Work From Home? 5 Tips to Help Keep You Sane

What comes to mind when you hear the phrase, “work from home?” Is working at home a dream of yours, a reality, or something you’d never want to do? If you’re one of the many people in the e-learning industry who works from home, I bet you can relate to some of the following truths.

Work from Home Truth-Statements Web-01

According to the January 2014 issue of Harvard Business Review, allowing employees to work from home may increase productivity. But it can take a little getting used to. Working from home is still a relatively new lifestyle for me, since I having started in late 2014. I really enjoy my job, and I do enjoy working from home, but like so many parts of life, you must master the art of juggling. So, while I am not yet an expert on the subject, I will offer some rookie advice that has helped me get through the last few months (with none of my hair pulled out and my sanity intact).

Tip 1: Get dressed every day.

Now, this may seem obvious, but I’m serious. Take those pajamas off and put on real clothes! I don’t mean you need to dress in full business attire, but changing out of what you wear to sleep or relax signals a mental change. Now, you’re ready to work. Dozens of people, after asking me what I do, say, “Wow, I’d sure love to work in my pajamas.” The assumption by the general population is that all telecommuters are sitting around dressed like Hugh Hefner, I suppose. While there are days I am more casual, I still feel more ready to take on the many tasks of my day when I’m wearing “real” clothes.

Tip 2: Get some exercise every day.

You don’t have to go out and train for a marathon, but at least 30 minutes of daily exercise can really make a difference in your mental clarity, your overall feeling, and your productivity. Let’s be honest. Working from home involves a lot of sitting. I don’t know about you, but I get antsy and can’t sit still for hours and hours. Exercise makes me feel good and it also helps me stay focused. Sometimes I work out in the morning before I begin working for the day. When I know my day is going to be particularly hectic, I may block out a time in the middle of the day to go for a run. It relieves stress and makes me feel ready to tackle the next task. Whatever you choose, just choose to move!

Tip 3: Get away from work at lunch.

I’ve probably struck a chord on this one, am I right? How many of you work while you’re eating? I understand that some days it’s a necessity, but try to step away from work while you eat at least a couple times a week. Maybe you want to meet your friend or spouse for a quick lunch, or maybe it just means you’re going to sit down and watch a little TV, read a book, or sit outside on your porch. It really doesn’t matter what you’re doing, as long as it’s something you enjoy!

Tip 4: Get a schedule and stick to it.

The biggest obstacle I faced when I first began working from home (and still do, if I’m completely honest) was learning when to take off my “worker hat” and put on my “regular person” hat. When you work from home, your work is always, always with you. At first it was very difficult for me to not work if I knew there were still things on my list. Sometimes working in the evenings or a weekend is necessary, but if you’re doing it all the time, it’s not good. How productive can you be if you’re always working and not enjoying your life? Soon you may even begin to resent your job, or your friends and loved ones may start to resent you for not spending time with them.

Tip 5: Get an “in the office” friend.

I am not a terribly extroverted person, but I do enjoy people. What I missed most when I started working from home was the human interaction. One day I realized I had not spoken a word for six hours because there was nobody to talk to. When I started having conversations with my cats, I knew my sanity was hanging in the balance! This went on for a couple of weeks until I realized the people I work closely with for my job are just a text or email away. If I’m feeling frustrated about something or need to ask another person’s opinion, I have my work friends. These friends aren’t in the next office or cubicle, so I just needed to redefine the term “office” and get creative.

So, whether you work from home a few times per month, once a week, or every day, let me challenge you to implement at least one of these ideas into your daily life and see how it impacts your work flow. You might surprise yourself how one little change makes a huge difference in your attitude and your productivity. And on those days when you’re feeling really frustrated, just keep remembering all the benefits of working from home.

Do you work from home? If so, comment below and share your own tips!

Heather Wilson
Artisan E-Learning

21 Responses to “Work From Home? 5 Tips to Help Keep You Sane

  • Elisha James LeBlanc
    6 years ago

    Ignore Rule #4 at your peril. This is a great article, sure to be helpful to those like me who work from home. Thanks for sharing it. – EJ

  • Jenny Weigel
    6 years ago

    I live on the West Coast and my team is in the Midwest, so I’m usually meeting heavy during normal lunching hours. To make up for eating during meetings five days a week, I try to block 30-60 minutes on my calendar at least twice a week in the middle of the day to take the dog for a walk. It can be hard to do when you’re always in meetings and/or manage people, but you have to give yourself permission for those breaks during traditional work hours. Even on the busiest days, sneaking outside for a 10 minute walk can make a substantial difference to your mental health!

    • We couldn’t agree more, Jenny! Just because you work from home, it doesn’t mean you have to lock yourself to your desk. Thanks for commenting!

  • Doc Croc
    6 years ago

    Whenever I get a business phone call, I purposely walk all about my home while talking so I am sure to get some movement in. Now it seems strange to not walk and talk no matter the reason for the phone call! On my days off, I try not to step into my office in order to stay off the computer and only check my email with my phone in the morning and then maybe again in the evening – this really helps my mind set as far as returning to work the next day.

    • That’s a great tip! Funny you say that…our President (Diane Elkins) does the same exact thing when she’s on the phone.

  • Benjamin @
    6 years ago

    Really good tips! It is congruent with findings of work psychology studies for efficiency and happiness at work and in life!

  • Andrew Winner
    6 years ago

    When I was working remote, I joined a co-working space in Seattle and would definitely recommend it. I had a small walking commute and it really gave me the mental separation to understand when I was at “work” and also when the work day was over. Additionally, there were a lot of really cool people there working on all sorts of different things!

    I know it’s not technically ‘working from home,’ but it might be worth checking to see if there’s a cool co-working space in your city.

    • That’s a great tip, Andrew! I’ve thought about doing the same thing, if only to separate work from home. When working from home it can be hard to mentally step away from the job.

  • Great article Heather. This is week 3 of my new career working from home as a freelance instructional designer. I’m absolutely loving it and am constantly pinching myself to make sure this is actually real. I can relate to your tips above – and am guilty of all of them! At this early stage I’m not too strict with myself about a routine – this was the draw card to working from home in the first place, that I could work when I want as long as the work gets done. However, I can relate to the tip to separate your work time from personal or social time as I too feel that if there’s work to be done, I should be in my office doing it. The thing is, I love my design work so much, it’s not like work!

    • Heather Wilson
      6 years ago

      Dianne, isn’t it great to have a job that you love? I will tell you that after the newness wears off a bit, it does make it easier to not feel guilty about stepping away from unfinished work. Best of luck to you as you begin your freelance business!

  • Another tip would be taking breaks when you need to. People tend to get really overwhelmed with their work that they forget that sometimes a rest or a short walk can help you get back on track and regain focus and motivation.

    • I totally agree! Without the regular office distractions, it’s easy to forget breaks and lunch!

  • Great article, and I’ve experienced every one of these since I started working from home in July 2014. (Even talking to my cats!) I would add that you should video chat or at least call your “in the office” friend occasionally. It makes the contact much more human that just written interactions.

    • Heather Wilson
      6 years ago

      I would agree, Teresa. Our company has occasional video lunches where small groups of employees take 30 minutes to eat, connect and get some face-to-face contact with each other. It’s really nice!

      • Professor Joe
        6 years ago

        That is a good idea. One thing I did when we looked at remote meetings was create protocols and to get those internally to actively monitor and engage with those in the Chat section of the inline meeting room. It is interesting that those who work remote can many times engage in both written and verbal communication at the same time. 🙂

  • Awesome article – though I will say this about eating at your desk – “How many of you work while you’re eating? I understand that some days it’s a necessity, …” Nah – it is never a necessity. I think a person who works 6 hours a day with lots of breaks gets more done that a person working straight through for 9.

    • Heather Wilson
      6 years ago

      Valid point, Mario! I have learned that by taking purposeful breaks, I am much more productive.

  • Professor Joe
    6 years ago

    I have a nephew who studied online and would get dressed for school as he would for a B&M school, before studying.

    I personally follow most of the advice. I have a treadmill desk and get 1.5 – 2 hours walking in every day. It does make a difference.

    • Heather Wilson
      6 years ago

      I would love to have a treadmill desk.
      Yes, I would agree that dressing for the day does help prepare you mentally for work–and makes it more difficult to justify crawling into bed for a nap on days you’re feeling sleepy!

      • Professor Joe
        6 years ago

        If the employer is engaging and willing to encourage the creativity and innovation of the remote work force, there will be fewer issues with the telemuter workforce taking naps and slacking off.

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