8 ways to maintain a healthy work-life balance while working at home
In the time of COVID-19, anyone with non-essential jobs must work from home. A few months ago this might have sounded like a dream, but we're realizing it comes with its own set of challenges: fighting with family members for work space at the kitchen table, trying to hush the kids and dogs while conducting conference calls. Not to mention the fact that you have easy access to the kitchen, making snacking a far-too regular habit.
Needless to say, blurring the lines between work and home can be a difficult road to navigate. Not only are we trying to balance working from home, but we're also dealing with the extra pressures of self-isolation during a pandemic. Finding ways to normalize this new way of life is important to helping you adjust.
Here are a few tips for how to maintain a healthy work-life balance — both mentally and physically—while working from home.
- Get up at your regular time. Treat it like a normal work day. If you usually wake up at 6 a.m., keep waking up at 6 a.m. Maintain your morning ritual of drinking coffee or tea, or whatever it may be. Take a shower, get dressed. You might be tempted to lounge in your pajamas all day, thinking that you don't have to look the part because you're not at the office. When you get into that relaxed mindset, however, it can be difficult to focus.
- Designate a specific work area, if you can. I've sequestered an area in my basement as my office. And I've let my family know that when I'm in that area, I'm not at home, I'm at the office. Do your best to associate one place in your home with work, and when the workday is over, leave that area. Visualize your workspace as your office and treat it that way.
- Set a schedule. Because you're not leaving your environment (i.e., driving to and from your office) it's easy to work longer hours than you normally would. Try setting up a calendar reminder or using an alarm on your smartphone and set it for the time you'd normally leave work. Then turn your computer off, leave your work area and relax.
- Don't eat lunch at your computer. Eating at your desk is one of the worst things you can do. We need breaks. Make use of that alarm again and give yourself a designated time for lunch. Eat, take a walk around the block, talk with your family or roommates, and get back to working after you're refreshed.
- Move around every hour. When working from home, you're not even walking from a parking lot to an office building. Suffice it to say, your physical activity levels could plummet. It’s a good idea to try standing up and stretching every hour. You can also make use of the time when you'd otherwise be stationary. For example, while you're in a phone meeting, walk around the house or up and down the driveway. Every bit of activity counts.
- Prepare healthy snacks. When you're stressed, bored, or just near the kitchen, there's a strong temptation to eat all day. Snacking is often based on flexibility and how easy it is to access. So put out plates of fresh foods like carrot sticks, sliced apples and celery. If chips are on the counter, you'll likely grab those, but if it's a plate of apples, that's what you'll probably go for.
- Keep a water bottle on your desk. Another healthy habit that might fall by the wayside at home? Drinking enough water. In the morning when you go to your workspace, bring with you a large bottle filled with water, and keep it on your desk. Again, it's about treating an area in your home just as you would your office.
- Have virtual face-to-face meetings. There's a difference between social distancing and total isolation. Just because you're in a secluded environment doesn't mean you can't communicate virtually. I encourage that as much as possible. Whether via Zoom, Skype, or FaceTime, seeing friendly faces can work wonders to lift your spirits.
Jay Weiss, MA, LLP, is a certified health and wellness coach and an employee assistance program therapist at Henry Ford Health System.
For up-to-date information about Henry Ford Health System’s response to the coronavirus, visit henryford.com/coronavirus.
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