Millions of people find themselves working from home now and are trying to figure out how to be both effective and healthy. Are you one of them?

I have been working from home for 25 years and I have five tips to share with you.

  1. Figure out your work time and space. Maybe your boss has made your work schedule decisions for you. Or maybe you have been given scheduling flexibility. Either way, you need to set some boundaries.

    Start and finish your work day by the clock and keep a regular schedule. Figure out when you want to have lunch and breaks and stick to your plan. I personally find that a short break every 1.5 hours helps me stay engaged and energized in my work tasks. Give your employer a full day, and talk through the expectations your boss has of you.

    And find your work space. A good physical work space helps you get in, and stay in, your mental work space. If you have a home office, great. A room with a door (and lock?) is necessary if you have children or noisy pets in your home. Just ask BBC Dad.

  2. Figure out your need to socialize. This is one of the toughest parts of working from home – you lose the physical presence of your co-workers, and the casual social support they bring you. Zoom, Teams, etc. give you some sense of your colleagues, but it’s just not the same. Plan extra time interacting with people before or after hours. In this era of ‘shelter-in-place’ and restricted socializing, choose to call or video call your friends regularly. Better yet, if it’s within the public health guidelines, go on a safe-distance walk with friends or family. Prioritize and work on staying connected.

  3. Figure out your stress relievers. The healthy ones, that is. Making the change from working in an office to working at home will bring some stress because it is so different. If others in your household are home too, the added concentration of people in the house is stressful. And the different equipment/tech/processes can bring problems and stress.

    So, deal with it. What are your healthy stress relievers? Maybe time at the gym before or after work? Or a couple of short neighborhood walks during the day? The dog will love you if you include her on that one! Something as simple as getting the mail is a welcome break for me. Go work in your garden for a little while. Take a yoga or exercise break. You know the activities that put energy into you…do two or three of those every work day.

  4. Figure out your time traps. What are your time traps? They probably involve a screen, right? The temptation to waste time at home can be pretty significant. Maybe time traps are unhelpful ways we try to relieve stress. Invest some time in healthy stress relievers, and maybe the draw of the unhealthy stress relievers — time wasters — will diminish.

  5. Figure out the unique opportunities. If you live with other people, working at home gives you a unique opportunity to interact a lot more with those people. And the sum of all those extra moments spent together over many weeks can count towards deeper relationships.

    There are other opportunities as well. You can cook your own lunch and eat healthier and less expensively. You can make yourself really great coffee for cheap. You’ll have opportunities to understand the mysteries of your pets. Oh, and that 15 minute work power nap you’ve always heard about? Say hello.