Prior to COVID-19, most (if not all) jobs required the presence of their employees in the office. In-office work also meant commuting. Depending on the location of the office, commutes could range from a peaceful ten minute drive to a lengthy two hour train ride.
The pandemic put rapid-fire remote work systems in place. Many employees actually relished in the comfort and the freedom remote work allowed them. Going forward, it’s unclear exactly how many jobs will stay remote (or work out some sort of hybrid system), but it seems that remote work will stick around.
That being said, it can be difficult to detach from work when there are no physical boundaries. It can also be challenging to be productive when your surroundings are designed to give you maximum comfort and relaxation. Read on for science-backed tips on creating a better remote work-life balance.
Working from home: the benefits
There are actually quite a few benefits that remote work has. Here are some positive statistics on remote work:
- Working from home can increase productivity by 77%.
- Remote workers save an average of $94 on fuel each week.
- 86% of professionals believe a remote job would help lessen their stress.
- Making WFH options available after the COVID-19 pandemic may help reduce burnout over the long term.
- The longer your commute, the less likely you are to have a good night's sleep, a crucial part of maintaining your mental health.
- Long commutes are also associated with high blood pressure and BMI.
The 7 best ways to improve remote work
Despite all its perks, remote work has its downsides. Many have struggled with Zoom fatigue and digital exhaustion. However, there are ways to combat these feelings. Try out some of the tips below to prevent the digital downers. If you work in a management position, try recommending some of these tips to help your employees thrive in a remote work setting.
Create a fake commute
You might not miss the time it took you to get to and from work…but there is something to be said about the mental benefits of the transitory time. Commutes allow you to shift the focus from work to other aspects of your life. Creating a fake commute can help you mentally reset in order to reduce your stress levels and boost creativity. So…what exactly is a fake commute? Examples of fake commutes include: taking a walk outside for 10-20 minutes, reading a chapter of a book before and after work, or doing a short exercise class before and after your workday ends.
Construct a routine
You’d likely have a routine before and after work, so why stop when you go remote? Routines can be anything from making coffee in the morning to taking breaks to cook or clean. Keeping a consistent routine leads to better sleeping patterns and lower stress levels. In fact, the power of routine is so strong that it has been proven to ease the burden of some mental disorders.
Put effort into your social life
You might not realize how important social interaction can be, or how much you actually benefited from going into the office. Small talk just isn’t the same over Zoom, and chances are, you’ll feel a little isolated during remote work. That’s normal. However, social interaction is extremely important for your mental health, so you should make an effort to schedule time on your calendar to chat with your coworkers or safely meet up with friends and family. You can go to exercise class, create a book club, or just do a little video call about your day.
Spend some time outdoors
Going outside can have huge mental health benefits. Breathing fresh air and getting a little bit of vitamin D can do wonders for your mental health. If you have a dog, take them for a walk. You could also try exploring new areas around your living space, or just go for a quick walk around the block for a couple minutes each day. If you don’t like walking, try sitting in a nearby park or even your backyard for a few minutes.
Saying no can be extremely difficult, especially when the boundaries blur between work life and home life. Try to create settings on email or workplace communication platforms that let your coworkers know when you’re out of office, and turn off your notifications outside of work hours. Letting your coworkers know your hours can help solve remote communication problems before they even begin. Don’t try to take on more work than you can handle—you want to be doing your best, and if you’re overloaded, you won’t be able to maximize your potential.
Exercise has physical benefits, but if you’re struggling with anxiety or depression, you should focus on some of its mental health benefits. Regular exercise has a myriad of benefits that tie in to both physical and mental health (because, after all, the two are closely interconnected). An active brain is less exposed to risks of depression and feelings of loneliness. Being active can also boost your self-esteem. Don’t think that you have to start hitting the gym every day—start small, with an exercise you enjoy. Even a 20-minute walk or 15-minute yoga video can greatly improve your mental health.
Unfortunately, it’s quite common to multitask during remote work. You probably have easier access to your phone, and you might be distracted by your home environment. However, studies have found that multitasking leads to errors and longer completion times. Ever heard of the term “deep work”? It’s what it sounds like—shutting off distractions so you can immerse yourself deeply in a project. Deep work increases productivity levels. Try to block out your schedule and turn off notifications if you have an important project to complete. Of course, let your family and coworkers know you’ll be MIA for a few hours.
Upgrade your home office
Offices are designed to maximize productivity, while homes usually prioritize comfort. It can be hard to understand why sitting in your favorite comfy chair isn’t good for you…until your back or your legs start hurting, or you just can’t seem to focus on getting your work done. If you’ve been working at home since the pandemic began and there’s no end in sight, it might be time to try making some accommodations to your surroundings.
Your surroundings have more impact on your mental health than you might give them credit for. Try including plants, calming colors, and soothing scents to boost your mood. If you can find an office space in your home with better natural light, use it. Being exposed to natural light reduces eye strain and drowsiness. You could also consider getting office technology, like a standing desk.
Even though you might be working remotely, you’ll still have to look after your home. In fact, it might be more susceptible to damage because of the increased amount of time your family has spent at home. Check out Hippo home insurance for tips on insuring your home, or make your home easier to manage with smart home devices.