Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Even though most of us feel our lives have returned to normal since 2020, many aspects of life across the globe have seen a radical transformation. The most obvious of these might be the workplace. According to the Pew Trust, six in 10 US workers are still working remotely. About that same number are choosing to work at home. For many, this transition has its challenges. But there are strategies to make a work-at-home life more fulfilling and productive.
Switch work-mode off
The most prominent hill to climb marks a firm boundary between work hours and home time. While it’s true that employers value the flexibility remote employees bring to the company, it’s tempting to check text messages or emails for those who work at home. Boundaries are essential in life, and the most critical limit for remote workers is drawing that line in the sand.
During the pandemic, school students complained that they were sitting in front of a computer for over seven hours of instruction plus an hour or three to complete homework. This round-the-clock mentality is not healthy for kids and is not fit for those of us making a living from a home office.
One suggestion to combat this is to set the alarm precisely when work is scheduled to end every day. This can remind us that the day is not all about work. Another option is to set a voicemail that includes what times you’re available to callers. Switching our mindset from work to rest is essential; however, it’s just as important to spend our free time not worrying about work.
Related: Remote Work Is Here to Stay: Are You Ready for the New Way of Life?
Beat the time crunch
Burnout is common when working from home. Maybe we feel the stress of being on alert trying to hit a deadline while longing for our time to decompress.
As the leader of a company, employees need to set their hours and firm boundaries. When workers can create their office hours and set those boundaries, they are healthier and happier. These are simple moves that keep employees on the job and help everyone’s productivity at the same time. Who hasn’t had a brilliant idea while hiking, skiing, or simply meeting friends for dinner and having a deep conversation? Treating employees like whole people is important, and it’s just as essential for us to treat ourselves that way.
Having lists and schedules are also great ways to stay on track. Staying organized can give us the more personal time we crave even as we’re meeting deadlines for work. Sketching a layout of the day on paper, even in a journal or on a whiteboard, can help us use time efficiently. Seeing our lists dwindle to the last item can be rewarding and help us transition to that needed time away from work.
Related: Working from Home Is Leading to Record Levels of Burnout. Is a 4-Day Work Week the Fix?
Improvise the workspace
Many of us feel like our home office lacks personality and efficiency. When that happens, it may be time for a makeover. Working in a chaotic space like a messy living room or dirty kitchen can be distracting. Having a spot where we can feel productive and stress-free is essential.
For some, working from home is too quiet. In that case, white noise or an inspirational playlist can help. Music is an effective stress reducer and can help with learning and focus.
Good lighting and the right office furniture can be the difference in how our bodies feel when we cross the finish line for the day. Standing or rotating desks can help with comfort and efficiency. Putting thought into the design of the workspace — the lighting, plants, the suitable desk and chair, and the right equipment — provides a positive vibe for the workday and gives us needed energy for any plans we have in our free time.
Keep the energy
Stress can take over at any point. Planning breaks is vital for the mind and body. Every moment of our time is valuable so that we are whole, healthy and free to be a participant in whatever we are doing — on the job or not. These breaks can be as simple as stepping outside for a breath of fresh air or taking a few minutes out in nature. Even in a high-rise apartment, there is usually a rooftop area or a courtyard to take in the blue sky or smell the flowers blooming.
Nature’s therapeutic effect doesn’t have to be a wilderness experience. Gardening isn’t only for large estate living. House plants, flowers, or home-grown vegetables can be maintained indoors or on a balcony. Tending to nature calms the mind and helps provide a sense of accomplishment. Getting in touch with nature can make it easier to return to work.
Structure and planning rule the day
Preparation is key to maintaining control of our time at work and at play. It’s essential to choose a time before the workday to prepare. Remote work means teams from all over the world are coming together to get things done.
Whenever we work, we can start our “day” with personal tasks, like walking the dog or eating a quick breakfast. After that, it’s time to tidy up and organize the workspace. This might be a time to make the day’s to-do list or check responses from emails sent the day before. Developing a pre-game strategy is key to productivity. This strategy can prevent the feeling that work “never ends” since we have taken charge of our schedule.
Another critical strategy is affirmations. The role positivity plays in our lives cannot be overstated. This could be as simple as saying out loud, “It’s going to be a great day!” or “I believe in you!” or “I’m going to be productive today!”
Positive mantras can help us stay focused and motivated. We can release ourselves from the day’s work by saying, “You did your best!” What we tell ourselves will resonate with our bodies. This will make the switch back to home life meaningful and something we can look forward to while we work.
Dress for success
Our clothing is a part of how we see ourselves and can affect our mental health. It’s essential to strike a balance between dressing for productivity and professionalism versus dressing for the comfort of working from home. In an article summarizing the findings of mental health counselors, a writer at the university of Edinburgh reported that good hygiene and clothing choices could impact our mental outlook.
Wearing professional clothes that provide comfort may impact work productivity and attitude. Distinguishing professional work clothes and home wear will make the flip between work and home time easier.
Related: Why You Still Have to Dress for Success
Let’s get prepped
Meal prepping is a fantastic way to save time and keep the workday running smoothly. Making several meals ahead of time can provide more room in the day to get work done. The internet is filled with recipe suggestions for those who struggle with what to make. Consider using a slow cooker or crockpot to prep early. The healthiest meals often take only a few minutes on a stovetop and few ingredients. Finding an effective storage system is also essential. Freezing and refrigerating leftovers can save the day when we’re pressed for time and can’t leave the desk for long.
Related: 12 Ways to Eat Healthy No Matter How Busy You Are
Make a celebration routine
Celebrate the end of the day by having a nightly routine. A nightly run, a soothing face mask, a walk in the park or a bowl of ice cream — even meeting friends at a restaurant — can help our mental outlook.
As more of us convert to remote work, self-care is most important for our personal lives and productivity. Feeling confident, creative and rested during our day can help us grow as individuals and make us a more valuable part of the team, helping us learn to celebrate and embrace all the roles we play in life.