Work-from-home burnout is real.
With the pandemic-prompted shift to remote work continuing on into the summer at many companies, the lines between professional and home stresses are even more easily blurred now, making it hard to escape either.
Technical.ly has been covering the shift from office life to remote work since mid-March — almost exactly four months ago — aka the moment we realized life was about to change drastically. Indeed, it did, as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on in the U.S. and working from home continues to be the norm for many tech and other professional workers. Even those who started WFH life with the best of intentions for their habits may be forgetting to take care of themselves during a stressful time.
Last week, it got us sharing ideas — virtually, of course. Begrudgingly, we at Technically Media canceled our annual IRL team retreat scheduled for mid-May (just after what would have been Philly Tech Week 2020, now scheduled for September). Instead, we held a briefer virtual retreat, during which we shared how we’ve all been getting by since the last time we could meet in person. We checked in with every team member about how remote work is going, and shared a bit about what we’ve done to spruce up the home office.
So, with the end of the pandemic nowhere in sight, please enjoy these tips from 15 TM staffers on how to stay productive and sane while continuing to work from home full time. If you’ve been employing these lessons for a while, consider them a reminder, as we all slip up and occasionally forget to stop working until we realize it’s dark in our apartment and we haven’t eaten a meal yet today (right?).
1. Commit five minutes to every unpleasant task.
Motivation is … hard, even if you’re getting paid to do the thing at hand, when you don’t want to do that thing, and especially when there’s your entire house to distract you from that thing you don’t want to do. To fight procrastination, try this trick: Do it for just five minutes. Then, you can take a break if you want to — but more likely, you’ll find that once you’re in it and have some momentum going, it’s easier to push through to finish.
2. Create dedicated space.
Your bed is not a desk. Your couch is not your desk. Your kitchen table might be your desk, but that chair is wrecking your posture. Invest in your work area with art and cheery tabletop fixtures and quality furniture. We’re in this for the long haul.
3. Even with dedicated space, move around like you would in the office.
In TM’s offices in the Curtis Center, each employee has their own desk space, but we also have access to conference rooms, standing desks and a shared kitchen if we need to shift location to shift perspective. And while, again, your bed and couch are not your desk, it might not hurt to bring your laptop and sit there — or an armchair, or the porch — every once in a while.
4. Make your own standing desk.
“Sitting is the new smoking” is a bold and tedious statement, but it’s one backed from Silicon Valley to Harvard Business Review. To get standing even without a couple hundred bucks to blow on a fancy moveable piece of wood, make your own, as fashioned here by Technical.ly Philly reporter Paige Gross’ dresser-and-stacked-books configuration:
You know those water bottles with the measurement marks on the side? Get one of those water bottles.
6. Eat lunch.
Food keeps you alive. Generocity Editor Sabrina Vourvoulias is fond of homemade gyros and souvlaki. I’m missing my El Fuego burrito bowls and halal truck lamb and rice, but am making do with bulk-prepped salad.
7. Block out time to get projects done, including breaks.
“If you take breaks at noon and 2 p.m. at the office for lunch and coffee, take the same length breaks at noon and 2 p.m. at home,” as Technical.ly Delaware lead reporter Holly Quinn advised back in March. “Even for people who work at home regularly, keeping a strict schedule can be a challenge. Days when things are all planned out are always more productive.”
8. Curate your mood with music.
Production Manager Sam Markowitz swears by “reverse engineering” your mood by playing upbeat music when energy levels are low, and chill music when anxiety is high. Consider My Morning Jacket’s new “The Waterfall II” for the latter case.
9. Get outside every day.
Even when it’s raining. Even when it’s 95 degrees and you’re moist (sorry) two seconds after you step onto the sidewalk. Get that vitamin D, or at least that fresh air. This editor was a big fan of walking meetings in Washington Square Park; now, those are walking meetings with my dog in West Philly, earbuds in place.
10. Keep wine (or whatever your vice is) in the house.
Maybe not to enjoy during your 10 a.m. client meeting — but for that 4 p.m. creative sprint? Or to toast to the end of a hectic day? Go ahead and imbibe.
11. Take your 30-minute lunch to reset.
Don’t take a call. Don’t check your email. Don’t check off anything on your to-do list — just enjoy the break so you can come back fresh to finish the day strong.
12. Get moving to spark creativity.
Standing is just one part of the anti-sedentary equation. Stretch it out with a 10-minute yoga video on YouTube, or do 20 jumping jacks between meetings to get your heart pumping.
13. Reintroduce phone calls to fight Zoom fatigue.
Oh yeah — we can still have those! Not everything needs to happen in front of a screen!
14. Change your schedule.
Why keep a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. work day when your meetings are all clustered in the morning or you’re more productive in the evening? Personally, I like to kick off my day around 8 a.m., then aim to take a break in the afternoon before finishing up around dinnertime. The work is happening in the same number of hours as it usually would, just stretched differently across the day.
15. Celebrate small wins and find joy in your successes to remind yourself why you love what you’re doing.
Awww. Seriously, though, when every day feels the same, it’s important to cheer a little when a project proposal gets approved, or an email gets a prompt response, or you solve a challenging programming problem. Remind yourself why you picked this work in the first place.
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