The Home Office: Mastering Your Environment
Throughout 2020, many of us found our world catapulted into restriction and filled with changed expectations because of the pandemic. Working from home is one novel lifestyle change that has swiftly become the standard expectation. Moreover, it is looking increasingly likely that working from home is becoming a permanent operation for my jobs. Given this likelihood, we want to offer some tips for the long-term and advise entrepreneurs on ways to get the most out of your home office lifestyle.
In part one, we discussed the importance of establishing your personal routine and how to do this. In this second part of the working from home series we will continue our discussion on how you can get sh*t done in this all too familiar environment.
Stay in touch with the outside world
When we used to commute to and from work – no matter how fleeting or arduous the journey – we came into contact with other people and spent time in various environments. This created a physical separation between home and the workplace and psychological separation between personal time and worktime.
When your place of rest shifts into being your place of work, it’s easy for the two to start overlapping. This compromises not just your productivity and efficiency, but also your relaxation and private time. Accordingly, it's important to set clear boundaries for yourself. So, take a moment to determine when and where you will work, and when and where will be your private space!
Staying socially stimulated
Even if the office was not a huge source of socialization for you, it did provide a space where social interaction would happen naturally and spontaneously. Over coffee you may have chatted with co-workers, had a quick catch up before a meeting began, and even while working quietly you might have heard the sound of others tapping away on their keyboards around you.
These things are seemingly minute. However, they are highly important by keeping the social side of our brains exercised.
When we take to working from home, it’s important to keep social interactions going because they create a sense of belonging and support the society that we have grown to rely on. It's as simple as a quick call to a friend or family member, a walk around the block with a flat mate, and even a friendly chat with the cashier at the supermarket will put a smile on both your faces.
Humans are pro-social beings, evolved to live in groups and interact in group dynamics. However, it’s too easy to withdraw from social snippets when you work from home – you're busy; just one more thing; it's raining; it's already dark outside; etc., etc. But, making an active effort to maintain social interactions helps you stay mentally healthy and productive.
Some need more socializing than others, but nobody can do without (even hermits have plenty of anthropomorphized animal interactions). So, don’t let yourself become socially distant because of physical distance – it will lower your mood and your work-rate will drop along with it.
Standing outside on your breaks
When you do this, ideally leave your phone behind. In these moments, just allow your mind to settle, away from the task-to-task mentality of a busy working day. We need a break to process things. Similar to running your day back and thinking about tomorrow when you're in bed, going outside and leaving your phone and laptop behind gives you a few minutes to reorient yourself.
When your mind is tranquil and present, it is far easier to think clearly. Doing this a couple of times a day keeps you stimulated, and gives you time for refreshing your thoughts. Moreover, by changing the stimuli you are exposed to and avoiding the tedium that can stem from being in the same room or building over an extended period of time you stay mentally engaged as well.
Keep a window open where possible
While silence may be good for your productivity, over extended periods of time it tends to transfigure and become the enemy. As such, silence can harbor feelings of loneliness and disconnectedness. In addition to the murmur and bustle of daily life outside, an open window keeps your room ventilated with fresh air and cooler as well, which has been proven to increase productivity.
The ubiquitous factor underpinning all of these practices is that they imply some level of active engagement. Rather than becoming a slave to your environment, the idea is that you exercise mastery over your environment so it is conducive to your productive output. With these frameworks in place, working from home can even offer increased productivity while also saving on the wasted time of the commuting up and down to work.