Whether you’re someone that loves the WFH life, or you prefer being in an office, here are our top work from home tips to help you stay productive and look after your wellbeing.
Work life looks a lot different for many of us than it did a couple of years ago. The good news is, there are plenty of great work from home tips you can follow to make your days at the home office healthier, happier, and better for your mental health.
Whether you’re a parent having to balance work and home life, or have concerns about being home with your siblings, roommate, or parents 24/7, there’s no need to panic. Similarly, if you live alone and are worried about your wellbeing while spending so much time on your own, there are ways to avoid getting cabin fever.
With all of this in mind, we’ve compiled a WFH survival guide with our top tips for better mental health while working from home, from setting up a decent workspace to encouraging frequent communication with your team.
Our top tips for working remotely while looking after your mental health
1. Create a schedule that works for you
Good habits are key when it comes to working from home, and we know it can be easy to get distracted when you’re in your own space. It’s important to set yourself a good working routine to ensure you’re kicking goals, staying productive and meeting deadlines.
First off, setting up a schedule that replicates a normal workday can be helpful. Try to still wake up and get dressed as if it’s a normal day, take your lunch or coffee break, and break the day up into achievable chunks. Maybe your morning routine consists of a 20-minute walk around the block, reading an inspiring book or making a call to a loved one. By staying committed to a repeated morning and evening wind-down routine, you’ll be ready for any unexpected challenges that come your way.
You could also try the Pomodoro method which uses a timer to break work into intervals – 25 minutes of focused work, and then a five-minute break. If you like focusing for longer periods, you can adjust the time of the intervals. Plan out what you want to achieve in this dedicated ‘focus time’, pop away your phone if possible, and give your full attention to the task at hand.
2. Be strict with your breaks
Often, with a busy working day filled with meetings, deadlines, and deliverables, it can be easy to shrug off breaks. We know that on occasion, our work requires us to be flexible in when we take breaks, in order to tick off our list of work priorities. This makes it easy to slip into a habit of skipping breaks altogether to get more work done.
But when we do this, the outcomes aren’t always positive, and can cause burnout and increased stress. It’s important to prioritise time away from your computer, desk and emails. Set yourself a timer and ensure you’re setting aside adequate time to rest and recuperate before heading back into the workday.
Taking breaks throughout the day will actually improve your productivity and wellbeing and help you stay fresh and alert. This could be as simple as sitting outside in your backyard for ten minutes to get some sun, or taking your dog for a walk after a long meeting. Taking care of quick jobs around the house like doing the washing or putting on the dishwasher can even be a good way to break up the day.
3. Choose a day – or more – to dress up
You might be thinking, what for? Well, for yourself. The top-half-corporate, bottom-half-pyjamas was fun back in 2020 but it’s time to get serious about your self-esteem. Why not choose a day to wear your best put-together work attire, and invite your colleagues to do the same? By dressing up as if you were heading into the office or visiting a client, it adds a meaningful expression to your day that allows you to take pride in the way you look and feel.
4. Keep up communication with your team
Having regular chats with your colleagues is just as important when you’re working remotely as when you’re in an office.
Being home a lot of the time can be lonely for some people, so having frequent communication will keep morale high. It’s also a good way to make sure you stay focused, energised and productive. Most people will be trying to manage many of the same challenges as you are, so if you feel comfortable, be open and honest with them. If you have kids and are jumping into a video conference, it’s okay to give them a ‘heads up’ that a child may come into the room or be making some noise in the background. Most people are completely understanding of this by now.
If you have a colleague, family member or friend who lives alone while working from home, let them know you’re only a call away. It’s also helpful for you to have conversations with people outside your house.
5. Set up a workspace and work boundaries
As tempting as it is to stay in your pyjamas and send emails from bed, it won’t be beneficial in the long run. It’s important to treat working at home like a real job. If you already have a desk or office that’s great, but if you don’t, setting up a space that is specifically for you is important. This could even be a corner of a room with a desk if you don’t have much space available.
You can also set boundaries for the people you live with. If you have children, let them know if parts of the day are ‘do not disturb’ time. You can have a sign on your door or a little note on the table with ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down.’ If you know that parental responsibilities could affect your work time, speak openly with your manager and team about your plans to work flexibly. You might need to have more breaks, or work within adjusted hours. If you often work overtime, set boundaries on your work hours.
6. Make your area as beautiful as possible
Psychologist Jordan Peterson has been famously known for encouraging people to clean up their room. While at first glance it seemed like overly simplistic advice, the idea was in fact amazingly worthwhile. It showed people that by tidying their personal space, it could in turn reflect how they ‘tidy’ other areas of their life.
In his latest book, Beyond Order: 12 More Rules For Life, he states that ‘cleaning your room is not enough’. Rather, making spaces as beautiful as possible and finding pieces that speak to you will help bring vision and joy to your life.
So, fill your workspace with things that spark joy, be it objects, art, plants, or photos. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but it will allow you to enjoy the area in which you spend most of your day, and hopefully inspire you.
7. Sit and stand
While the amount of ‘sitting’ hours we spend for work have remained much the same, more and more employees are taking the opportunity to use a standing desk at home. By standing for even short periods of time, you reduce hunching your back and shoulders, and in turn, improve your posture.
So, whether it’s using a makeshift desk with what you currently have at home, or retreating to the kitchen bench for half of your working day, by moving between sitting and standing, you’re minimising the physical stress on your body. Some people even report that they remain more productive throughout the day too.
8. Stay active
Staying active while being at home can be tricky. You could go for a walk around the block before you start your work day or go for a run in your lunch break. There are so many great videos on YouTube or Instagram that can help keep you active while in the house. From yoga and Pilates classes to high-intensity interval training, there’s something for people of all fitness levels.
9. Speak up and reach out
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. In a time where we would usually lean over to a co-worker in an office, it can be daunting to write up an email or make a call to ask a question.
But it’s important to feel you’re part of a team and that your voice is heard. If you find that you’re struggling, reach out to your company and ask if they offer an Employee Assistance Program. This is usually a free-for-employees service that supports staff members in dealing with personal, family or work-related concerns that may be impacting wellbeing, work performance, health and safety.
Working from home long-term can take some getting used to, and many of us are still adjusting and re-adjusting to the new normal. But by being intentional about your schedule and boundaries, taking breaks and staying active, you can stay both productive and well.
If you’ll continuing working in a hybrid model, or are soon returning to the office full-time, we have some tips on how to mentally prepare yourself. Similarly, if you’re feeling concerned about adapting to this ‘new normal’, check out our advice on how to adjust.