Perhaps it’s the increasingly high costs of maintaining an office or the demand for greater work-life balance (or both), but working from home has become increasingly popular these days. Heck, I work from home a few days a year, and I believe my colleagues do so more frequently.
It really is a great gig. You save money on transportation costs,you have complete control over your working environment (raise your hand if you like to have your music on as you work), and you get to spend more time with your family thanks to the flexibility of your schedule.
On the other hand, telecommuting can also pose certain health risks. The lack of structure can sometimes lead certain people to binge on unhealthy food, cultivate a disorganized sleeping schedule, and even develop feelings of isolation and depression.
Fortunately, there are lots of things you can do to take care of yourself while still enjoying the myriad perks of working from home. Here are just a handful of them:
1. Don’t work in bed.
Specialists say that your bed should only be used for two things: sleep and that one other thing I can’t exactly mention on a family-friendly blog (Hint: It also starts with “s.”).
Why? Because habitually bringing your work materials to bed can interfere with your ability to relax. If you constantly work in bed, your mind won’t see it as a place to rest in anymore, and that could create problems when that’s all you want to do.
Instead, set up your own little workspace. Even if you live in a small studio, you can set up a desk and chair that you can use when grinding away on your laptop during working hours. It also helps to invest in an ergonomically-sound chair (i.e., one that will be kind to your back) so you can work comfortably.
2. Set up a work schedule and stick to it.
There’s a reason why typical office hours are from 9-5: it’s better for your body clock.
Because of the inherent flexibility in many work-from-home schemes, it’s tempting to wake up and sleep during odd hours, but that’s damaging to your mental and physical health in the long run. Instead, pattern your working hours closer to what they were when you were still going to the office.
More importantly, stick to those hours. Another caveat you need to watch out for when you work from home is that work can bleed into your personal time if you aren’t careful. Track your hours and be firm about disconnecting when you’re supposed to so that you don’t burn yourself out.
3. Shower and dress up before going to work.
Okay, I confess that I did stay in my pajamas a couple of times while working from home, but I wouldn’t advise doing that often.
Proper grooming is also crucial to your health and self-discipline, so you should still get dressed as you normally would even if you won’t be leaving the house (or your room) for the day. Sure, it’s not like anyone’s going to see you as you work from home, but getting out of your pajamas into some clean and crisp work clothes (jeans and a t-shirt are just fine) can do wonders for your mental alertness and your productivity.
4. Make your working environment efficient yet soothing.
Remember that desk we talked about in item 2? Make sure it’s neat and clutter-free. You can put a small picture frame with your family photo in it, sure, but don’t overload it with too many personal effects because that will just distract you from the work at hand.
I find that keeping a small note pad and a couple of pens beside my laptop is usually enough to maximize my efficiency. Positioning my desk in front of a nice view or within sight of a beautiful piece of artwork also helps keep me calm.
If you really want to go all out, you can even get a diffuser with mint or lemon-scented fragrance oils since these smells are said to relax and rejuvenate your mind, which can only be good if you want to stay focused.
5. Keep the kitchen stocked with healthy snacks and water.
You may not get fat by snacking on sweets and junk food for a day, but that could add up if you do it for, say, a month. Ergo, prevent yourself from giving in to temptation by stocking your fridge with fresh fruits, vegetables, and of course, water.
That way, you’ll keep yourself hydrated and since you’ve only got what I like to call rabbit food to snack on, you won’t keep wandering off into the kitchen every chance you get. Bonus: this can put you off procrastinating too.
6. Join a telemarketer community or connect with your team on Skype.
One of the hardest things about working from home is the potential for isolation, especially if you’ve been telecommuting for quite a while. Working solo means being free of toxic colleagues, but even the most hardcore introvert needs to talk to someone every once in a while.
To combat this, you can join some telemarketer message boards or online communities. Our team keeps in touch throughout the day via Skype. The benefits are twofold: we get to address any work concerns quickly from separate and remote locations, and we also get to bond as a team via light conversations that typically occur when we’re not too busy.
Or, you can always step away from your computer for a moment and play or chitchat with your kids.
I suppose the trade-off for the comparative freedom that you get when you work from home is that the line between your personal and professional life tends to blur. As with anything, however, all it takes is a bit of adjustment in order to restore overall balance once again.