How to Keep Your Sanity When Working From Home
The work from home trend has been on the up and up over the past few years. And now, with the world shaken by COVID-19, more people than ever before are setting up shop at home in an attempt to remain efficient and effective.
Those who have never worked from home are often surprised to learn just how difficult it can be. From distractions to a lack of space, there are a variety of challenges that are sure to move to the forefront. Add all this to keeping your sanity when working in the same place you live, and you have a situation that can quickly take a turn for the worse.
But there’s good news: there are steps you can take to keep your sanity when working from home. It doesn’t mean everything will go as planned — day in and day out — but you’re at least positioning yourself to maintain your sanity.
Here are five tips you should follow:
1. Set Up a Designated Workspace
It doesn’t matter if you’re thrust into working from home or have time to prepare, there’s no denying the challenges of setting up a designated workspace. For those who never had an intention of working from home, it can be tough to find a space that works.
When setting up a designated workspace, you don’t necessarily need a separate room. It’s preferred, as you can then shut yourself off from the rest of your home, as well as other people, but it’s not a necessity.
If you don’t have a designated room — such as a spare bedroom or basement — consider a closet, a nook in your master bedroom, or even your dining room table.
You know how much space you need to work efficiently, so choose something that suits you.
Note: you may need to adjust your approach as the days turn to weeks, so keep an open mind.
2. Talk to Your Family About Boundaries
You’ll have many concerns about working from home. And like most of us, one of your top concerns is how to keep distance between yourself and your loved ones as you attempt to work at peak efficiency.
For instance, how will you keep your children from barging into your office while you’re working on an important project? What will you say to your spouse to keep them from calling your name if they need help with something?
The best approach is to set boundaries early on, such as by sharing your schedule before the day begins.
Maybe you have a job that requires you to be on conference calls for a better portion of your day. Let your family know when they’ll begin and when you’re off the phone. This gives them a better idea of when you’re available to communicate. And of course, it also tells them when to keep noise to a minimum.
If you’re the only person in your home during the day, then running interference from housemates is not a problem. Instead, your primary concern will be loneliness. After all, the only way you have to connect with the outside world is technology, such as email and video conferences.
3. Take Regular Breaks
When you get into a groove, it’s difficult to pull yourself away from your desk to take a break. And for this reason, you may find yourself staring at your computer screen for hours on end, without ever stepping back and giving your mind and body the break it needs to recover.
Everyone is different in regards to how many breaks they need, but you should work these into your schedule before your day even begins.
For example, get into the habit of walking away from your desk for 15 to 30 minutes, at the least, for breakfast and lunch. Adding to this, you shouldn’t eat at your desk. Sure, you’re getting the fuel you need to push on, but you’re not giving your mind a break.
In addition to breaks for food, you should get up and stretch every hour. Even if it’s only five minutes, it’s a great way to “reset” and ensure that your energy remains high throughout the day.
Tip: some people like to take a nap during the day, as there are many benefits of doing so. However, you don’t want to let this interfere with your day. If your cat nap turns into a two to three hour long snooze-fest, you’re wasting a lot of time. Protect against this by setting an alarm.
At first, you may find it difficult to take regular breaks. However, once you work these into your schedule, you’ll realize just how important it is to your health and well-being.
4. Get Some Fresh Air
When you always have access to your work, it’s often a challenge to pull yourself out of your home. This is particularly true right now, with COVID-19 making it difficult to spend much, if any time, outside of your home.
Fresh air is essential to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. If you stay inside, day after day, it’ll eventually take a toll on your mental state. And when that happens, you can expect your physical health to fall off, too.
Find ways to get fresh air throughout your work day. For example, when you’re taking those short five minute breaks, do so outside your home. Breathe in the air, walk around the block once and simply enjoy the sunlight.
And when your workday comes to an end, consider outdoor activities that’ll bring joy to your life. It’s your reward for a good day’s work. This can be anything from a long bike ride to a jog around your community.
You don’t always realize it, but fresh air is critical to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Don’t let this slip your mind.
5. Eat a Healthy Diet
One thing is for sure: when working at home, you’re more likely to snack. And when snacking, you don’t always have your health in mind. Instead, you’re tempted to feed your face with sweet treats, salty chips, and anything else that puts a smile on your face.
It’s okay to indulge every now and again, but you don’t want to make this a big part of your daily life. If you eat poorly, you’ll feel poorly. And when you get into this downward spiral, it can be difficult to break free.
Eating a healthy diet is critical to maintaining your physical and mental health. Opt for healthy treats that’ll make you look and feel your best. When you feel your best, you’re in a better position to excel at your job.
Tip: vary your diet so that you don’t get tired of eating the same thing.
Mistakes to Avoid
By now, you have a better understanding of the steps you can take to maintain your sanity when working from home.
With those in mind, let’s review some of the most common mistakes that work-from-home professionals make:
- Staying at your desk all day, because you think you’ll miss something by taking breaks
- Mixing your personal and professional lives to the point of it dragging down the quality of your work
- Focusing on your physical health, such as by working out, but neglecting your mental health
On the downside, there’s a good chance you’ll make one or more of these mistakes as someone who is new to working from home.
But on the other side of the equation, you can learn from every mistake you make. For instance, if you’re in the habit of passing over break times, it only takes one day to break the mold and prove to yourself that taking a break benefits your energy and concentration.
Just the same as anything else in your life, practice makes perfect. If you make a mistake, learn from it and change your ways.
If you’re working from home now like millions of other people, these are the types of steps you can take to keep your sanity.
It’s a major adjustment at first, but you have what it takes to make it work. Who knows, there may even come a point when you realize that you’re more productive working at home than your space at the office.
Do you have any experience working from home? Do you enjoy it? What steps do you take to work efficiently, all while maintaining your mental health?
Chris B. is a freelance writer and digital marketing consultant based in Pittsburgh, PA. When he’s not creating content, Chris enjoys watching sports, working in the yard, and spending time with his family.