The Remote Worker’s Survival Guide

The only thing certain about these uncertain times is that they are uncertain. Nobody knows when things will get back to normal, if they’ll ever get back to normal, or what the word “normal” even means. In the meantime, many of us are doing the best we can to keep the engines of industry running from the relative safety of our own homes. Three-plus months in and with no end to this great remote work experience in sight, many of us are also looking for ways to adapt to and adopt these new working conditions.

We’ve preached the importance of hygge before, and we’re not going to stop anytime soon. Hygge isn’t just for winter, though. The Danish principle of reaching an elevated state of coziness applies year-round, especially now that so many of us are confined to our homes. Things get a little more complicated when your work life starts to bleed into your home life more than ever before. So how do you adapt to the new normal?

Dress for the job you have

Somewhere around mid-April—when remote workers settled into their new routine and realized they might be doing this for a while—sweatpants started taking their permanent place in work wardrobes. Then the Zoom outfit became a thing: you know, when you throw on a button-up shirt three minutes before your meeting while still wearing said sweatpants.

We’ll allow that a Zoom outfit is better than nothing, and it can be done right. But establishing a morning routine—including actually getting dressed—will do wonders for your mood, your productivity, and your work-life balance (more on that below). Some things to keep in mind:

  • Pretend you’re still working around other people. Take a shower. Put on a coordinated outfit. You never know when you’re going to get hit with a surprise Zoom meeting. And put on shoes. You’d be surprised how much more productive you are when you’re not barefoot.
  • Establish a self-care routine. Showering is just part of it. A lot of us are cooped up and don’t get outside as much as we used to. And when that happens, we start to neglect small details of our normal morning routine, like skin care and oral hygiene. Remember to make time for you. It’ll help you establish healthy routines, something JVN would be proud of.

Get comfy—but not too comfy

When setting up a home workstation, you want something that’s going to give you support in all the right places, but not lull you to sleep (e.g., your favorite recliner). Take some time to really plan this stuff out.

  • PSA: Your couch isn’t a proper substitute for your office desk. Follow a few simple ergonomic tips to keep from contorting your body into a painful mess. Your back will thank you.
  • Get the lighting right, too. Natural light is your friend and will reduce strain on your eyes. If you can’t get enough natural light into your workspace, consider these home office lighting tips.
  • Ditch the executive chair. Find a chair that will give you ergonomic support but isn’t entirely comfortable for long stretches, like a simple wooden swivel chair with lumbar support. That way it’ll force you to get up and move around more often.
  • We’ve all heard it: Sitting too much will kill you. The solution: Stand up. If you can get your hands on an adjustable standing desk, even better.

Keep the “balance” in “work-life balance”

This is more important now than ever because it’s so easy for our working lives to encroach on our personal lives. Some simple tricks for making sure you draw the line that separates work from life:

  • Set a schedule and do your best to stick to it. Be sure to build your self-care routine into that schedule, too.
  • Treat your laptop like a hardwired PC. Most of us have the luxury of being able to do work from a variety of mobile devices. But that’s the thing about mobile devices: they can follow you wherever you go. Designate a work area—whether that’s your second-bedroom-turned-home-office or a well-lit corner of your living room—and only do work when you’re in that space.
  • If you have a dedicated room where you work, close the door at the end of the day and don’t reenter that room until it’s time to start working the next day. Do this during your lunch breaks, too, so you’re not tempted to work through your lunch.
  • Delete “productivity” apps from your personal devices. This is a good tip for the best of times, but it’s especially important now. Check email only when you need to, i.e., during the work hours you’ve established for yourself.
  • Set expectations with your team. Just because you’re trying to compartmentalize your time, that doesn’t mean everyone else is. Who knows? Your newfound habits may start to rub off on them.

Know when to step away

Even before the pandemic, researchers found that people who work from home are generally more productive. But that luxury of not having to commute to and from an office or be disrupted by things like in-office banter can quickly turn into long stretches without taking a break. Part of your new routine should accommodate for physical and mental breaks:

  • Give yourself incentives. Tell yourself, “Once I get caught up on email correspondence, I’ll go walk the dog.” If you have errands to run, use them as excuses to take breaks.
  • Get moving. Stretch. Do some simple yoga. Meditate. These small breaks will help you reset, refocus, and reprioritize the rest of your day.
  • Give your eyes a break, too. These simple exercises will help alleviate strain and strengthen your eye muscles.

Spark some joy

A cluttered life is a stressful one. Just ask Marie Kondo. And the last thing you need while you’re dealing with that obnoxious client, fielding messages from your overbearing boss, or wondering why you procrastinated that deadline is more stress.

Take a weekend and assess your home office surroundings. If something doesn’t spark joy, set it aside. If you can live without it, toss it, donate it, or gift it. If it’s something you absolutely can’t live without, we’ve got space for it.

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