’s especially important to have good sleeping habits.
Get some sunlight. This is the strongest circadian cue.
Limit artificial light exposure from electronic devices two hours before your bedtime.
Keep afternoon naps quick and early.
Meditation in the evenings can help you clear your mind before going to sleep.
Have a good sleep environment with comfortable sheets and pillows, dim lights, the right temperature, and no noise.
Do relaxing activities before bed like taking a warm bath, drinking something warm, or reading.
Don’t vary your sleep and wake schedule.
Don’t drink caffeine past noon.
Work in a Designated Spot in the Home
Having a dedicated space or separate laptop in your home that’s purely for work helps you get into the right frame of mind to do your tasks. However, this isn’t exactly practical for those with small homes or don’t have the budget to buy a separate device.
Here are some things that you can try instead:
Dedicate a desk and some peripherals for work. For example, when you’re using this desk and your laptop is on a stand and hooked to an external keyboard, this is work time. When you’re using the laptop anywhere else in the house and on your laptop, it’s personal time.
Get a proper chair that will actually support your body properly as you work.
Partition your hard drive and create another user account for work. This account should be free from software and games that distract you.
Once you’ve set it up, commit to only using this space or machine for work.
Avoid Distractions and Time-Wasters
When you’re working from home, there are plenty of things that can take your focus away from work. Family members, social media, household chores, and unwanted noise are just a few examples.
For a lot of people, it’s hard to get back into that work mode once you get distracted. You become less productive and have to spend more time than necessary to complete your tasks.
Constantly checking work-related emails
Only read and respond to work-related emails at the start of your work hours, before meal breaks, and before your work hours end. Switch to do not disturb mode or log out.
Social media and web surfing
Log out your accounts before your work starts or turn off all notifications. If your willpower is lacking, install StayFocusd or Freedom.
Set ground rules for your family members. Inform them of your work hours and what they can and can’t do during this time.
Don’t let yourself get taken advantage of just because you’re home. Divide household chores between family members and include your share in your daily schedule.
Invest in noise-cancelling headphones. You can also try wearing earplugs under your headphones to get some peace and quiet.
Once you identify what is sucking up all your time, you can begin addressing the culprit and watch your productivity skyrocket.