If you’re working from home, you’re probably working by yourself, in a vacuum. This is especially true if you’re self-employed, running your own business or freelancing. There are some major benefits to this arrangement, allowing you to focus on your work without interruptions and giving you more flexibility to handle the demands of your personal life, but there are also some drawbacks.
Notably, your morale can quickly decline. If you’re working for yourself, there isn’t anyone above you to monitor and improve your morale; there won’t be a supervisor to throw your team a congratulatory party when you reach a goal, or a boss to give you a bonus when you achieve exceptional performance in a given year. And even if you are working for an organization, working in a solitary environment can get depressing after a while.
The solution is that you have to take charge to improve your own morale. But why is this so important, and how can you do it?
Morale and Productivity
There’s a positive correlation between morale and productivity, which makes intuitive sense, but the data verify this effect. Employees who believe they have a good work-life balance are 21 percent more productive than those who don’t. Employees who work fewer hours end up getting more done in each of those hours. Those who feel good on a regular basis, and report positive or neutral mental health end up taking fewer sick days, which means more time to commit positive work.
Whatever your goals are, productivity is going to be a part of them. If you can increase your morale, you won’t just feel better, you’ll work better, and you’ll be more likely to achieve your vision.
What steps can you take to improve your own morale?
1. Invest in a Better Workspace
If you’re going to be happy at work, you need to be happy with your workspace, and if you’re working from home, that means investing in a more enjoyable home office. You’re going to spend hundreds or even thousands of hours in this space, so you need to be comfortable in every dimension.
For starters, make sure your home office is separated from the rest of your house; you need to separate your work life from your home life, even in the context of your home. Designate a specific room to use only for work, or segment a section of a room with a door or curtain to give yourself some professional privacy.
Then, splurge on some furniture and equipment that can make your job easier. Having an ergonomic chair, a beautiful desk, and a sufficiently powerful computer can make any job easier to deal with even on the worst days. You can also add little touches, like an oil diffuser for your favorite scent or good speakers to play your favorite background music.
2. Venture Out to a Coworking Space
Coworking spaces are becoming more popular, in line with the increase in remote working opportunities, and they’re valuable opportunities to boost your morale. Working in the same place over and over can leave you with a feeling of ennui or a lack of stimulation, and working by yourself can leave you feeling lonely (even if you like the idea of focusing on your solitary work). Coworking spaces give you a nice change of scenery (usually with a lucrative work station setup) as well as the opportunity to engage with other like-minded professionals. There might be a fee involved, but it’s usually worth it. For more periodic changes in scenery, consider heading to a café.
3. Work Outside When Possible
Working outside can also provide a hearty boost to your morale, given the weather is suitable to do so. Like going to a coworking space or café, working outside gives you a chance to your typical environment. It also gives you a chance to feel the warmth of sunlight upon you, and breathe fresh air. People who spend more time outdoors are at reduced risk of depression and tend to report higher feelings of happiness and optimism. Just bring a mobile hotspot or be prepared to do some offline work while you’re out.
4. Mind How You Collaborate
If you’re part of a remote team, either as a leader or collaborator, consider refining how you collaborate with others. Much of your morale is going to depend upon how you engage with other people (and whether you engage at all).
When it comes to the actual work you’re doing, you can improve your morale by choosing communication channels that are as clear and appropriate for whatever message you want to convey; for example, phone calls and teleconferences are better for hashing out complex issues, while emails are better for relaying instructions or documenting new changes. Using a mix of both can improve the efficiency of your communications and leave you feeling more satisfied.
Outside of work, you may boost your morale by having more personal interactions with your team. For example, if you work in the same city, you can have periodic in-person gatherings for dinner or drinks. If you don’t live in the same city, you could arrange an occasional meetup at some point central to all of you.
If you work mostly alone and don’t engage with many other people, it’s important to find some other way to collaborate with other people, such as a social hobby. Excessive isolation, even for the most introverted among us, will eventually result in lower morale.
5. Take Time Off
This is one of the most essential strategies you can use since it will help you avoid burnout, reduce stress, and spend more time doing what you want to do. When working from home, you’ll often have some degree of control over your schedule, so make sure you specifically schedule breaks and vacation days.
If you’re self-employed and highly motivated, you’ll be tempted to work as long as possible. When you have the option for a break, you’ll convince yourself you can go just a little bit longer, and you’ll avoid vacations since if you take one, your income could temporarily plummet. However, it’s vital that you treat your breaks and vacations the way you’d treat a work meeting or crucial industry event; schedule them proactively, and prioritize them above your other work.
There isn’t a “right” or “wrong” way to take breaks or a minimum number of breaks to take, but do try to take at least one full-fledged vacation, with multiple days off, every year. And try not to work more than a few hours at a time without at least a few minutes to decompress.
Physical exercise is remarkably beneficial for both your physical and mental health.
Committing to just 20 minutes of exercise a day can help you reduce stress, increase your energy, and stay in good mental shape. Even better, try to exercise in the middle of your workday, so you can get the short-term benefits of the energy boost while also having a good excuse to take a prolonged break.
Exercising before work (for the energy increase) or after work (to relieve stress) may also suit you well.
7. Shake Things Up
Repetition and lack of stimulation will almost always result in decreased morale; if you do the same things every day, and in the same way, it’s eventually going to get to you, even if you thrive on predictability and order. Accordingly, you can keep your morale high by shaking things up on occasion.
How you do that is entirely up to you, and dependent on what kind of work you do. You could, for example, change the types of tasks you usually delegate, take on different types of clients, or rearrange your schedule occasionally.
8. Keep a Journal
In the course of your work, it’s also wise to start keeping a journal. It doesn’t have to be in-depth or complex; sometimes, even a simple record of how you felt throughout the day is enough to be valuable.
This serves a few important purposes. For starters, writing about how you feel is a form of catharsis;
- By specifically acknowledging your stress and negative emotions, they become less powerful, and you become more capable of understanding them.
- Second, you’ll keep tabs on how your thoughts and feelings develop in response to certain variables. For example, when you have an increased workload, do you feel hopeless and tired of your job? If so, that’s a sign you need to spend more time delegating, or evening your workload across multiple weeks. This is especially important if you feel yourself struggling with low morale.
Morale is a tricky business, especially when you’re managing it for yourself, but once you master the fundamentals and learn which strategies work best for you, you’ll find yourself working with renewed vigor—and little to no risk of eventually burning out. Even better, you’ll be able to get more done every day and feel better about your work at the end of your shift.
Student at UC Berkeley, currently working on a degree in Electrical Engineering/Computer Sciences and Business Administration. Experienced in CSX, productivity management, and chatbot implementation.