The option to work from home is a freedom most professionals dream about. However, these days it’s become a necessity to help stop the spread of coronavirus. Yep, nobody dreamed about this happening, but here we all are…and it’s not always easy, is it? Especially with the distractions of kids at home, trying to stay in touch with friends, and all that incomplete housework that’s so very visible from your new office/guest room/laundry room/master bedroom/basement, etc.
We’re in the same boat so we know how you feel. Fortunately, we’ve had the benefit of being work-from-home moms for years; which has forced us to figure out how to be productive while balancing the needs of work, family, and our own health. No, it’s not always easy, but with a little planning you can create a healthy, happy work environment you’re proud to call home.
Tip #1: Create a space you can function in
Research has shown that clutter is the enemy of focus and productivity1. That means, you’ll need to create a space that’s as unconducive to clutter as possible.
If you’re fortunate enough to have a dedicated room for your office, then do your best to set up yourworkstation like your office at work. That means having enough drawers for storage, space for your laptop, monitor, printer, etc.
Obviously you don’t need to bring in a filing cabinet if this is temporary, however little things like accordion files or a few hanging folders in a small file box help control paper clutter and keep things organized.
If your home does not have an extra room for an office, you can create a inexpensive, portable office by using a simple briefcase to house all your papers, your computer, etc. Then, pack everything up at the end of the day, rinse and repeat.
No matter where you’re working, make sure you have natural light flowing in as this will really help boost your mood and make you feel more connected to the outside world.
Tip #2: Take ergonomics seriously
While it may be tempting to work from your couch (or bed), resist! The reason is poor posture can quickly cause a variety of painful issues including carpal tunnel syndrome, neck and back pain, eye strain, and much more.
Here’s how to set up an ergonomically correct workstation:
- Use a separate monitor, keyboard, and mouse. If you don’t have one, ask work to provide one for your health and safety. This will prevent you from hunching over your laptop.
- Place your monitor at eye level. You don’t need fancy equipment to do this, a stack of books works well.
- Place your keyboard and mouse where it’s most comfortable for your wrists. This is usually close to your lap.
- Use a comfortable chair, alternate sitting with standing, and/or use a yoga ball. If you don’t have a good office chair, it’s a really good idea to avoid sitting too long. We like using a yoga ball, which builds core strength and moves the lymphatic system. You can also experiment with standing up for phone calls, meetings, or even to type reports and emails (just adjust your monitor, keyboard, and mouse to suit using books, boxes, etc.).
Tip #3: Find a productivity tool that works for YOU (here are two of our favorites)
There have been countless books written on “how to be more productive”, but given we’re all in a bit of a time-crunch here are two of our favorites.
#1: Make a “Burner List”.
This productivity tip comes from Jake Knapp, a design partner at Google Ventures and author of The New York Times bestseller Sprint. He uses the analogy of allocating tasks to a front burner, back burner, kitchen sink, or counter space. The point is to prioritize what needs to be done right now, this morning, after lunch, before the end of the day, etc. No, it’s not designed to help you keep track of everything, but it does force you to focus on what you really need to get done.
#2: Time Chunking
This simple method of chunking-out your work time and break time can be a life-saver, especially if you work on multiple projects per day or you’re homeschooling kids.
How you chunk your time depends on what your job requires, but you can experiment with chunking out 25 minutes of work and 5 minutes of break, repeat. Or 50 minutes of work, 10 minutes of break, repeat.
Set a timer, stick to it, and you should see a good improvement in your productivity.
Tip #4: Bring in the fresh air
Fresh air can do amazing things for your energy, productivity, and mood because it increases oxygen in the home, reduces CO2, and reduces indoor air pollutants such as VOCs, dust, phthalates, PFAs, etc.
Improved ventilation has been proven to help cut down on sick time and other issues associated with “sick building syndrome” 2, plus the natural oxygen is very beneficial for your immune system and lung health.
Tip #5: Take breaks, and eat healthy snacks away from your desk
Taking regular breaks from focused work has been shown to help increase productivity, refresh your mind, and prevent decision-making fatigue3. We like to make the most of our breaks by moving our bodies (think stretching, rebounding, or playing tag with the kids), and/or having a healthy, brain-boosting snack.
Tip #6: Stay alert by reducing EMFs
If you’re having trouble maintaining your energy and focus, excess EMFs (electromagnetic fields) may be to blame. While we’re all told that the radiation from our personal devices is “safe”, the truth these tech toxins have been shown to directly affect the brain and increase amounts of DNA-damaging free radicals4.
Common sources of energy-zapping EMFs at home include:
- Sitting too close to your wireless router. Keep a minimum of 20-30 foot distance from the router, if possible. Turn off your WIFI at night. Ideally, remove WIFI and get wired. Find hardwired alternatives for all devices.
- Exposure to a Smart Meter? If you have a smart meter, call your local server, tell them you want to opt out and request an analog meter.
- Using an AC power cord to your laptop that is not grounded. Instead make sure to use a three prong grounded plug to reduce exposure to electric fields. Otherwise use your laptop when unplugged and charged.
- Touching your laptop keyboard all day. If using a laptop buy an extended keyboard and wired mouse so that you never touch the laptop itself. This reduces your exposure to electric fields.
- Putting your laptop on your lap, and not on a desk (this is another reason to consider a separate monitor and keyboard)
- Noise cancelling headphones (especially those with Bluetooth capability)
- Constant contact with your cell phone, tablets, and other personal devices (consider using a headset with your cell phone and not keeping it on your person)
- Sitting close to any running motor or plugged in ungrounded lamp – refrigerator, air purifier, etc.
Tip #7: Trouble winding down after work? Get a good dose of Vitamin G.
One of the hardest things about working at home is you never actually leave the office. This can make winding down and re-focusing on home-life life tricky.
An excellent solution for this is to spend 20-30 minutes getting grounded after work.
We’ve written about the benefits of grounding (also known as earthing or Vitamin G) before. In a nutshell, by directly touching the earth by walking around barefoot on the grass, swimming in natural waters, or gardening exposes us to negative electrons that neutralize the build-up of positive electrons we absorb by sitting in front of a computer all day. Positive electrons are not necessarily “bad”, however when we absorb too much it creates an imbalance in our body’s electrical systems (such as the nervous system, brain, heart beats, etc.) which can lead to disease.
Yeah, it may sound a bit “out there”, but there is plenty of research to support the validity of this practice and its health benefits5.
Finally, remember to take extra care of yourself and your family during this rather unusual time. Taking some time to write down what you’re grateful for, savoring the extra down-time you have from not running around, and limiting media exposure are all wise ways to protect your emotional health and productivity as we continue making history.