I currently work from home, and in doing so, I've discovered several ways to make the most of the experience.
More so than ever before, people are working remotely—many from the comfort of their own homes. As more and more companies shift to this model, more and more of us get to (or have to, depending on your outlook) transition to this new way of doing our jobs.
While working from home comes with plenty of obvious benefits—no dress code, the ability to work from your bed or couch, and easy access to snacks, to name a few—it also comes with challenges. It's easy to get distracted and lonely and watch your productivity suffer as a result.
I've been working from home for some time now, and I've found that the seven strategies listed below do wonders when it comes to improving my work experience. I hope you find them helpful as well!
1. Light a Candle to Help Yourself Relax
This might seem an odd first tip to improve your work-from-home experience, but this is my personal favorite. I really love to light a scented candle; it just helps me relax. I don’t always light one, but sometimes it’s comforting to have one near my workspace or just in the room somewhere when I know I’m going to be in virtual meetings all day long.
Most of the time, I don’t need to have my webcam on, so it’s not too awkward of an experience. This is a luxury you get to enjoy when working at home (assuming you are in a living situation that allows a candle to be lit safely in your living area).
I personally love the Chesapeake Bay scented candles. You can find even cheaper options at discount stores. Just know that the lower the price, the more likely the candle may have a cheap, fruity scent. Finally, if scented candles bother you, it’s also relaxing to burn an unscented candle with the lights dimmed as you type away on that project.
2. Enjoy a Light Workout During One of Your Breaks
I really enjoy taking a light—and I mean light—workout about midway through the workday. I do no more than about 15–20 minutes. I have two small dumbbells and do a few exercises such as shoulder raises, squats, and bicep curls.
Even 15 minutes of getting your heart rate up a little can help to ease stress and take your mind off of the workday. After a short workout, I’m always a little more clear-headed and sometimes even have more energy, but not in an anxious way. I especially enjoy doing this if I have an upcoming meeting in which I’ll have to speak or present what I’ve been working on. Having a short workout about an hour or two before helps me work out my nerves.
3. Use the Pomodoro Technique to Stay Focused
One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced while working at home is staying focused on work despite not being in a traditional work environment. What’s helped me most is something called the pomodoro technique.
The pomodoro technique is a time-management tool that consists of working for 25-minute bursts uninterrupted and then taking 5-minute breaks in-between. This technique was developed by Francesco Cirillo in the early 1990s to improve his productivity as a college student. The name “pomodoro” is just Italian for “tomato” and comes from the red, tomato-shaped timer that Francesco would use during his studies.
What I like about this approach is that you can customize the technique as you see fit. I sometimes work for an hour or even 90 minutes and then take a longer 15–20 minute break. I’m an Android user, and I’ve been using an app called Brain Focus Productivity Timer for years. I love it because you can customize the timer intervals specifically for your work time and your break time. I’m sure there is a similar app for the iPhone as well.
I’ll note that I usually go with this work approach on days when my schedule is light on meetings so that I have large blocks of time that I can use to complete my current task or project.
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4. Get Some Sunshine (if Possible) During Your Breaks
Getting some sunshine on nice, warm days is really important. If you weren’t doing this when you worked in the office, then start this habit now.
When you take a break, assuming the weather is permissible, step outside, even if it’s for just five minutes. The sun will absolutely make you feel better. I sometimes forget this and kick myself when it's the end of a long day and only then realize how nice it is outside.
If the weather is still cold, but the sun is out, just sit near a window for a few minutes in the sunshine. I sometimes even meditate for a bit. Other times, I just enjoy the view of my backyard. My home office is located in my basement, so I look forward to these breaks throughout my work day.
5. Take a Short Nap After Lunch
As long as the day is not so crazy that I’m working through lunch, I sometimes take around a 20 minute nap after my lunch. This is just a luxury that you don’t usually have working in an office. On top of that, I’m usually more productive afterwards.
When I worked in an office I usually had up to an hour for my lunch break. If I went out for lunch, then driving, plus waiting in line, usually took up my entire break. Even when I brought lunch, it was difficult to get a quick rest in someplace private in the work environment and my car would just be too cold or hot depending on the season.
I take advantage of these strange times by eating my lunch and still having some time for a quick nap. After 20 to 25 minutes and a cup of coffee, I’m more rested and even more alert during the second half of the work day. I still put in my 8 hours because even with an hour lunch break I usually end up going over the work day.
6. Clean Your Work Desk
Navy SEAL Admiral William H. McRaven advises that making your bed every day can change your life. So too should you cleaning or “making” your work desk every day. I don’t promise this will be life-changing, but it may help you remove distractions.
My work desk can get cluttered easily. If my desk is cluttered at the start of a workday, clearing away almost everything except for a notepad and my mouse and keyboard, then turning my phone upside-down and turning off notifications (or even better, starting my Pomodoro timer and placing my phone in a drawer) helps my mind click into work mode.
7. Play a Virtual Game With Coworkers After a Long Week
When my current manager first suggested that our team play a game after a particularly long week, I thought the idea was a little immature, and I honestly just wanted to end the workday sooner. However, the experience turned out to be very enjoyable, and I was able to relax and feel more comfortable around my teammates afterward.
We’ve now played a few games. There are many to choose from online. We’ve played trivia games, answered custom questions on a spin wheel, and even played a murder-mystery game where each person uses their phone to answer questions. Just make sure any game you choose appropriate for work and any “family feature” is turned on if available.
If you’re not in a managerial position, try finding an appropriate game and suggesting it to your boss. Hopefully, the experience will help team members open up, relax a little, and ease some stress.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2021 Thomas Wright