A quick google search of #wfh reveals a surprising discovery: Cats. While hunting for work from home tips recently, I found myself scrolling through endless photos of the furry creatures, laying across keyboards, glancing up from office rugs, napping on desk tops, even one draped across the top of a monitor.
To be clear, the cats were mostly adorable, but they did not appear to be the model of productivity. More accurately, they appeared to be the opposite.
According to the latest Gallup Poll , 45% of Americans work from home at least part time. In the white-collar sector, it’s 67%. The jury is out on whether this is good or bad for overall productivity but one thing is certain: Working from home isn’t going anywhere fast, which gives us all the more reason to learn how to do it effectively, efficiently and comfortably.
Here’s our list of collated tips, the best of internet speak on how to minimize distractions and optimize flow while working out of our comfy home locales (Cats not included; you’re on your own there).
Create the space
Are you working from home, or are you living at work? The distinction between work life and homelife is easily blurred when all of your activities take place in the same potentially very small space.
In order to create work-life balance (or at least the illusion of it), make a designated work space. Ideally this is a desk or table in a room with a door. If space is tight and that’s not possible, use a corner of your living room or dining room. Try to use that area only for when you ‘go to work’ and leave your laptop or other work materials there at the end of the day.
Pay heed to ergonomics
A few essential positioning tips can make your workflow more comfortable and prevent overuse injuries. Here’s how the MayoClinic maps out an ergonomic workspace setup:
Whether sitting or standing, the top of your computer monitor should be at or just below eye level. When using the keyboard, your hands should be at or below elbow level, with wrists straight. If you’re sitting in a chair, adjust the height so your knees are level with your hips. Standing desks are useful to prevent computer chair slump, as are frequent breaks to stand up and move around your home or apartment.
Set the mood
If possible, position your workspace by a window. A study published in Harvard Business Review determined that natural light and a view of the outdoors are major contributors to employee health and well-being. If you can’t sit near a window, get a plant for your desk. The ideal artificial light setup includes an overhead light along with a diffused light source, like a lamp with a shade or gooseneck lamp that doesn’t cause glare or contrast.
Gentle sensory stimulation can also keep you alert and focused. Burn a lightly scented candle or keep fresh flowers nearby. Create some ambient noise with a podcast or gentle tunes. Conversely, if you need to block out sound, invest in noise canceling headphones.
Make a routine
When the pandemic began, many people were thrilled at the prospect of getting back hours of their lives they would’ve spent commuting. But, research has found that commute time is actually an important part of transitioning into your work role and setting boundaries around your work life. Without it, many people just end up working longer hours that bleed into their personal time.
To simulate the transition into and out of the work day, it helps to start and finish work at the same time, and to re-create your commute in some way. Rather than leaping from bed to your office chair in the morning, designate a time that you’ll ‘start work’ and then fill your would-be commute time with a morning workout, slow breakfast and coffee, or just a walk outside to create space between your home life and your work life. During the workday, set timers to compartmentalize tasks and prevent the day from stretching out shapelessly. At the end of the day, sign off and put your work away.
Dress for the occasion
While it may be tempting to lounge all day in your pajamas, how you dress when working from home can influence your productivity. A pre-pandemic study co-authored by a professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management coined the term ‘enclothed cognition’, which found that study participants performed better on cognitive tests when dressed professionally than in street clothes. That’s not to say you need to don a suit and tie for your Zoom meetings, but it does make the case for embracing modern-casual work attire that feels good and looks sharp.
Home office temperature also impacts your flow. A study published out of Berkeley National Lab found that office temps above 74 degrees and below 70 degrees led to a decrease in productivity, with 71.6 ℉ being the Goldilocks degree. If your house is extra warm, consider cooling clothes that can double as professional work wear (like our CoolLife Tee and pant or jogger) or if you keep it cold, a warm layer like the versatile WarmLife Vest.
Working from home doesn’t need to mean you never leave the office. With a few easy tricks you can create the work-life separation necessary for better productivity, and well being.