Tips to Effectively Work from Home

Contributed by Lori Ray.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to sweep the globe, more and more leaders and employees are being encouraged to work from home. How do you transition from an office environment to a productive at-home work station? Whether you are new to this situation, or a more experienced remote worker, below are 7 tips to effectively work from home.

1. Work Environment

Currently, the internet is full of photos from around the world showing creative ways people have set up stations to work from home. I have seen ironing boards, laundry baskets, chairs, and shipping boxes being used as makeshift desks. Whether you have the ability to set up a dedicated work space or you are using a corner of your kitchen table as a desk, here are a few ways to set up an effective work environment.

  • Use a supportive, comfortable chair that promotes good posture. Better yet, stand for part of the working day. Employees that use a standing desk have reported less back pain, improved circulation, and better productivity. While working from the comfort of your bed might sound tantalizing at first, you may quickly find that it is difficult to find a position in bed that allows you to comfortably work all day.
  • Set your monitor about an arm’s length from your body, and just slightly under eye level. If you work with paper documents, use (or create) a document holder that will hold your copy close to your monitor, and at or near the same level.
  • Minimize distractions. While some employees find that music or other noise actually helps them be more productive, a blaring TV, kids playing or fighting, and dogs barking throughout the day can add up to being major distractions. If you can’t get to a separate room, and you find yourself constantly being pulled out of your mental focus and concentration, consider wearing headphones while you work. Communicate to the rest of your family or roommates that when you are at your work station, it is important not to interrupt you.

2. Proper Lighting

While it’s very enjoyable to sit in a nice, sunny room, too much light can cause eye strain. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Bright lighting and too much glare can strain your eyes and make it difficult to see objects on your monitor. The worst problems are generally from sources above or behind you, including fluorescent lighting and sunlight.” What can you do to ensure you have proper lighting?

  • If possible, set up your computer monitor so that sources of sunlight are coming from the side, not in front of or behind you.
  • Partially close drapes or blinds to reduce glare from sunlight, while still enjoying some natural light.
  • Dim overhead lights to a comfortable setting.
  • Don’t go to the extreme of reducing lighting so much that the brightness from your monitor is shining like a beacon in the room. The brightness setting of your monitor should closely match the ambient lighting in your environment.

3. Maintain Routine

While your schedule may be much more flexible than it was when you reported to an office, it is important to maintain some structure. Our human bodies and circadian rhythms thrive on routine. So going to bed and waking at the same time each day, showering and dressing (even if it is casually) every day, eating meals around the same time, and turning off your screens before bed will go a long way to help you thrive as you work from home.

It is also helpful to schedule chunks of time that you will do certain things. For example, you could have a routine where you check emails first thing in the morning, tackle a big project before lunch, handle phone and video calls in the afternoon, and then plan tomorrow’s to do list before signing off for the day.

4. Have a Plan

When you work from home, you may find yourself being pulled in multiple directions. It is hard to concentrate on work when you are constantly thinking of the pile of laundry you need to fold, what’s for dinner, and how badly your walls need touchup paint. Having a dedicated list of work tasks will help you focus during work hours. Popular apps like Microsoft ToDo or iOS Reminders allow you to set up separate lists. With the ability to set reminders and recurring tasks, these tools can do wonders to keep you on track. And, of course, a simple checklist using pen and paper is a tried and true method that always works.

5. Stay Connected

Human and social interactions remain vital to wellbeing. In the absence of face-to-face meetings, take advantage of current technology that allows us to interact virtually. Look into programs such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and FaceTime, as video conferencing will become the new normal for now.

6. Take Breaks

Rather than using your breaks to scroll social media, read endless news articles about Coronavirus, or watch YouTube clips, get away from your desk. To prevent body and eye fatigue, try to stand up every hour. Just a quick walk around the room, a gentle stretch, and taking your eyes away from your monitor for only a few minutes each hour can make a world of difference in the long run. Set a timer or use a smartwatch to remind you when it is time to stand.

Go outside. Step out your front or back door at least once a day to get fresh air and sunshine. Daily sun is beneficial for our physical and mental health. Depending on the timing and duration of your sun exposure, consider if you need to protect your skin with sunscreen.

Take a dedicated lunch break. Regardless of whether you are in an office or work from home, it is important to eat away from your desk. Studies show that taking a lunch break allows your mind to recuperate, making you more productive after lunch. Without giving your brain this chance to recharge, you may find yourself suffering from the dreaded afternoon slump.

7. Set Boundaries

At the end of the day, mentally “clock out” from work. Just because your laptop is sitting on your kitchen table doesn’t mean you should respond to emails during dinner. Close your laptop, silence your phone, and enjoy your evening at home as you would if you had physically left the office.

Stay well, stay positive, and enjoy your time as you work from home!