I like to joke that Briggs Financial has been preparing for coronavirus since we first began doing business in January 2018. That’s because from the beginning, my firm’s office has been in my home – I’ve been working from home for over two years now, and enjoy the lifestyle tremendously. However, for many people including yourself, this will be your first foray into working from home for an extended period of time. Just in the last few days, I have already seen my friends commenting about how stir-crazy they are starting to get, and that’s just a few days. This could extend for months. To that end, I have created a list of habits, tips, and tricks to help make working from home easier long-term.
1. Shower and dress just like you are going to the office.
One of the biggest mistakes I see people do when it comes to working from home is trying to treat it like vacation. They often don’t shower and dress in sleepwear, and while in theory this sounds wonderful, it also leads to other “let it go” habits, like eating poorly, sleeping poorly. These are things that can result in you becoming more susceptible to getting sick, not to mention not perform your best work. Respect yourself and your work – make sure to shower and dress for success.
2. Schedule routine activities and follow the plan
It is very easy when there isn’t necessarily a boss looming over you or a team surrounding you to just kinda do things – whenever. The problem with this is that when you take a “whenever” approach, you’re likely not going to prioritize consistently the work that needs to get done AND you won’t prioritize taking care of yourself. Block out lunches and breaks. Block out times for work to get done, and try to keep these as consistent as possible with what your normal life is like. Use a calendar program to help with this – my Google calendar spells out my day, taking that stress of “what should I be doing now” off my plate.
3. Speaking of breaks – Make sure to take them!
Breaks are important not just mentally, but physically as well. Working from home tends to involve less activity than an office setting, and even office settings can be brutal on heart health. I like to take 15-minute breaks every hour and a half, and in those breaks I’ll incorporate some physical activity in them. Sometimes I do some chores around the house, and sometimes I load up a quick aerobic fitness video on a streaming platform. Make sure to take breaks – it is important for your health!
4. Block out space for your work environment
As Instagram-friendly as it looks to curl up on your couch with freshly made coffee and a laptop, this is not likely going to be the best way to get work done. Living rooms are typically shared spaces, so distractions and disruptions run rampant. Try your best to put a desk somewhere away from typical traffic flows at home. That said, when I first started working as a financial planner, my work space was typically the kitchen table. The way to make it work if you have to use a shared space for your work is to schedule time for everyone else to stay away from that space while you’re getting work done. Bottom line: It’s best if you can work in a separate office space at home, but if you can’t, then everyone needs to work together by respecting your need to work and giving you the room to do so.
5. DO get out of the house – Just be smart about it
Getting out of the house and getting fresh air is a vital part of making working from home work. The key in these times is to be avoiding groups of people, where you may contract disease. Going to the park for a walk or run is a healthy habit both physically and mentally – even 30 minutes a day of a brisk walk can help maintain heart health and perhaps a bit of sanity.
6. Schedule time blocks for TV, streaming, and social media – including turning them OFF
Working from home makes it very easy to keep the news on, to binge watch shows, and to constantly check social media accounts. All of these things add layers of stimulation – and frankly stress – to the day. We already average a TON of screen time – well over 3 hours a day, with the top 20% of users averaging in excess of 4.5 hours – and that’s just our phones. Increasing this means digesting more negative news headlines, more arguing with strangers on the Internet, more buying things at a whim from Amazon – more of all the things we really don’t need more of in our lives.
It is critical that as easy and tempting as it may be to let these devices run “in the background” during the day, to do yourself emotionally a big favor and turn them off far more than you keep them on. Notice that I am not making a “productivity” argument here. I am making an appeal to your mental and emotional (and okay, a bit of your financial) health here. Schedule your screen time and then stick to the schedule.