Working from home can be a challenge. It can be difficult for your brain to differentiate between work and home life when your work is at home. I have compiled a list of hacks to trick your brain into understanding the difference between work time and chill time. Separating work and relaxation will reduce fatigue and brain fog.
1. Have a routine
It is important to stick to a routine every morning. Your brain is habitual and after a period of time, it will understand that after your routine is complete, it is time to enable work-mode. Rolling out of bed at 9am to get online for your first meeting is unhealthy. You need to give your brain time to adjust and wake up. Here are a few suggestions to add to your morning routine.
- Morning walk
- Yoga or exercise
- Cooking breakfast and eating at the kitchen table( not at your desk)
- Watching the news
- Reading a book
- Taking a hot shower or bath
2. Dress for Success
It is easy to stay in your PJs or sweats all day and it’s definitely more comfortable but it’s keeping your brain in sleep mode. You should be treating your remote job like an office job. Get dressed in work clothes that you only wear during work hours. Do all of the things you would do if you had to go to the office. This includes putting on your watch/ rings and necklaces, fixing your hair(even if you don’t have meetings) and of course putting on your shoes.
Listening to music while working can be helpful or distracting depending on the type. Music without words is best for your work environment. There are many types of wordless music such as classical, jazz or lofi- hip hop beats, but I find movie soundtracks to be the best. The purpose is to have background noise that doesn’t pull your attention away from your work. It may be tempting to have the television on in the background or even the news, but these things will take your mind away from work more often than some calming studio Ghibli soundtrack music (my personal favorite).
4. Take a break
Taking small breaks won’t make you less efficient or effective, but burning yourself out will. People are statistically more likely to take breaks at an office job than a remote position. This is because in our brains, all of the time we spend at the office is considered work. Taking a walk through the office and having a 10 minute conversation with Deborah is still work when you are in a conventional office. Doing the equivalent in a remote environment is ok too. This can include things like letting your dog out. Talking to your kids or significant other for a few minutes, coffee breaks, and even switching over the laundry or doing a 10 minute tidying session. Taking breaks will make you more productive in the long run. If you’re stuck on a work task, stop and do a quick home task so you can come back to it with fresh eyes. You can also use some of the tactics in “Beating Burnout With Better Self-care” a blog post by Heather Johnson.
Do you remember that distinctive office smell? Every workplace has one and our brains notice even if we don’t. Smells give our brains different habitual cues just as locations and our other senses give cues. For example: chewing peppermint gum while studying for an exam as well as during that exam is proven to help you remember what you studied. This is a similar concept; your brain is remembering that you are at work. Having a scent associated with “work time” can help click your brain into work-mode. This can be done with something as simple as lighting the same candle in your work area every morning and blowing it out when you are done. You can also choose a perfume/ cologne specifically for work time and only wear it during your working hours. A scented wall plugin will give the same effect.
6. Change your clothes
As we said previously, wearing clothes designated for work is beneficial, but removing those clothes is just as important. Imagine your time at the office. Remember how you would come home, kick off your shoes and change into something more comfortable? How did you feel after you changed? Relieved that the day was over? That’s how I felt. When you are done working for the day change into some comfy clothes that you never wear to work. This will put your brain into chill mode and tell your brain that work time is over.
7. Disconnect when work ends
Technology is amazing. We can know what is going on all over the world at the drop of a hat. For employees, this is both good and bad. Technology makes working remote and staying connected to your colleagues possible and easy but it can also be detrimental to your mental health if you don’t know how to take a step back. When you were working in an office, leaving work meant you were done. Working from home creates this grey area where you might check emails at 11 PM. DON”T! When you are done working for the day, turn off your computer and don’t look at it again until the morning. If there is a detrimental emergency, someone will call you. I would also advise that you do not put your work email or messaging apps on your phone. You are much more likely to find yourself working outside of work if you are getting notifications on your phone.
8. Leave your house everyday
When you’re working from home you might accidentally put yourself into solitary confinement, especially if you live alone. Interacting with the outside world and letting the sun touch your skin is necessary for survival. In these unprecedented times, we are already going out less than normal, so leaving the house should be a daily task and even part of your routine. You could do a myriad of different things such as:
- Go for a walk
- Ride your bike
- Tend your garden
- Sit on your porch with a good book or podcast
- Play with your kids
- Go to the grocery store
- Feed the evil swans at the local park
The possibilities are endless.
Take this information and use it as you see fit. Don’t try to change everything at once. Consistency is key. And of course Live Long and Prosper.