Working from home - Dr. Axe

At first glance, working remotely may seem pretty appealing. Answering emails and tuning into a conference in pajamas? All-day access to your own kitchen, bathroom and couch, all while getting paid to work may sound like a win-win.

But the truth is that working from home can also be challenging.

When working from home, you’re forced to create some strict boundaries between your work hours and personal hours. It can be easy to be side-tracked at home and productive hours can be lost. This can be especially true if you have kiddos at home or other distractions.

So is working from home a good idea (sometimes you don’t have a choice!) and how can I do it efficiently?

8 Tips for Working from Home

1. Stick to A Schedule

When working from home, treat your workday similarly to when working at an office or organization. Sticking to a schedule will help you to maintain productivity and morale. This also means separating your day into work and personal hours.

When creating your schedule, here are some tips:

  • Start early: Set the tone of the day by waking early and doing something that leaves you energized. You can meditate, do some yoga, make your morning smoothie or journal. This also gives you a chance to look over your daily goals and prepare for what’s to come.
  • Get dressed: Wash up and get dressed, just like you would if leaving the house for work.
  • Eat a healthy breakfast: Choose foods that will allow you to focus and stay in balance, as opposed to sugary, processed breakfast foods.
  • Hunker down for 90-minute increments: Choose blocks of time that will be dedicated to work and won’t be interrupted.
  • Take breaks: Take breaks at the same time every day. This is a great time to take a walk outside, get some exercise, prepare a healthy meal and spend time with family.
  • Have a cut-off hour: Have a set time when work ends and you can focus on quality personal or family time.

Related: 8 Foods that Boost Productivity

2. Set Up A Workspace

When adjusting to working from home, it’s important to set up shop and designate a work space. This is where you’ll keep your work resources — it’ll be your home base and can be the space you go to when making important calls or video conferences.

But you don’t have to limit yourself to this space only, which is one of the best parts of working from home online. You can move about the house, yard/patio/balcony (if you have one) and local spots as you wish, but you’ll always have an area to return to at the end of your work day. You’ll also keep paperwork and work-related materials here so that it’s organized and not scattered around your home.

3. Create A Routine

Research shows that sticking to a routine will help to normalize behaviors. According to researchers, when people stick to a daily routine, they begin to feel that many diverse elements, or activities, have equal significance. This is important when you’re working at home and may be tempted to do a little too much lounging otherwise.

Starting your day off right is extremely important. This means waking up early, getting dressed and doing something that will set the tone for a healthy, productive day.

You should also implement a wellness routine — whether that involves morning yoga and meditation, afternoon walks outside, mid-day workout session or jumping jacks in the living room.

The point is to avoid a sedentary lifestyle and keep yourself moving, energized and motivated throughout the day.

4. Set Boundaries

When work and living spaces are intertwined, it can be hard for family members to understand that you’re “off limits” while working. That’s why it’s important to communicate your needs when working from home. You may need a quiet, peaceful space to be productive, so during working hours, you need to remain isolated.

How can you signal to people that you are in working mode? Work from your designated work space or, if in a common living area, use headphones with soothing music to “shut out” the distractions and signal that you’re working.

On the other hand, studies show that employees benefit from setting work boundaries, too. That means that you aren’t on call all day and night during remote work.

Just like working at an office and organization, there should be a time when you’re able to check-out and enjoy personal or family time.

5. Take Breaks

Here’s one of the greatest perks of remote work, your breaks aren’t confined to the office building. When working from home, designate personal time that takes your mind off of work for a bit.

You can go to the gym, have lunch or coffee with a loved one, take a walk outside, do some yard work or gardening, read a book in the park — you name it.

But make sure you stick to your schedule and don’t extend your break and reduce work productivity. When planned accordingly, this piece of personal time during the work day can leave you feeling refreshed and energized to finish strong.

6. Switch-Up Your Environment

Sitting in your home office all day may get pretty mind-numbing. It helps to switch-up your environment.

This could mean spending some time in the office, then the kitchen and then the backyard. It could also mean doing work at the local coffee shop, when appropriate, or taking phone calls while walking up and down your block.

7. Get the Resources You Need

When working from home online, you do need some resources, including a laptop or computer, wifi, access to video conferences, a phone (perhaps with a separate number) and more. Make sure you communicate your needs to your H.R. department or manager.

Beyond resources, you may find that working from home requires more schedule flexibility. Voice your needs regarding flexible work policies and schedule control.

Studies show that this will reduce work-family conflict among employees. If you’re a parent who works from home, this may be necessary in order to maintain productivity while managing the house and kids.

8. Stay Connected With Coworkers

Research shows that a social workplace environment contributes to employee health. When 19 participants recruited from four companies answered questions about workplace interactions, their answers indicated that feelings of well-being were enhanced by work interactions. When co-worker interactions were positive, collaborative and trusting, they also allowed employees to feel valued and respected.

So if you’re looking for tips for working from home effectively, a major element is staying connected. Use video chats and conference platforms, get on the phone and send emails or messages.

Pros and Cons

A 2004 study published in The Health Care Manager indicates that working from home offers the employee and organization many benefits, including saving money on work space, and boosting morale and loyalty. According to researchers, employees enjoy the flexibility and convenience of working remotely.

A 2016 study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine analyzed the role of workplace situations on mental health outcomes among women with young children. Researchers found that allowing women to work from home post childbirth may improve mental health, as it decreased depression scores in statistical reports.

A 2014 study conducted in Germany found that supplemental work from home in the European Union may lead to negative health effects. This is for workers who work away from home, but then work extra hours from home. Although this study doesn’t evaluate remote workers exactly, it does shine light on the negative effects of using our free time for work.

Research published in Advances in Developing Human Resources suggests that employee schedule control, which gives them the discretion to decide when, where and how much they work, is an important remedy to time pressures and work-life conflicts. This control appears to have potential health, well-being and productivity benefits.

According to researchers, working from home benefits are achieved when employees feel more control over when and where they work. However, it was also noted that for women in particular, “flextime” work hours did allow employees to manage their family goals and obligations, but also caused increased stress when they felt too stretched while handling both family and work life.

Researchers found that when employees worked in their free time to meet work demands, they reported at least one health problem. And even a small amount of supplemental work beyond a person’s “work hours” caused an increased risk of work-related health impairments.

What does this study suggest when it comes to working from home? That setting a schedule that clearly separates work hours from personal hours is extremely important, not only for your productivity, but for your health.

How to Maintain Productivity

When working from home, there are plenty of distractions, from family members and pets, to Netflix and the comfy couch. So how do you work from home effectively?

Here are some working from home tips for productivity:

  • Set daily goals
  • Wake up early
  • Work in 90-minute intervals
  • Tackle the most important tasks first
  • Take scheduled breaks
  • Exercise daily
  • Consume nutrient-dense, nourishing foods
  • Don’t let work hours bleed into personal hours
  • Move around while on calls
  • Change-up your environment
  • Reduce distractions and interruptions
  • Check-in with managers and coworkers

Final Thoughts

  • If you’re adjusting to working at home, you are not alone. It can be difficult to remain on-task and productive in the comfort of your home, especially when surrounded by family members.
  • To ensure that you stay on task, set a strict schedule, communicate your needs and take breaks. If you allow yourself to slack-off and fall behind, it will only lead to stress and even a sense of work-family conflict.
  • The key to working from home is finding a balance between work hours and personal hours. By planning ahead and hitting daily goals, it can be beneficial to your health and wellbeing.

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