In mid-March, we implemented a work-from-home policy for our administrative staff here at The Group in order to protect the health and wellbeing of our employees and the community at large. However, our technology has empowered us to work remotely and conduct virtual walkthroughs, video conferencing, digital contracts, and more. We are working tirelessly to provide for our clients, many of whom have also found themselves working from home (and often, parenting and homeschooling at the same time!).
To help us all through this new work-from-home lifestyle, Holly Ragsdale — a friend and colleague of ours — recently shared some tips for remote work on her blog, Lessen. In this post, which has been slightly altered from her original post, How to Create a Routine + Take Care of Yourself While Working From Home, Holly shares some practical tips to make this transition easier for us all below.
In the last couple of months, hundreds of thousands of people across the country — and the world — have made a sudden pivot to remote work, as precautions surrounding the coronavirus have dramatically increased. While some find themselves with the tools and setting to make this change feasible, others have become overwhelmed by the implications this may have for their productivity, mental health and overall wellbeing.
To assist with this transition, I put together a list of my tried-and-true tips for working from home, centered on creating structure and a specific routine — and many ways to care for yourself while you adjust to your new work from home lifestyle. I’ve worked from home for 2.5 years and have tested out a variety of methods and strategies to make working from home…work for me.
NOTE: This guide is specific to working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020. Many details are only applicable to this situation, including terms like “curbside pickup” and “social distancing.”
Although it is a small detail, this trick has completely changed my work from home experience. A while back, I decided to make my wakeup time 7 a.m. every single day — no exceptions. This blocked off two whole hours for myself (more on how I fill that time later!) and made my body accustomed to waking up at that time. Your body craves routine and rhythm, and going to bed and waking up at the same time does wonders for your internal clock and mental wellbeing. So yes, this unfortunately means you can no longer push the snooze button.
Pro Tip: Having a spouse or roommate on the same schedule helps tremendously when you’re tempted to sleep in! Decide on a wakeup time you both agree on and hold each other accountable on those sleepy days.
The experience of making coffee and drinking it is sometimes one of the reasons I get out of bed in the morning…amongst other reasons, such as my husband, our dog, the sunshine, etc.! Invest in a quality coffee brewing system (my go-to is Chemex!) to brew a good cup — or two.
Pro Tip: Pick up a bag of beans from your favorite local shop online — or at their location if they’re serving curbside coffee. This is a great way to support small businesses during this difficult time!
This is probably on every “work from home” guide that exists — but for good reason. While it may be tempting to feel sloth-like, it’s important to make a conscious effort to get dressed in real clothes every day. I have worn sweats and a sweatshirt on a handful of days, and they have been my least favorite days. You don’t have to get dressed in a pencil skirt or slacks, but just putting on real pants and a normal shirt can go a long way in helping you feel awake, productive and generally happy. “Look good, feel good” has never been more apparent to me than it is now. I’m not saying I put on makeup every day; in fact, I hardly ever wear makeup during the week! But for some reason, putting fresh clothes on when I wake up helps me transition immediately from sleep mode to work mode.
Pro Tip: Wear the same thing every day, or alternate between two outfits. This eliminates decision fatigue in the morning and helps you cut down on laundry. And who is going to see you anyway?
It may sound obvious, but trust me — after several days of working from home, you know exactly why this is on the list. It’s easy to forget basic hygiene when you’re spending so much time inside. Spending five minutes in front of the bathroom sink, brushing your teeth, washing your face and putting on deodorant can go a long way in preserving your sense of dignity and wellbeing.
Pro Tip: Keep it simple! The less friction you have, the more likely you are to keep up this habit. I have a three-step skin care system that takes me about 1 minute to do.
As long as you practice social distancing, create a “commute” for yourself by going on a quick walk through your neighborhood — even if it’s 10 or 20 minutes long! You could turn on a podcast or an audiobook, listen to music, or simply enjoy the peace and quiet of your surroundings as you transition into your work day. A brisk walk in the sunshine (or even the rain!) goes a long way in improving your mood, as endorphins are released in your brain.
Pro Tip: Listen to NBC News Radio’s Front Page Fort Collins podcast (available on Spotify) to stay up-to-date with the latest news on both the local and national scale. This local podcast includes short, 2-minute episodes with national updates hourly and local news as it happens.
If you have a creative hobby, it’s wise to carve out some time for yourself to pursue said hobby before the work day begins. Because writing is my hobby and my job, I like to set aside at least 30 minutes for personal writing before I start work. Otherwise, I would not have enough energy or creativity left at the end of the work day to dedicate to the things I love to do.
Pro Tip: Although I do this in the evenings, the morning is also an excellent time to spend time meditating, doing yoga or practicing “morning pages” before work begins!
While I do love me some couch potato-ing, creating a dedicated workspace is important. Make a space that forces you to sit upright, so you’re positioned how you would be in an office. There’s something about this setup that helps you feel a bit less groggy throughout the day — and trust me, by 2 p.m., you’ll need all the structure and help you can get.
Pro Tip: If your company allows, ask for a monitor setup to make computer work easier. Dual monitors help you multitask with different windows — and help you avoid neck strain caused by looking down all day.
I don’t have a dedicated “desk,” because my work completely exists on a computer. There’s just no need for paper, a filing cabinet, staplers, paperclips or any traditional office supplies. And when I switched to working at a coworking space at the beginning of this year, I donated the desk I had set up in our guest room. So while I’m working from home once again, I set up a temporary desk on our dining table for both my husband and I to use, and it works perfectly. Plus, having a simple setup helps me keep it super clean. There are less things to dust, wipe down and worry about getting out of order.
Pro Tip: Add a houseplant or candle to make your workspace more inviting and full of life!
In our hustle-forward society, it’s tempting to fall into the sad desk lunch lifestyle (and believe me, I know there are hectic days that call for that!), but overall, you should carve out a substantial lunch break — even if your kitchen is just steps away from your computer. Use this unexpected work from home time to establish a good diet, eat whole foods and be more intentional with your meals. And as much as you can, avoid scrolling through your phone during this time to give yourself a true break from screens!
Pro Tip: Eat your lunch outside for some much-needed Vitamin D! Just because you’re quarantining, doesn’t mean you can’t dine al fresco (while keeping a safe distance from others, of course).
I’m only kind of serious. This may not be an option for everyone, but I figured it was worth mentioning how vital our dog has been in my overall contentment while working from home. Even just having another living being in the room with you can instill a sense of peace and comfort. Plus, letting her outside at noon is a natural reminder for me to stand up and take a walk or spend a few minutes in the backyard! Dogs truly are the best coworkers. Ours curls up next to me on the couch or under my feet at the desk, reminding me that I’m not alone. Now, if only she could master those spreadsheets…
Pro Tip: Many animal shelters need foster parents or adopted parents during this time! Not only can you help a dog or cat find a forever home, but could there be a better time to adopt? Your time spent at home could be used for potty training and adjusting to life with a new dog or cat.
If your schedule allows, take a quick walk around the neighborhood (for the reasons mentioned in the “commute” section). We stare at screens all day, and this is an opportunity to take a break from emails and pixels, stretch your legs, get some fresh air, soak up the sun, and let your mind wander.
Pro Tip: Leave your phone behind if you can! We tend to pacify ourselves with our phones during those in-between times, so it’s important to detach ourselves from this 24/7 connection.
Good playlists propel me through each work day. I can zone out to an album or playlist I’ve heard a million times, but new and exciting music has a tendency to distract me, as I’m tuned into each note and lyric (that’s the beauty of novelty, folks!). So I like to relisten to familiar albums and playlists that get me in the zone, like Electronic Focus, Dreampop, Deep Focus or Electronic Study Music. While many of these have new songs added regularly, it’s the trancy familiarity that helps me stay focused during work.
Pro Tip: If your workday includes tasks like creating spreadsheets, organizing lists, etc., you could delve into a podcast to help the time fly! One of my recent favorites is The Happiness Lab with Dr. Laurie Santos, and is a great listen when a task I am doing doesn’t require as much deep focus.
Staying in communication with your team is a vital component of a successful work from home experience. I was fortunate enough to have worked with my team for nearly two years before working remotely. And although we worked in the same building, we had already established and used a chat system, since it was much easier to communicate that way. Most of our conversation is sending links to relevant articles, asking quick questions, or simply chatting about life updates. So it was a pretty seamless transition when I logged into Microsoft Teams when we moved 1,158 miles away. If you are working from home, this is one of the best ways to feel connected to your team and maintain a steady line of communication, even if it is just about your dinner plans. This is a digital replacement for that office small talk that can go a long way in increasing workplace happiness. And more importantly, it helps you do your job. It is the easiest and most efficient way to get answers to questions as they arise.
Pro Tip: If someone at your office has not already organized this, create a weekly or biweekly virtual happy hour or movie night!
As easy as it is to let work time bleed into your dinner time, since your “office” is just steps from your living room or kitchen, make a conscious effort to close down all operations when the work day is over. Sure, there are exceptions and times when the work just has to be done, but on an average day, don’t feel guilty for walking away when the clock strikes 5:00.
Pro Tip: Transition into the evening with an at-home virtual happy hour — and call a friend or two during this time so you can “cheers” from afar and stay connected!
Comment below with your advice — whether big or small. Let’s work together to make remote work work for us all!
Holly Ragsdale is a content writer and social media manager who lives in Nashville, Tennessee with her husband, Brandon, and labradoodle, Olive. She is passionate about minimalism, contentment and sustainability, which she discusses in her blog, Lessen. In her free time, Holly enjoys drinking coffee, running, thrifting, and spending time with friends and family.