While we expect 2021 to offer a lot of relief compared to 2020, we also expect that working from home will remain a norm – not just through the end of the pandemic, but going forward. Corporate executives have done the math, and have determined that keeping a certain percentage of the office workforce working from home makes financial sense. Most forecasters predict that working in the office will be reserved for group work, and that plugging away at a laptop will be done from home. That will help companies continue social distancing, minimize traffic jams at elevator banks, and even reduce the share of corporate budgets dedicated to business real estate.
This isn’t bad news for employees, either. Working from home – when done right – can improve quality of life by removing the time dedicated to commuting, make it easier to juggle family responsibilities, and eliminate the timewasters that happen when trying to balance the need to be social with co-workers with the need to work efficiently.
By now you’ve read a few dozen articles that remind you of the importance of setting a schedule, setting aside a dedicated workspace, setting up your calendar and schedule for ultimate productivity, and how to get the most out of your team communication tools. Here are a few more ideas with a different slant, intended to help you settle into your work-from-home life in 2021 with greater satisfaction and productivity.
Get a good chair. Better yet, get a chair and a spare. Working in an office gets you up and walking around more than working from home. The difference is more time spent in a chair. We recommend having a good chair and a spare. The good chair should be an ergonomic office chair, not that old relic that you’ve had since your university apartment. It should have adjustable height, adjustable backrest and lumbar support, and sufficient seat depth and width for your size. Ergonomic experts recommend that you have between 2-4 inches between the back of your knees and the seat of the chair. You should also be able to tilt the chair forward and backward.
Leather isn’t everything! Sure, the gold standard in an executive chair has always been a leather high-back, but breathable materials and sufficient padding will do more for your comfort than cowhide.
Now, for the spare. Sometimes, what your body needs is a break. In addition to moving every hour (more on that in a minute), there’s a lot of benefit in switching up your chair once or twice each day. A great way to do this is with a balance ball chair. That’s right – you can buy a little platform on wheels in which you can set a giant yoga ball. Sitting on the balance ball contributes to core strength and posture and promotes constant stimulation of your body through micro-movements. Even if you have very little extra room, the balance ball can serve double duty for your workout or for watching TV, and the little rolling platform can tuck right under your desk when you’re not using it.
Set the alarm on your mobile device to go off once each hour (or use the setting on your fitness band or smart watch). When the alarm sounds, get up and dance! Three minutes of dancing will clear your mind, get your blood flowing, and make you feel all happy inside. Your spouse and kids (and probably your dog) will enjoy it too! You’d be amazed at how much better you’ll feel when you add four or five 3-minute dance parties to your day.
Once per day, set aside time to focus intently on one thing: a song or a sound, a sensory feeling, a visual, or a spiritual practice. Even a video game will do! Give that thing all your attention for five minutes.
Why is this helpful? Because when you’re handling an onslaught of tasks in a concentrated way, your mental cache gets full. When the mental cache is overwhelmed, you slow down. You need to clear your head. Unfortunately, clearing your head for five minutes is easier said than done. Just thinking “I need to stop thinking about work” is enough to ensure that you will continue thinking about work. Going for a run or a swim might help, but what if your cache needs clearing hours before that’s possible? This is where mindfulness comes in.
Instead of trying to empty your mind (which is the problem most people have with meditation), fill it – with something specific, something that you can devote all your attention to. In the background, your mind will clear its cache and make itself ready to return to the work.
Eating at your desk is always a joy-killer, and that’s extra-true now that we’re all working from home. One of the best things you can do for yourself is make a rule that you will never eat a meal at your desk. Make mealtime a real break. Even if all you’re doing is heating up a frozen burrito, set a place at the table (placemats and cloth napkins are a thing), break out the hot sauce (we recommend Mike’s Hot Honey Sauce ourselves), pour a glass of sparkling water, and treat yourself to a few minutes of actually tasting your food. You’ll find yourself looking forward to this little ritual, and then you will return to your desk energized and with greater clarity.
Put a plant on your desk. Brown thumb? Keep putting a new plant on your desk until you figure out how to keep it alive. Or buy flowers once a week and put them in a vase on or near your desk (we recommend alstroemeria – those delicate blooms can last more than a week). Having plants in the office has been shown to reduce stress, increase productivity, boost creativity, and even reduce sickness!
Working from home, all or part of the time, can be isolating, but it can also be liberating. These ideas will help you add more quality – and even creativity – to your work-from-home life.