Ultimate Work from Home Survival Guide

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With so many of us now working from home due to the COVID-19 lockdown, it’s important to learn the skills to be productive while working remotely.

If you’ve spent most of your career working a 9-to-5 and driving to the office every day, you’re probably not used to working from home. 

Working from home can be challenging as there’s no clear separation of work and personal life. When you suddenly lack the structure that your office hours provide coupled with the comforts of being at home, it’s tempting to slack off, or even worse – overwork yourself.

In order to survive working from home, you’ll have to develop a new set of habits, discipline and focus. Here are some of our easy to follow tips to survive working from home:

Prepare for the Work Day

The Night Before: Preparation Starts Here

Preparation for the work day starts the night before. Reflect on the accomplishments of your day. Set your intentions before you go to bed and plan your to-do list for the next day. When you wake up in the morning, you’ll have a fresh start with your game plan already set in place. 

The Next Morning: Develop a Calm Mindset to Get Into WorkFlow

During these strange and unprecedented times, a clear and calm mind is the most important aspect to maintain your sanity. An optimal mindset will positively influence all other areas of your life. 

There are tons of tools online for cultivating a clear and calm mind – from guided meditation apps like Headspace and Calm or Brain.fm music to increase focus. Get your head straight before you tackle the challenges of the day.

Exercise and Stay Active

Whether you like to exercise before jumping into work mode or you prefer taking a mid-day break to get in a good sweat, staying physically active during quarantine is of utmost importance.

Be sure to get outside and get sunlight (socially distanced of course) – which aids in overall mood, Vitamin D production, and provides UV light for killing bacteria and viruses faster than any sanitizer can!

Several fitness and wellness companies are providing free online classes for getting your workouts on at home.

Staying active by joining run clubs, going for bike rides, and getting outdoors with friends are also great ideas – and these activities are free!

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Create the Ideal Dedicated Workspace

When it’s time to zone in and get down to business, it’s best to have a dedicated workspace at home where you go to do work only.

If you’re fortunate to have a home office (even if it’s just the coffee table or a corner in a room) – here are a few tips to maximize your productivity by creating the ideal environment to keep you on task.

Create an Ergonomic Workstation

Have you heard that sitting is the new smoking?

With many jobs requiring countless hours sitting behind a computer screen, musculoskeletal disorders and other health issues related to sitting and poor posture have become all too common.

If you work long hours typing or sitting at a desk, it’s important that you use a workstation that facilitates good posture and that you take regular breaks.

Without these practices, you may start to develop health issues such as neck and back pain, wrist pain, eye strain and headaches, and a whole other host of harmful effects over time.

Proper Alignment and Positioning

It’s worthwhile investing in a comfortable chair that’s highly adjustable to support neutral body positioning.

OSHA describes the perfect neutral body positioning as:

“…a comfortable working posture in which your joints are naturally aligned. Working with the body in a neutral position reduces stress and strain on the muscles, tendons, and skeletal system and reduces your risk of developing a musculoskeletal disorder (MSD).” 

Source: OSHA.gov

The following is a set of OSHA’s guidelines for maintaining neutral body postures while working at the computer workstation:

  • Hands, wrists, and forearms are straight, in-line and parallel to the floor.
  • Head is level, facing forward and should be in-line with the torso.
  • Shoulders are relaxed and upper arms hang normally at the side of the body.
  • Elbows stay in close to the body and are bent between 90 and 120 degrees.
  • Feet should be fully supported by the floor or a footrest. 
  • Back is fully supported with lumbar support when sitting vertical or leaning back.
  • Thighs and hips are supported and should be parallel to the floor.
  • Knees are about the same height as the hips with the feet slightly forward.
Source: EngineeringDiscoveries.com

Despite having the perfect seated position, make sure you’re not sitting for prolonged periods. Be sure to take frequent breaks from sitting by standing up to stretch, walk around, and change positions.

Adjustable desks and standing desks are also great options for designing the ideal workspace and reducing stress on the body.

Adjustable and standup desk

Work to a Beat

One way to get into a good workflow is to work to a beat. Find yourself some distraction-free music that energizes you. Music without lyrics will typically work the best.

Some popular music for focus options include:

  • binaural beats
  • classical music
  • smooth jazz
  • coffee shop chatter or white noise
  • music in a foreign language

You can find lots of interesting Binaural beats tracks and playlists on YouTube. Brain.fm and the Calm App are some other interesting services that offer dedicated music to enhance concentration and focus.

What are binaural beats?

Binaural beats are specifically designed to affect attention and focus. Basically, these tracks use two different tones, that when combined, cause your mind to focus on the task at hand. Tim Denning’s article on hacks for focus has short and sweet explanation of binaural beats.

What is Brain.fm?

Brain.fm is both a music technology and a streaming service. Using a patented technology, Brain.fm’s AI-generated music is designed to recruit groups of neurons in your brain to work synchronously for enhanced focus.

Brain.fm Music

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Maintain Your Workflow

Increase Productivity Working in Dedicated Time Blocks

Work in time blocks
Photo by Lukas Blazek on Unsplash

A simple method to concentrate your focus and manage your time is with the “Pomodoro Timer” technique.

There’s several ways to use this technique but any variation works great to promote productivity. The technique consists of working in 1-hour time blocks that are broken down into two timed intervals.

To get started, grab any timer app of your choice – Toggl is a free time tracking tool that works great for this purpose – set a timer for 25 minutes and use this time to focus on one specific task.

Once the timer goes off, take a 5-minute break. That completes your 1st work interval. If you finish the task at hand, move on to your next task and start the 2nd interval. After the 2nd interval, you’ve just completed a 1-hour work block.

You can use this method to break down a project or task by setting aside a designated number of 1-hour work blocks.

The Pomodoro technique is simple, but effective, as it forces you to work within short time constraints. These short time constraints are long enough to complete tasks but short enough to avoid mental fatigue.

With frequent, but short planned breaks, you can work for longer durations. As you become familiar with working to the rhythm of these timed cycles, you’ll start to realize that you can get more done in less time.

Take Breaks: Get Up and Get Out

If you sit for long periods, you should stand up, stretch and if possible, go for a short walk, at least once every hour. Aside from giving your body a break, your eyes need a break too!

Rest Your Eyes with the 15-15-15 Technique

Photo by Quinten de Graaf on Unsplash

When you’re staring at a screen for too many hours in a row, you’ll start to get eye strain which can lead to headaches.

An easy method to prevent this from happening is by practicing the”15-15-15 Technique” for giving your eyes a break. 

The optometrist recommended technique is simple to follow and easy to remember:

  1. Take a break from looking at your screen every 15 minutes.
  2. Stare at an object at least 15 feet away.
  3. Maintain your focus on the object for 15 seconds.

This simple method works as a reset for your eye muscles and will allow you to refocus so you can get back to work.

Healthy Snack Choices

While it’s fine for the occasional junk food binge, you should strive to maintain healthy eating habits while working at home. We want to avoid those mid-day slumps and crashes so we can stay on task and feel sharp all day.

Fruits, nuts, and healthy snack alternatives should always be within reach. If you keep healthy snacks around, you’re less likely to reach for your guilty pleasure treats.

Snacks with healthy fats from olive and coconut oils, and good sources of protein make for great snacks and help maintain proper energy throughout the day.

Books and Online Resources 

Here are some great reads that introduce new frameworks for working and maximizing productivity:

Short on time? Check out Blinkist book summaries. The Blinkist app distills the key concepts and insights of best-selling book titles in a 20-minute or less digestible format.

Check out these popular Blinks for productivity:

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Blinkist has put together an excellent productivity reading list here. This list features several CEOs as they reveal their top productivity tips and the books that inspired them.

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Conclusion

While working from home comes with many perks, it takes some getting used to. By building the ideal work environment and following these work from home tips, you’ll be maximizing your productivity and crushing this new way of home office life.

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