Six Tips for Working from Home When It’s Getting Old

Six Tips for Working from Home When It’s Getting Old

As we anticipate an extended timeline for stay-at-home orders, we might be feeling cabin fever and low motivation. Following are some ideas to stay on track and feeling good. 

Create or maintain a positive morning habit. 

A small morning routine can set the stage for a better day.

Watering plants, stretching for twenty minutes, reading a book, meditating or making yourself tea are some possibilities. If you’re someone who thrives on tidiness, maybe making your bed each morning is a good routine. And if you don’t mind clutter, no worries: Some research suggests that a messy bed is more than A-OK. (It turns out that whether to make the bed at all is kind of a controversy. Esquire shares why you should make your bed, while BBC claimed a few years back that unmade beds may actually be more healthy.)

At least we can all agree that brushing teeth is a good morning habit. So definitely do that.

Small home work space

Embrace busy mode and play mode.

It’s ideal to have a dedicated work space, so you have a physical cue of when you’re working and when you’re not.

In a small home, setting aside a dedicated space can be challenging, especially if there’s not a door or cabinet to close away the work day. If that’s the case, “workspace” may mean one chair at a table or a small desk in the corner of your bedroom. Try to maintain a boundary between “home” and “work” by refraining from using the workspace during leisure time and physically leaving the area for breaks.

Another idea for toggling between work and home in a small space is using sound and light cues. For example, maybe work mode is associated with bright light (open the curtains or use a light therapy lamp to mimic sunshine) and minimal music. If you need noise while you work, try a fan, an open window that lets in city sounds, a noise machine or podcasts on low volume. After hours, tone down the lighting and kick up the music to get you into play mode.

Likewise, you can signal that the work day is over with a scent. Lavender is well-known to encourage relaxation; jasmine or citrus bergamot are some other options if lavender reminds you of bedtime.

The more you practice being in “work mode” and “home mode,” the easier it becomes. (Need some help? Our tinctures and vape are made for relaxation!)

Lavender on desk with coffee and sketchbook

Create a schedule-ish.

Whether or not you’re working, outlining the day can help you stay focused and motivated.

On a chalkboard, scrap of paper or your computer, map out your day—and don’t forget to include breaks. You can reinforce work/play modes by taking breaks throughout the day and changing the atmosphere with location, light and sound. Get up, walk around, talk to someone, look outside, be still.

Because our work often relies on input from others or other factors outside our control, some suggest that a schedule of how to focus your time, rather than a strict to-do list, may be more effective in completing longer-term projects.

Limit distractions.

Habits we practice in the workplace because we feel obligated to stay on-task can be used at home, too.

In an office, it’s generally not acceptable to take a call from a friend to chat while in the zone. Why should that change simply because your workplace has? While it feels more important than ever to nurture our relationships, we can also remember that not all texts need to be responded to immediately. It’s even possible that a conversation can be more meaningful when it has your full attention—so why not call that friend on your break instead?

Work (and home) email can easily distract your focus. Lifehack offers some options for how often to check email, while Fast Company dives into how to achieve “Inbox Zero” every day.

Create an idea stash to save things

Stash your ideas.

Unless it’s your job to follow your whimsy, when inspiration strikes, give your idea some respect by putting it in an “idea stash.” A white board, Google doc or steno pad can be the stash for ideas you want to explore in-depth later. Or you can jot your thought on a sticky note and post it somewhere you’ll see it later—like the bathroom mirror, where you can revisit while brushing your teeth.

By having a place to record your great ideas for safekeeping, you may free up some thought for the current task at hand.

Connect with your team.

Most of us find opportunities to grow our relationships with colleagues by going to lunch, swapping anecdotes in the break room or clinking glasses Friday after work.

Find ways to continue this process outside the typical setting, like sending someone an article that they might find useful. You also could request a working-from-home check-in session with your closest coworkers or an occasional virtual happy hour that’s more inclusive. (For best results in a more social setting, maintain the same behavior you practice with coworkers in person: Comb your hair, don’t show up in pajamas and limit your intake if you choose to drink.)

And what about those who aren’t working right now? 

These tips may sound like they’re for those who are working at home, but many overlap with general advice about how to stay mentally well during quarantine—whether you’re stationed behind a desk in your house, working in public or experiencing a furlough.

April Carter Grant

Originally from the rural Midwest, April has worked as a creative in the advertising, gaming, travel and beauty industries. An avid walker and sometime runner, she lives in LA with a young son and spazzy dog.