By: Megan Verrier, PT
With the changes in our world over the last several months, many people have found themselves working from home for the first time. Along with these changes, beginning to work remotely brings new challenges and may seem difficult for some. But there are some strategies to ease your transition to working in your home and may make your day more enjoyable.
First, you may find that working from home affords you a more flexible schedule, which initially may seem like a huge perk! However, this can also be challenging if you find it hard to get going in the morning, or if you find that your workday isn’t ending at 5 like it usually does because you’re working where you live. Some people may find that keeping a more traditional schedule that mirrors their previous schedule helps; for others, this is not possible due to child care/schooling demands. Regardless, make a plan with these challenges considered, and do your best to meet your work demands while also accounting for your other responsibilities. Remember that striving for balance between work and home is as important now if not more than before.
Just as working from home may provide certain flexibility in your working schedule, it may also provide a more relaxed atmosphere relative to dress code. You may find that you are tempted to stay comfy while working which is OK to a degree. Be mindful of the need to remain professionally dressed while participating in video conferences or meetings. When you don’t have to be as presentable, it may be tempting to work in lounge clothes or pajamas. While this is not necessarily always problematic, people who have been working remotely will likely tell you that making an effort to clean up and change clothes first thing in the morning (even if it is a change into clean pajamas) helps in keeping some separation between home/personal time and work.
Another consideration is location. While some have a space in their homes designated as an office, others do not. This may make working on the sofa or in bed while on a laptop computer possible and sometimes even an attractive option, but over several hours the positioning your body is taking may not be the most comfortable and could lead to pain and tension. Ideally, you should find a place where you can sit with your back supported, your feet on the floor, and a working surface (desk, table, counter) that isn’t too high or too low relative to your arm positioning and your visual needs. When attending to “good ergonomic positioning” think of a right angle – your ankles, knees, hips, and elbows should be bent about 90 degrees with your shoulders and neck relaxed, your back supported as needed and computer screens should be in front of you, as close to eye height as possible if using a monitor, and angled upward toward your eyes if using a laptop or tablet. If you are not using optimum positioning while working for several hours, you may start to notice tension in your neck, pain, or tingling in your arms or hands, or strain of your eyes. These are signs that the position you are using are not ideal.
In addition to striving for optimum ergonomic positioning, you should find a place that limits distractions as much as possible. Again, due to childcare and education demands, while schools are not open, many working parents may find that the other people in their home are the greatest distractions and limit ability to stay on task while working. It may be helpful to find a space that is enclosed and can be separated from the rest of the home by closing a door, or if you find that your dining table or kitchen island is best for your work make clear to others what your needs are regarding your workspace and your work schedule (“Please no snacking in the kitchen while I am on my 10:00 work call.”). This may be the most challenging aspect of working from home if you’re living with others.
Be sure to give yourself breaks intermittently, just as you should in a traditional office or work setting. It is important physically and mentally to step away from your workspace, whether to stretch, take a quick walk to the mailbox or to run the dog around the block. When you live and work in the same space, especially while staying at home is recommended it can feel like you’re only seeing the same 4 walls day and night. A few minutes away can help you get through the rest of the day.
Finally, feel free to ask your colleagues what is working well or not for them in their remote working experience. Remember that you’re not alone in your victories and struggles related to this sudden shift and that you can benefit from the experience of others. You may even find that working from home is a good fit for you after all.