Working from home can be awesome: more freedom, lunch from your own fridge, conference calls in your sweats. And it was a little more fun working from home when everyone wasn’t doing it (COVID!). But what happens when it isn’t awesome anymore? When you’re slogging through long, lonely working hours from a single room in your house?
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many workers are navigating the shift from office to home. Whether you’re a seasoned telecommuter or a newbie to remote work, here are some small ways to keep things fun and fresh.
1. Get moving
The desk is life for most of us, but we knew that when we signed up for the job. We just didn’t know a global pandemic would force us to spend whole weeks in our homes.
In the office, you might get up to get coffee or to chat with a coworker. When working from home, it can be a little tougher to get moving. Be sure to:
- Take breaks
Never feel bad for needing a break. Experts recommend taking a 15-20 minute break for every 50-90 minutes of work.
Not only will a break give you a fresh perspective on whatever you’re working on at the moment, but it will also prepare you for whatever is next on the to-do list. A fresh outlook can work wonders for your productivity. If you find yourself forgetting to take breaks, schedule them into your day, the same as you would anything else.
- Take walks
Get your blood flowing. Working from home means that you’re almost certainly not getting enough exercise.
Going into the office at least requires a walk to your vehicle and another into the office. And it’s probably a safe bet that you’re not getting the same step count walking from your bed to your home office.
No matter your location, take a walk, even if that walk is during a call, meeting, or just pacing on your front porch. You’ll get a quick shot of Vitamin D, as well as health benefits like improved blood pressure, weight management, reduced risk of heart disease, and better circulation.
You’ll also see mental health improvements. Walking can improve creativity; in fact, a Stanford University study found that walking boosts creative ideation during a walk and shortly after.
- Play with your kids
One perk of working from home is the chance to play with your schedule a little. Give in: You’ll be happier, and your kids will, too.
When school is in session, your likely kids get home before you get off work. During a crisis like COVID-19, your kids might be home with you all the time.
Get up and check on them. Take five minutes to throw a frisbee with them in the driveway. Even if it’s something as small as taking the time to check their homework, you’ll enjoy the time you wouldn’t usually get to bond with your kids.
2. Communicate more
Communication is critical for remote teams. It’s easy for information to get lost without face-to-face interaction, not to mention the inability to read body language or tone of voice.
Schedule regular calls to stay in touch, both for social and professional reasons. Prioritize clarity in the emails and Slacks you send. A team video call in the morning can help keep morale high.
Motivating a remote team can be tricky. Ask team members what they need to be happy and productive at home. Use compliments to show that you’re still paying attention to their work. If a project falls short, hop on the phone. Even if it’s just for 5 minutes, communicating expectations can ease uncertainty and make workflows smoother.
3. Attack the day
Working from home for days on end doesn’t necessarily inspire the carpe diem mentality, but it’s still essential that you seize the day. Lounging around doesn’t promote productivity. When you’re working from home for an extended period, it’s probably time to give the ole’ sweatpants and baseball cap a rest.
Your look doesn’t have to be runway-ready, but you should present yourself as you would if you were headed into any day at the office. If you usually shower before work, you should shower. If you regularly curl your hair or wear makeup, you should do that, too. Whatever your routine — stick to it.
4. Avoid isolation
Most of our adult social interaction is with our team members, especially when we’re practically strapped to our homes. Unfortunately, “hanging with friends” isn’t an essential activity in the eyes of the law.
In terms of mental and physical health, however, social interaction is just as important as exercise. Social interaction (or lack thereof) can even impact a person’s mortality or risk of cancer.
While working from home, you have to work harder to stay in touch. Working harder to keep in touch isn’t a bad thing, per se, but it does mean that you have to be deliberate about regularly reaching out to friends, family, and coworkers. Lean on these people for support and humor when you spend your day alone.
Think of all the fun events you can still do from home: hosting Skype happy hour, where everyone makes their favorite drink at home, holding an office spirit week with themed days, holding daily challenges with friends, such as walking 10,000 steps.
Working from home isn’t so fun when you’re forced into it. But there are plenty of things you can do to keep your life fresh. All you need is a little imagination.