As the world shifted in so many ways early last year, many of us quickly found ourselves in a new situation: working from home.
Of course, the shift from remote work to commuting to an office daily was a big adjustment. In the course of the past several months, we've read tons of articles saying that the key to adjusting is creating good routines and habits, and making sure to mimic some of the social and physical aspects of going into an office outside of the home daily.
What we found, by sharing new habits and WFH practices as a team, was that some of the best tips are more nuanced. And, appropriately for this first week of January, they are tips that can help with sticking to New Year's Resolutions, and are good habits for living a healthy life in general.
We've compiled this collection of the Cusa TEA-m's tips for working from home because the New Year is a good time to refresh and restart, and it's never too late to build a new habit, even if you've been working from home since March of last year! With the pandemic raging stronger than ever, there's never been a better time to start some new, healthier habits.
It seems obvious, right? As I’m sure anyone who wears a fitness tracker daily learned pretty quickly into the pandemic, all those little steps to, from and around an office really add up! They make up a substantial part of your daily activity. When your commute is from your bedroom to your work space and from there to a kitchen for lunch, the lack of activity can add up quickly as well.
So, you’ve got to get creative about movement. Consider taking a non-video or screen-share work call while taking a brief walk outdoors. Or, turn what used to be brief break room chats with colleagues into a 10-minute walk alone (or with a pet). If you’re lucky enough to have a treadmill at home, consider mounting a tablet or your phone on it and do your morning email and agenda planning while work-walking. (Don't forget to wear that little emergency stop clip in case you get distracted!)
If you exercise regularly, even better. But no matter what you do, try your best to replace the daily movement you had before, no matter how minimal it seemed, with regular activity. When you don’t, you’re more prone to eye strain or headaches from too much screen time, lack of blood circulation from inactivity and more aches and pains (especially neck and back aches) from sitting in the same position for too long. Over time those aches and pains can add up to injuries.
Hydration can be much easier when in an office - walking by the break room or water cooler tends to remind you when you're thirsty. As founder Jim says, "It seems that 90% of the time when I start to feel tired, it is usually because I need a drink of water/tea/coffee." Periodic work breaks to get water pair well with breaks from the computer screen, small errands around the office or checking in with colleagues.
When working from home, it’s tempting to do longer stints without breaks - perhaps you have more time to focus since you’re alone, or you’re trying to jam as much in as possible before your next interruption from someone else schooling or working from home. Regardless, if you aren’t getting enough water, schedule in water breaks for yourself.
Or, bring a reserve of water to you. Says Marketing Director Robin, "My WFH life-saver is a hot water carafe. It holds about 2 quarts of water, and every morning I fill it up with boiling water. It seals and keeps that water hot for about 8 hours. Of course, I also have a stash of Cusa Tea and Cusa Coffee at my desk, so I can fill up a cup in seconds. It helps me ensure my cup or glass is never empty, and solves a lot of the common symptoms that are actually caused by dehydration."
Force Breaks Even When You Don’t Think You Need Them
There’s a trend here - whether it’s a 10-minute walk up and down the street or a moment to fill up your drinking vessel, breaks are absolutely essential to working from home. They help relax your eyes and brain from your screen, and they are an under-appreciated, built-in part of your work day in an office. They are all too easy to skip when you’re working on your time and on your terms from home. Yet, without them, you can become fatigued, burned out and begin experiencing common symptoms and pains from sitting still too long or working without a break.
One of the biggest transitions we've dealt with has been not seeing coworkers everyday. Working for a startup, we didn’t realize how many small, quick conversations we had, but they were essential! We have found programs like Slack to be indispensable for the quick conversations and check-ins, and for daily humor and fun. Yes, those little bits of work humor are important!
Everyone’s work from home situation is slightly different, but it’s critical to find ways to stay connected to your coworkers and maintain business relationships.
Create a Morning and Work Routine
Sticking to a morning routine while working from home has been helpful. In fact, following a similar morning routine as you did when working in the office might help with the adjustment. Whether it's simple things like drinking lots of water or changing into normal work clothes, or bigger things like morning exercise, a walk or on-time daily breakfast, each little bit of your routine is important and adds up to separation from your non-work life. Don't forget your morning cup of Cusa Coffee!
In addition to a morning routine, sticking to a schedule is also important. When you were going into an office, you most likely started and ended at set times. Try to stick to that when working from home, too. Says Jim, "I also worked hard to complete the same work tasks in a similar order as I did when working in the office. Keeping the same daily routine and schedule is helpful for making it feel like a day in the office!"
Keep Your Workspace Clean and Free of Clutter
A clean workspace means a clear mind. Working in a space with lots of clutter makes can make you feel distracted and unorganized. Having a tidy workspace or working in a room that is clean and organized can help you focus on the task at hand. Sometimes, very little things can cause a distraction, like that blanket that isn't folded or the dishes that need to be put in the sink. Try making your workspace as separate from the rest of your home as you can.
Turn Off Distractions
Keep distractions and electronics turned off during the work day. That means anything you don’t need to complete work tasks or communicate with family, turn off. Yes, this means Netflix! Turning off the TV, cell phone or personal tablet can help you stay productive and focused.
Says Robin, "I love listening to the radio and podcasts, but when first working from home, I underestimated how distracting they can be! They're great for more mindless tasks like cleaning and cooking, but I found them too thought-provoking for listening while working. Silence is distracting, too, so instead I listen to lyric-free music, like classical music. It helps me focus!"
Get Plenty of Sleep
This one is very important - for everyone. Although we are all different, we all need sleep. Sleep routine is also important - your body has an internal clock that doesn't like being messed with! A few things that help can help you get a good night of sleep include: cold temperatures, sticking to a consistent bedtime, turning off electronics at least an hour before bed, not drinking caffeine past noon and exercising during the day.
These are our working from home tips. Take them or leave them, but it's worth thinking about what habits you need to change and what small, incremental changes you can make to achieve them. Try not to think in big terms - your goals don't need to be big to be life-altering. Think instead about what small changes you can make that might add up to a big difference over time.