As millions of Americans are now working from home amid the COVID-19 pandemic many are experiencing challenges they never thought they would. From setting unfamiliar boundaries with family members to using less than comfortable home offices or work spaces, many are feeling the blues when it comes to their new work from home set-up.
In a Thrive Global survey, 80% of respondents reported feeling helpless and that things were out of their control as well as over 85% of the respondents said they wanted more help adapting to working from home. While we are working from home we are also working through a crisis so it’s important that employees and employers be easier on themselves when reflecting on their productivity and job performance. Luckily we are all in this together and we can lean on the advice of others to help get us through.
Working at Home v. Working Through a Crisis
According to Thrive Global, on average employees reported feeling that 45% of their workdays have been lost due to distraction and time spent worrying about the outbreak. While being productive is still indispensable, it is important to acknowledge that you’re not going to be productive every second of the day. And that’s okay.
While many companies are striving to create more comfortable work environments for their employees by promoting flexibility in hours and the ability to take home office devices, there is so much more that can be done. Employees have the power to refresh and zen-out their work from home space. By definition, zen is the practice through which we can realize the joy of being and can apply this methodology to our time working from home. By differentiating between in-office and at-home etiquette you can help take ownership over your relationship with working from home.
To help you get started we’ve turned to interior wellness designers, organizational psychologists and productivity experts to provide real-world strategies you can integrate into your daily routine that have major health and happiness benefits. Explore the ideas from professional zen-artists and add some wellness to working from home.
Create a Space of Comfort
The first step in zenning your work from home space is revamping the physical layout of your at-home office and eliminating factors that you may not realize are affecting your feelings towards working. While not everyone works the same way, M Moser Associates, Global Design and Architecture Firm, offered a few best practices. They said, “To create a comfortable and positive work from home space, people need to feel empowered to discover aspects that create comfort and enhance mood and performance in their own homes.” This might mean investing in an ergonomic chair to add comfort to your workday or make-shifting a standing desk to diversify your posture. They also recommended creating a minimum of three high-performance work environments. This, they say has proven to support a range of benefits including boosting motivation through freedom of choice, creating mood-enhancing playfulness, stimulating the brain through micro-movements and providing headspace for new ways of thinking.
Jake Penney, Head of HR at English Blinds supported this idea when he emphasized the importance of generating positive associations with your work from home space to make your working day simply feel easier and more positive. He said that, “The colors, contents of your workspace, comfort of your desk and chair are all important; however the most important things are lighting, ambient temperature, sounds”. According to a Future Workplace’s survey, over 1,600 employees ranked “access to natural light and views of the outdoors” as their number one desire for a workplace environment so it only makes sense to prioritize natural lighting and adding flowers or indoor plants into your workplace at home.
Tips for creating a space of comfort:
- Use ergonomic furniture
- Prioritize natural lighting and flowers
- Set up three different optimized work locations
- Use space you feel most creative in
Set Your Intentions
The next step in zenning your work from home space is setting strategic intentions before, during and after your workday. Shawn Johal, Entrepreneur & Business Growth Coach at Elevation Coaching emphasized the importance of taking mindfulness breaks as you may feel that working from home means staring at your computer and phone screens more often. Try this: take purposeful breaks for mindful moments away from the screen. Breathe, meditate, and take a 5-minute walk outside every hour. Your mental health will be in better shape, your family will see you as calmer, and your work will be accomplished with more success.
Annette Walter, Executive Coach at iEvolve Consulting recommended being intentional during work by treating yourself. Small actions like using your favorite coffee mug and rewarding yourself with fun breaks when you finish a big task can make you feel more motivated to continue. She recommended to, “Plan your week out ahead of time to ensure breathing and stretching are natural rhythms in your day and enjoy the breaks when they come.” Set aside time to declutter, reset and reconnect with your purpose. Perhaps take time to journal about your passion for your work, your business and your reason behind why you do what you do.
You can take mindfulness into other factors of working from home as well, like eating! Dr. Irina Cozma, Organizational Psychologist at Irina Cozma Consulting LLC emphasized the importance of planning your meals ahead of time. Each evening think what your next day’s breakfast and lunch might be to save you from spending 20 minutes plus in front of your fridge or browsing nearby restaurants contemplating what you might want to eat.
Tips for setting your intentions:
- Take purposeful breaks for mindful moments
- Journal about your passions
- Breathe, meditate, take a 5-minute walk outside every hour
- Think about what you’ll have for breakfast and lunch the night before
Set Boundaries and Communicate
Just like in the office, there can be co-working conflicts. From space sharing, little ones requesting your attention or animals causing distractions, it’s important to set boundaries and control your work from home factors (as best as possible). To remedy this, business expert Shawn Johal also said to create boundaries for work time. Communicate to your loved ones how your day is scheduled – maybe even give them a copy of your schedule. This will give you more time to spend with them and you can incorporate walks, breaks and meals to be spent together.
However, there can be other factors that go into making your work from home space less comfortable. Employees more often than not will work around the clock as their commute time is cut shorter and their office may only be a few steps away at all times. HR expert Jake Penney said ideally, home workers should keep a room dedicated as their office, which is not used during personal time. He adds to this by mentioning that, “The symbolic act of shutting the office door at the end of the workday can help with drawing a line between work and relaxing.”
Another distraction is the constant ability to check digital devices for status on the pandemic. Blake Stockton, Productivity Expert at Fit Small Business said that the best strategy for setting boundaries is between yourself and the media. He recommended to not read the news or Twitter before 2 PM as COVID-19 has made the news and social media not only negative but sad and grief-inducing.
Tips for setting boundaries and communicating:
- Close your door to create a physical barrier between you and distractions
- Close your computer at the end of the day
- Share work styles and schedules with family members and roommates
- Don’t check media before 2 PM
One of the biggest issues we are experiencing during and outside of work is staying connected while social distancing. Design gurus, M Moser Associates emphasized the importance of finding time for connection as it enhances mental wellness and supports resilience by providing community, a learning platform and sounding board. They said “By bringing in new forms of connectivity to the daily routine – calling loved ones, empowering team members, undertaking acts of kindness – we can enable mental growth, positivity and sense of purpose.”
Leslie Saul, owner of Leslie Saul & Associates said to get on a FaceTime call with work, family and friends. “Knowing that someone is checking in makes waking up in the morning more appealing and knowing that you will be seen and that you will see others helps you get dressed in the morning,” she said.
Why stop there? Playtime at work can include having virtual check-ins, coffee chats or happy hours. This will allow those much-needed breaks that are common when creating a company culture. According to It Pays To Play, a study done by BrightHR, playing at work can help you improve the great things you’re already doing, and help you think differently about some of the challenges you face.
Tips for staying connected:
- Call friends and coworkers every day
- Check-in on someone to give yourself a boost of motivation
- Prioritize “play-time” at work
- Opt for virtual calls over email
There are many ways to prioritize self-care during quarantine and it seems like that’s all anyone is talking about. However, what is less commonly discussed, but just as important, is practicing self-care at work. While we commonly associate lighting candles and using essential oils for times of relaxation, their use can have many impacts for zenning your space. Natuopathist Milana Perepyolkina uses essential oils for benefiting the body and mind and offers a few scents with relaxing benefits to add to your workspace.
- Lavender to relax the mind.
- Bergamot to lift the mood.
- Rosemary to increase focus and motivation for difficult tasks.
- Peppermint to increase mental activity and energy.
- Eucalyptus to support healthy lungs – the more oxygen your brain has, the better your thinking is.
When it comes to self-care, at times we can be our own enemy. Paige Arnof-Fenn, founder of Mavens & Moguls emphasized the importance of permitting yourself to say no as a helpful way to remedy that issue. She said, “Whether it means sleeping in and saying no to an alarm clock, meditating, taking a walk, or just turning off your phone and computer, simple acts of letting yourself relax and enjoy the moment are the very best gifts you can give yourself.”
The most important part of working from home is finding the style that works best for you and is cohesive to your work habits. Editor Mia Clarke, at Invert Pro, advised avoiding trying to carve out what a “normal” workday looks like. She said to instead, be yourself! When creating your schedule she asked, “Always wanted to work in your underwear? If you can still get the work done, go for it! Enjoy working at the kitchen table? Why not! Don’t try to turn home into your workplace office- it’ll lose all the joy. Take it for what it is, and try to create an environment that is positive but also conducive to quality work”.
Tips to prioritizing self-care:
- Add some calming scents
- Permit yourself to say “no”
- Be yourself!
Will Working From Home Be the New Normal?
When employees return to their office’s many companies will be able to reflect and survey feelings, production and satisfaction in regards to working from home. If this experience becomes more normalized, will companies consider adding more of an emphasis on virtual channels, digital connection and onboarding remote workers? Many studies like the one conducted by Prithwiraj Choudhury, from Harvard Business School reported that companies that let their workers decide where and when to do their job increased employee productivity, reduced turnover and lowered organizational costs. When done voluntarily, working from home can have many benefits companies can leverage. As for now, cultivating your best work from home space during a pandemic takes precedence.
Whatever you do, create a space that is beneficial for your mental health and overall happiness. Whether you are alone or surrounded by family and friends, be kind to yourself as we all are striving to make the best of today’s difficult situation. Check-in with loved ones and express that you’re thinking of them. Send them flowers, call them or simply shoot them a text to remind them that they are not alone. Here at FTD, we are going through this tough time together and want to help everyone get through this hard time.