Working from home may seem liberating – you do not have to get ready or commute to work, and you can stay in your “home clothes” all day and work from your bed. However, the remote work lifestyle isn’t all that rosy. In fact, the lack of structure can take a toll on our mental health, many people suffer depression and work from home burnout as a result. Humans are creatures of habit, and if we do not have a daily schedule, we may feel lost and directionless. That is why having a daily work at home schedule can instil some structure to your day. Here are a few of Working Den’s best tips to set up a sustainable working schedule to help you reap the benefits of working from home.
Set office hours
Without a commute or a physical space that sets clear boundaries between “work” and “home, it is difficult to have a sense of structure to your day. That is why setting office hours is important to install that structure. It can feel a bit silly to have “office hours” when you don’t work in an office, but without it, work can bleed into your personal time and negatively affect your mental health and well-being.
Remote working also demands that you stay connected and be responsive, and more often than not you will get messages well into the evening and during weekends. Having a set working from home schedule is also useful for your team and co-workers, so they can manage their expectations about your responsiveness outside of working hours. Knowing when work ends and when relaxation can begin will also help you maintain motivation throughout the day, and organise your projects and meetings so that you can wind down and turn your “work brain” off when work is over.
When it is time to “go to work,” get yourself ready by changing out of your pyjamas and bring yourself to a designated workspace. These activities, although seemingly pointless, can actually help your brain transition from a “home mentality” to a “work mentality” and get you in the zone for productivity.
Understand your productive hours
Productive hours are when you do your best work, you may find yourself in a state of “flow” and get more things done during this time. It is a myth that you have to be a morning person to be productive, in fact, everyone’s productive hours are different. You may do your best work early in the morning, in the afternoon after a workout, or at night when it is calm and quiet.
Don’t try to follow any formula from productivity gurus, it may not work for you. Instead, reflect on your previous projects and form a daily schedule around your most productive hours. Understanding your working style and your productivity hours will maximise your time and minimise your frustrations with work, and it may also free up your time to do other activities you enjoy!
Let’s face it, remote working can be distracting. If you like to work in your pyjamas, at your kitchen table, a few steps away from your phone, your fridge or your television and without the watchful eyes of your boss, you may find it difficult to focus on the task at hand. You may do work for a few minutes and then spend the next hour snacking while looking at social media. Sounds familiar?
The key to productivity while working from home is knowing your distracting factors and limiting their presence around your office space. If your phone is too distracting, turn off irrelevant notifications, or if you are not expecting a phone call, turn your phone off altogether and commit to not look at it until your break. Similarly, if the snacks in your pantry are calling to you, try to set up a working space far away from your kitchen, perhaps in your living room, home office, or garden. Reducing the distractions in your environment can help put you in the right headspace to be more productive and get more done.
Schedule regular breaks
Humans are not machines – we need regular breaks to stretch our bodies, reset our brains to prevent stress, and perhaps even reward our hard work with some snacks and fresh air. Short breaks in between tasks can also be a motivating factor to help you get work done faster and focus better! A good working from home routine plans for regular breaks throughout the day to help you do just that.
If needed, you can use a pomodoro timer to schedule your breaks: focus on work for 45 minutes, and take a 15-minute break in between. During this break, it is important that you remove yourself physically from your desk to temporarily “turn off” work thoughts. We recommend taking this time to stretch, play with your pet or take a short walk outside. Removing yourself from work is a good mental break to help you relax and come back with fresh ideas, and it will also help you manage burnout.
Reward productivity with something you enjoy
Humans are more motivated by incentives. There are external incentives, like physical rewards that you get after finishing work, or intrinsic incentives, like a sense of accomplishment that you get while doing work. If you find it difficult to feel motivated about work and be more productive, include an activity you enjoy in your daily schedule as a reward.
A reward does not have to be expensive or even physical. If you enjoy working out, a relaxing bath, family time, or dinner with friends, try to schedule those activities after working hours. Including these “rewards” in your daily schedule will give you something to look forward to after work. In fact, this kind of reward can motivate your brain to be more productive during the day, and give you a sense of accomplishment and fulfilment. Adding a rewarding activity to your schedule is a perfect way to wrap up your day.