Finding Balance in a WFH World

  • by Nicole Pytel
  • Dec 07, 2021

When I first started working from home, it took a literal smack in the forehead to teach me a valuable lesson.

Let me explain.

Back in 2010—a full decade before practically the entire world started working from home—I began my own content marketing firm at the tiny built-in desk in the kitchen of my one-bedroom apartment. My chair wasn’t the most comfortable and my legs barely fit under the desk. I also had some cookie sheets stored on the top shelf in the pantry right next to me. One day I leaned over and reached in for a snack, and boom, a cookie sheet slid off the shelf and knocked me right on the head. I reorganized later that day, but it was one of many lessons I’ve learned about finding balance in a work from home world.

By the end of 2020, 71% of American workers who had job responsibilities that could be performed at home were working from home. Many of them still do. That means there are millions and millions of people who are trying to figure out the best way to work from home. How do you stay productive without turning into a workaholic? How do you avoid the temptations that come with being at home? Can you really have a balanced life if you work from home?

Let me share some of the wisdom I’ve gained:

Have a set space

Getting hit with that cookie sheet taught me how important it is to have a set WFH space. The apartments I lived in after that always had a spare bedroom that could be my office, and when I bought my house, having the right office was high up on my list of must-haves. That way, everything is organized (no cookie sheets smacking you in the head!), you can have a professional setup on video calls, and you can walk in each morning ready to be productive. It’s also your own space to get things done, without children, partners, or roommates wandering in and out.

This can be tough to swing if you never envisioned working from home until the pandemic hit. I have plenty of friends who were suddenly stuck working on their couches, at their kitchen tables, or on the floor in front of the coffee table. One friend even had to go into her walk-in closet to have a quiet spot to work while her fiance was on calls in the living room! If you’re having the same problem, do you best to find even a tiny space to devote just to work. You’ll be amazed at how much better you feel when you don’t have to pack and unpack all of your work stuff at the beginning and end of each day!

Leave work at work

When you work from home, it’s really tempting to overwork. You almost feel pressured to overwork. After all, your computer is right there—you can check your email just one more time, right? Unfortunately, when you don’t shift your focus away from work at the end of the day, you’re much more vulnerable to burnout. So turn off your laptop at the same time you would if you were in the office and shift your attention to what’s going on at home. It takes some practice, but it will make a dramatic difference in your attitude, your energy levels, and your productivity during actual working hours.

Take advantage of your non-commute

The average American spends 26 minutes driving to and from work, but millions spend 90 minutes travelling each way. When you’re working from home, that time can be put to much better use. What can YOU accomplish during your non-commute? 

This time can be a valuable opportunity for some self-care. Personally, I love getting up in the morning and going for a 30-minute run. At the end of the day, I like to take a few minutes to plan out the following day so that I know exactly what’s coming. After that, I can give my plants a little TLC and play fetch with my dog before cooking dinner. Much better than sitting in traffic, right?

Yes, sometimes I use my non-commute time to catch up on work. But for the most part, I use this time to give myself a little refresh.

Never, ever forget to get fresh air

When you work from home, it’s easy to fall into the rut of never going outside. But no matter how busy you are, always make a little bit of time to get some fresh air. Even a quick walk down the block can elevate your mood, boost your concentration, and lower your blood pressure. It’s also a great break for your eyes (just think of how hard they work to focus on that computer screen all day!). Plus, sunshine is chock full of important Vitamin D that can make your bones, muscles, and teeth healthier.

Dress for the part

In the age of video calls, we’re all familiar with the concept of “business on the top, pajamas on the bottom.” One of my favorite things about working from home is not wearing heels every day, but I still make sure to dress for the part and look professional. I love yoga pants and hoodies, but I actually feel more prepared for the day when I’m wearing something a little nicer. It’s easy to feel like you’re not really working when you’re wearing clothes that are designed for lounging—especially if you’re working on the couch. Try wearing a nice shirt with some casual pants or shorts (with a button!) and see if it boosts your productivity. It does for me.

Working from home always takes some getting used to. But if you try out some of these tips, I bet you’ll be amazed at how much more balanced you feel!

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