David has over 15 years of supervisory experience and has extensive knowledge of how to handle personnel issues across many areas.
With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, more people have been working from home. Even after people start to return to work, organizations are figuring out it may be beneficial to keep some people working from home as it may increase productivity and save on costs.
In my time working from home, I found a lot of guides on how to set up your home for work, how to avoid distractions, and so on. But not many guides talk about maintaining yourself while working from home. Even those that do seem to skew to the viewpoint of being a productive employee. It's not that simple, so I wanted to establish a guide that those working from home can use to take care of themselves without having to worry about being the model employee.
Taking Care of Yourself
While working from home you need to ensure to focus on yourself first and foremost. You have other items to contend with in the middle of all of that - your children, pets, and home. But if you focus on yourself first, the rest can fall into place.
One of the stupidest things I said when I found out we were going to be working from home was that this felt like a vacation. It really isn't. So even though this is focused on taking care of yourself, do not treat your time off as a vacation. Balance the well being of yourself with having a proper work ethic.
- Wake up and go to bed at the same times consistently. Even though I am working from home, I am still waking up at the same time each day and maintaining my morning routine. This ensures I start my day off right. I don't sleep in and I don't stay up late. This keeps me in balance.
- Take breaks and a lunch. Don't feel like you have to be on-call the entire time you are working. Take your breaks. Take an hour lunch to eat, watch something, and relax away from your workspace.
- Set a start and stop time. Not everyone has enough work to last eight hours each day. If you don't, then set a time you will start work and then stop work each day, if your position allows that flexibility. This allows you to keep your mind on the clock at specific times, instead of always feeling like you have to work because work comes in to be done.
- Let yourself be distracted. If a cat wanders in and wants some attention, allow for that distraction. It's the same as a coworker wanting to talk for a couple minutes about nothing. I tend to let videos play in the background so there isn't just silence around me. Those distractions do break up the day.
- Eat right. This one is obvious but is still worth bringing up. Try to maintain a balanced diet. It's different when you're home because you can raid your kitchen any time you want, so you have to stop yourself from that temptation. Keep well hydrated as well.
- Move around. Make sure to stand up and move around often, at least once an hour. It can be easy to stay in place all of the time working from home because you have no meetings to go to. So force yourself to get up.
- Have some "me" time. Take some time for yourself. Close the laptop and shut the work phone off if you want to disconnect from everything for a few minutes.
- Go outside. When I was first working from home I realized there were days I wouldn't go outside at all. Having the natural sunlight beat down on you can feel good, so go outside each day, if even for a few brief moments.
- Take naps. I'm not ashamed to admit I've taken naps while working from home. Though I ensure it's done during breaks or to shave time off of my lunch. It's made me recharge and able to approach my day in a better mindset.
- Don't rage against your spouse. This one is for your partner more than you, but it will help you both out. There are those cases where both spouses are working from home. Don't rage on them because something bad happens at work. Try to keep your work and home life separate as not to have any fights while you're both at home.
Taking Care of Your Children
A lot of those working from home may have children home for the summer, or, they are taking classes from home. Kids may have a harder time than adults adjusting to you being home all of the time, but can adapt quickly with your help.
- Make boundaries clear. If you have an office, ask them to not go into that office unannounced and instead knock on the door when they need something. If you have a meeting, ask your children not to disturb you unless it's an emergency.
- Give children attention. Make the time to give your children attention. Ask about their schoolwork, if they are hungry, or play with them. Show that even though you are working, you are there for them.
- Give children something to do. Plan out activities for your children to keep them occupied. Allow them to explore interests. Keep them engaged so you can focus on what you need to do during the workday.
- Make work realize you need to take care of your children. Be open and honest with your workplace about childcare needs you need to address. A good supervisor will ask if you have any needs, but not all will think of it.
- Don't make your children feel second to work. Work is important to us, but never make your children feel like they are second to your work. It can be hard, as it's our livelihood, but you don't want your children neglected.
Taking Care of Your Pets
Your pets don't know what work is, nor why you are home all of the time now doing something other than giving them attention. For this reason, you need to ensure to take care of your pets as well.
- Give your pets attention. Your pets will realize you are home and will expect more attention, depending on the kind of pet you have. So take the time to give them a pet, talk to them, etc. Even spend a break taking them on a walk to give you some exercise, sun, and the attention they desire.
- Secure your office from your pets. As hard as it may be, you may have to close the door to your work area so you can focus on work. Pets may whine and scratch, but, you still need to be focused on what you are doing.
- Give them toys and other things to do. Buy some toys for your pets to play with, or leave them outside longer to frolic around. First, this will keep them occupied. Second, they will wear out faster and may sleep while you get some work done.
Taking Care of Your Home
Your home is now your office. Instead of spending 40 hours or so a week away from your home, it's now a place you are in all of the time. It may require more maintenance and upkeep so you can maintain a positive work environment.
- Clean regularly. Your home will get messier since you are there all of the time, so take the time to clean and organize regularly. This can be done during work time, within reason, since that is your workspace.
- Take care of those items you have been putting off. Your yards looking bad and you want to hire someone to take care of them? Now is the best time to set up appointments since you will be home to get estimates and direct the work.
- Establish a positive work environment. You need to be comfortable in your work environment to be productive, so make sure it's setup to meet the needs you have. More on this in the section below.
The Home Office Setup
Below are those items you should consider when setting up your home office:
- Ergonomics is key. Have a proper desk, keyboard, mouse, chair, and anything else you need to be comfortable and not to strain yourself.
- Have some natural light. Natural sunlight is better than artificial light. So open up the curtains to let the light in. Just make sure there is no glare on your computer monitor.
- Add some plants or other favorite decorations. Something you can do at home that you may not be able to do at work is decorate how you want, so setup your space to be as comfortable as you want. Ensure you don't have anything around that would look bad if you were to do a video call.
- Set up a chair or couch to lounge in. If you have something long to read, want to take a short break, or just think on something, then set up a separate place to do that. A bean bag chair can be great for that.
- Avoid your office outside of work hours. If you can, don't go into your home office when you aren't working. If you do, you may start thinking about work. That isn't possible for me, but I make sure to pack up everything for work and put it away so I don't think about it.
What Not To Do While Working From Home
Here are some things not to do while working from home:
- Don't wear your PJ's. How you dress can affect how you work. If you plan a video call and forgot you aren't wearing pants, and then stand up, you won't make the best impression.
- Don't blow off work. You may realize your boss has no way to check to see what you are doing, but it's pretty unethical to just blow stuff off. We are on the trust system while working from home, so don't let that trust go unfounded.
- Don't conduct excessive personal business without consulting your supervisor. Have an appointment for something not related to work that'll take you out of the house for awhile? Let your supervisor know. This prevents you from being disturbed and catching you by surprise if some situation came up that you can't address because you aren't at home.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2020 David Livermore
Dominique Cantin-Meaney from Montreal, Canada on July 20, 2020:
These are amazing suggestions for those working from home. As I do work from home, I do some of these already, but will keep the other suggestions in mind as well.
FlourishAnyway from USA on July 06, 2020:
These are great tips. I find that keeping a cat tree or climbing tower near my desk is a good way to let the cats lounge nearby. It’s an area that’s preferable to my work area if it’s near a window. I used to prefer working from home when I was in the corporate world. It was more conducive to getting my actual work done.