Whenever I say to anybody that I work from home, the response is always the same. ‘Oh, that must be so comfortable. No commuting!’ Or, ‘Cool, you can watch TV any time.’
But work from home is WORK from home. It takes up as much time and energy as working from the office. Yes, it saves the time and hassle of commuting. But working from home is not without its own problems. I think the COVID-19 outbreaks is making many people realize that now.
When you work from home, self-discipline is of prime importance. Otherwise, you’ll either perform poorly or harm your health. I know because I’ve been there. And I had to quit an excellent and stable ‘work from home’ job because it had started affecting my health.
I’ve learned my lesson now and am able to enjoy a better work-life balance. Here are some work from home tips that are helping me and would be good for you too.
Work from home tips you should remember:
Maintain a healthy routine:
When people go to the office, their time gets regulated by a set routine. This is not as bad a thing as it sounds. Routine can save you from a lot of hassle and stress. It prevents procrastination. It also prevents your work from eating into your leisure time.
When you work from home, you need to be very strict with your time management. Employees with fixed login/logout time might find following a routine easier. But freelancers often get into the bad habit of following their mood instead of routine. This may result in unnecessary stress later on. You may waste four days trying to get into the mood for working. But then you may need to race against time on Friday. This will create stress, frustration, and will also result in poor work.
So, set up a routine that ensures a healthy work/life balance. And stick to it.
Working from home does not mean sitting in your pajamas all day. Getting ready and maintaining your hygiene must also be part of your routine. Working from home doesn’t mean you won’t shower for a week. Especially at a time when Coronavirus is threatening everyone, having a clean home and hygienic lifestyle is important. It will make you feel fresh, alert, and ready to take on the day’s work.
When you are at home, you have the liberty to work from any chair, couch, and even your bed. But though it is comfortable, it is not healthy. While working on the computer, proper body posture is important. Bad body postures can hurt your spine, or give you neck and shoulder cramps and muscle aches. Bad posture while working on the computer might even harm your eyes.
So, sit up straight while working and don’t slouch. Maintaining a proper body posture while working will keep you alert for longer too. Reclining on your couch or bed may be more comfortable. But it will make you feel lazy and sleepy and is bad for your neck, spine, and eyes too.
Have a distraction-free workplace:
Try to create a separate ‘office space’ in your home. Reserve a separate desk and comfortable chair for your workspace. Having such a designated workplace will save you from household distractions. Distractions waste your time. And then, you might end up working till later to make up for the lost time.
Maintain proper mealtime:
When you are in office, you have timely lunch and tea breaks. Having meals at the proper time and interval is important to keep your metabolism revved up. These breaks also relax and rejuvenate you so you can get back to work with renewed energy.
But when you are working from home, you often keep pushing your break time till you have finished the work in hand. Or like I did, you might continue working while having meals. You might even reach out for a quick-fix meal like a sandwich or frozen pizza. But none of this is healthy. Working without proper breaks will exhaust you and raise your stress level. And skipping meals or racing through them will deprive you of the nutrition you need.
For employees working from home, taking lunch or dinner breaks gets harder. When I was working from home with a staffing agency, my office-based colleagues didn’t seem to realize that I needed food too. Their habit was to send me work before they went for the lunch break and expect the work to be done before their return. That’s why I ended up working through my meals.
Don’t fall into that trap. Be strict with your mealtimes, and make sure your coworkers respect it too.
Rest your eyes:
Working on the computer for long hours is harmful to your eyes. When you stare intently on the computer screen, you blink less frequently. This increases the risk of dry eyes. Your eyes feel fatigued, and you may experience headaches and pain in or around eyes. Bad body postures while working may aggravate eye strain. If you stare at the computer in dark, the Blue Light emitted by the screen might make it harder to fall asleep too.
My work from home job was also a night-shift job. Staring at the computer through the night took its toll on my eyes. Eye problems have become a constant for me. And I’m now forced to take up less work because my eyes get strained too soon.
So be very careful about your eyes while you work online. Take frequent short breaks to rest your eyes. Many experts recommend the 20-20-20 rule. As per this rule, after every 20 minutes of staring at the computer screen, look at something 20 feet away from you for 20 seconds. I use a chrome extension called Eye Care that rings an alarm every 20 minutes. This helps me in taking frequent time-out to rest my eyes.
Also, use a Blue Light filter on your computer to reduce the strain on your eyes. Windows 10 has this as Night Light. If your computer doesn’t have it, there are several software programs you can download. F.lux is one of the most popular such software.
Don’t become glued to your chair:
It’s not just your eyes that need breaks. Your body also needs to relax. When we are caught in a hectic workload, we end up sitting and working continuously for several hours. Long hours of uninterrupted sitting can cause you a lot of harm. It can hurt your spinal structure, damage discs, strain your tailbone, and give you neck and shoulder cramps. Worse, sitting continuously all day also increases the risk of obesity, hypertension, elevated cholesterol, diabetes, and muscle degeneration.
So, take 5 minutes’ break after every 30 minutes and walk about a little or do body stretching exercises. These breaks will relax your body muscles, rest your eyes, and reduce your stress. You may get more work done by working continuously. But sooner or later, it will impact your health, and that will also impact your performance. So take care of your body before it’s too late.
Keep all communications clear:
When you work from home, it is very important to keep a record of all important communications. I am telling you this from my personal experience. Some of your colleagues may give you half the information or wrong information. But they will not admit to it if something goes wrong as a result. Also, keep a record of the information that flows from you. Because someone might end up declaring you didn’t tell them anything.
Also, office politics might come into play with this. And office politics is very hard to fight against when you are not in the office. People can say anything against you because you are not there to defend yourself. Also, it is easier for the manager to believe the employees working in the office than the ones working from home.
This not only lowers your reputation in your company, but it also creates unnecessary stress and frustration too. So, while you are working from home, keep a meticulous record of every important information you give or receive.
Say no to stress and overwork:
Another problem with working from home is that your colleagues and manager can’t see you working. And that makes it harder for them to realize your workload. As a result, no matter how much you work, people would still feel you are sitting idle at home. And so, they’ll push more work your way.
You must stay on your guard against this. Otherwise, your workload will go on increasing and still the people will think you are free for more work. Ultimately, you’ll feel frustrated, stressed out, and might even experience a burnout. I did, and suffered several adverse effects as a result. Don’t let it happen to you.
Working from home may save you from commuting and watchful eyes of your manager. But it is not as comfortable as it sounds. And if you are not careful, you can damage your health and fall prey to office politics and work stress. Working from home can get lonely and depressing too. So stay in touch with your friends and colleagues and keep yourself motivated. And you must discipline yourself and manage your time and routine strictly. If you do that, you can enjoy the advantages of working from home without suffering its negative effects.