Wellness & productivity tips in this #wfh world (yes, even with kids at home!)
As someone who has worked remote for almost a decade, I know intimately the challenges of prioritizing wellness and productivity when working from home (#wfh), especially for long periods of time. Throw some kids into the mix (a toddler in my case), and it’s easy to feel like calling it quits on Day One.
Here are a few of my best practices that may help some of our friends and colleagues now trying to make the shift to #wfh life.
- Stick with your morning routine
When you don’t have to put on those high heels, it can be tempting to stay in pajamas all day and work from the warm cozy comfort of your bed. While I have succumbed to this temptation many, many times through the years, I can say unequivocally that the decision whether or not to complete my typical weekday morning routine is the number one indicator of how I will feel at the end of the day. Not only am I much more productive when wearing a bra and sitting at a desk or table, but I also feel more productive – even if I were to get the same amount of work done in either scenario. This is critical to my mental health.
The mental shift that occurs for me in those early hours sets me in a mindset for the rest of the day: I am either in work-mode (with some freedoms), or lounge-mode (with some work). So although every bone in your body might be begging for you to bring that laptop to bed and have Next in Fashion playing in the background, I can tell you from personal experience that my mental health has suffered greatly in the past from making that same, seemingly insignificant, decision. So pour your coffee or tea, take a shower, find a designated workspace in your home (preferably with lots of natural light), and get to work!
- Move your body with your family
Another thing that makes a difference for me while #wfh is my activity level. An embarrassing story for you: a few years ago, I was working from home regularly due to a barrage of winter storms, and had several very sedentary days in a row. I pulled out my Fitbit to see what these days looked like from an activity standpoint, and was really concerned to find out that my daily average was less than 2000 steps. I realized very quickly that this was also causing my seasonal depression to spiral out of control. Since then, I’ve found ways to exercise and move my body that work within a demanding and sometimes limiting #wfh schedule.
Yoga has been a saving grace for me (and my terrible computer posture) – I do five-twenty minute sessions a few times throughout the day between meetings and other commitments. There are great resources online for “office yoga” and I also love the Youtube videos and app by Yoga with Adriene. Now that my daughter is home with us, I’m including her in my yoga practice however possible, and have found her a continual source of inspiration for adding movement – even if that just means chasing her around the kitchen island ad nauseam. We have silly dance parties to 80s music, we go for long walks, and I even throw her squirming and giggling over my shoulder for weighted squats or lunges. Your workout routine may look different these days, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing!
- Put your partnership to work
While not universally applicable, this one is important for me, so I wanted to share it. My spouse is also working from home for the next several weeks, which is both a blessing and a curse. Our city townhouse feels crowded and chaotic with both of us trying to work and a toddler running around, but I also realize how privileged I am to have him here with me to share the load of managing a very full house. We sat down this weekend and put meetings on each other’s calendars for times when we need the other to take lead on watching our daughter. This helps us ensure we are being respectful of each other’s careers and obligations, while also being there for our family.
It is VERY easy for a situation like this to default to “mom takes care of the kids” or “whoever has the most flexibility takes care of the kids.” We have also determined who is responsible for the prep of, and cleaning up after, each meal, so that the other can squeeze in some extra work during these times. This will look different for everyone, but if you have a partner who is also #wfh, I strongly encourage you to have a planning meeting to map out your week and discuss how you can best support each other.
- Plan ahead
Those of us with kids know that nothing will ever go exactly to schedule, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a plan of attack! If you have older kids, you may have some periods of time where they are focused on schoolwork or independent learning, and you can get a good chunk of work accomplished. A great resource for all of us is the free online learnings offered right now by Scholastic. They have something for all ages and are offering at least a free week of access to their learning plans (up to three hours per day) in light of rampant school closures.
Younger kids are a different story and tend to require mostly hands-on attention. But, if we’re lucky, we can take advantage of nap-time! DO NOT go into these precious blocks of time unprepared! What is most likely to happen after several mentally and physically exhausting hours of parenting? You will open your laptop and get sucked into your inbox… only to be pulled out of it 30, 60 or 90 minutes later by a crying baby and no real work accomplished. I recommend writing down your Top 3 Priorities at the beginning of the day. Pull out your laptop while the little ones are eating breakfast and get everything ready to go: appropriate windows opened, inbox silenced, and any online resources teed up in tabs and ready to go. That way, when nap-time hits, you are prepared to dive right into your priorities and less likely to be tempted to spend your time on less strategic endeavors.
One other thing to plan ahead for: healthy snacks! I know personally that my whole household functions much more peacefully when we are eating regularly and well. Fresh fruits and veggies are more important than ever – don’t overcomplicate this! Pair with peanut butter or hummus for some protein or whip a bunch of good stuff together in a smoothie. Mandarin oranges are a favorite of everyone in our house (either fresh or canned in water) and easy to stock up on. We also throw produce into every recipe we can: berries in the pancakes, spinach in the enchiladas, broccoli in the eggs and pasta, and a favorite zucchini-carrot muffin recipe by Cupcakes & Kale Chips that freezes great and serves as breakfast many days of the week (we go heavy on the veggies and only use half the maple syrup called for by the recipe).
- Be flexible, and enjoy the perks!
Things may feel a little “doom and gloom” in the media right now, but there is so much to be grateful for in these turbulent times. There are even some silver linings to being stuck within your own abode. Some of my favorite #wfh perks include wearing zero makeup (and doing DIY facials while on conference calls). Taking breaks to stretch in the sun in my backyard. Snuggling with my puppies. And remember, social distancing doesn’t require you to cut yourself off from the world: break your habits and get creative in the way you connect with others! Make an overdue phone call to a friend. Send handwritten letters. Join online forums and communities. Find ways to support your neighbors. Facetime your parents. Remember our friends in the service industry – many of them are out of work at least temporarily and could use some extra help. Do what you can to support local businesses either online, through donations, or even advances on tips/fees for upcoming services.
Whatever you do during your time at home, please do NOT be too hard on yourself – these are new and different challenges than you are used to facing, and I have no doubt that you are doing a great job, both in your professional life and on the home-front. Be proud of the safe home you’ve created for your family and the value you continue to provide to your employer during a difficult period. Be flexible with your circumstances and do what you can – we are all in this together!
How is your #wfh transition going so far? What best practices keep you sane and productive?
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