The Home Office: Structure and Efficiency
What was once reserved for a small portion of the working world has now become the new norm for the majority of us. We’re talking about the home office, or your glorified dinner table setup where you do your work these days.
Now most of us have already had periods of working at home before, usually during studies or when starting a new venture. However, when this form of working continues over an extended period of time, it has to become part of your lifestyle. And when it comes to lifestyle, it’s important to design it in such a way that keeps you most healthy and productive. How? We’ll outline the basics for you in this article!
Routine! Routine! Routine!
Let’s begin with the obvious. Routine is important for a variety of reasons, including concentration, physical and mental health, stress levels, and productivity. Irrespective of deadlines or meetings, it is up to ourselves to self-motivate and take charge of our working day. Taking charge is one of the most important factors when working from home. We will look at some common and less common approaches that result in a healthy routine.
Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day
Evidence has shown that a regular sleep cycle supports our natural circadian rhythms. Living in line with our circadian rhythms, in turn, underpins the healthy functioning of our bio-regulatory functions. When we get these functions to run smoothly, we see a unilateral boost in productivity, concentration, and emotional stability.
Humans evolved innately with the rhythm of nature, which typically led to sleep rhythms aligning with the sun cycle. Regardless of having evolved for thousands of years and working in our own homes, our physical and mental functioning still depends largely on this structure. Thus, if you want to take this to your advantage, you have to acknowledge and that routine is inexorably hardwired into our biology. So, set your alarm for the week, plan when you have to go to bed, avoid snoozing your alarm in the morning, and don’t deviate too far from your rhythm in the weekends – you’ll happily thank yourself once you’ve got this established!
Take charge of your to-do list
Regardless of no one being able to look over your shoulder, you will still have to meet expectations and attain certain results. However, besides your mandatory meetings, at home you are in charge of how you organize your day.
You can choose when to have your breaks and in what order you wish to complete your tasks, so make sure to factor this into your strengths. Some people are late risers – and thus productive later in the day – while others are morning people and should therefore both start and finish earlier.
So, analyze your own energy and productivity levels throughout the day, and work these into your personal working routine.
Factor in some form of exercise
You don’t have to go crazy every day, but exercise is invaluable to productivity, health, and a fulfilling day. Even if you are swamped with work, remember that a simple walk around the block can do wonders already. The positive benefits of exercise on work include improved concentration, a sharper memory, faster learning, prolonged mental stamina, lower stress, and enhanced creativity.
Remember that routines can factor time for spontaneity
This is particularly useful for those in sectors that rely on creative thinking. Remember that just because you have a routine, this doesn’t mean you need to do the same exact thing every day. For creativity, it’s important to vary the stimuli you take in, and to keep your environment fresh. The alternative? Stagnating, followed by a lack of unproductivity and an inexplicable feeling of unease.
So, for example, if walking is something you enjoy, try and walk in a different compass direction each time you go. Try to find a street you may not have walked down before. If it’s cooking, switch up your meals – you get the idea! These small differences in your day-to-day experience help avoid boredom, and foster the innovative and stimulated thinking that we take in from new environments.
Mornings; get at least one task done before breakfast
Arise, have your morning drink – coffee, tea, a salt-and-lemon-cocktail, or just plain water – and begin working while your mind is still clear. Doing this makes starting work again easier after breakfast because you already have some momentum and you can carry on from the point that you started before breakfast. So, when making your to-do checklist, write down something you want to have completed before breakfast each day (doing sports, yoga or a meditation are also viable candidates by the way).
Establishing your personal routine
So, although most of us have been told that keeping to a routine is important for most of our lives already, very few tell you exactly how to do that. By working from home, most of us face being in charge of structuring our own routines all of a sudden.
But, this doesn’t have to loom over us as a daunting prospect. Try to see it as your own science experiment, and make it an exciting optimization challenge for yourself. Start by analyzing how you can implement the in this article into your routine, and then personalize them according to your specific needs and desires.
Throughout 2020, many of us found our world catapulted into restriction and filled with changed expectations because of the pandemic. Working from home is one novel lifestyle change that has swiftly become the standard expectation. Moreover, it is looking increasingly likely that working from home is becoming a permanent operation for my jobs. Given this likelihood, we want to offer some tips for the long-term and advise entrepreneurs on ways to get the most out of your home office lifestyle.
Stay in touch with the outside world
When we used to commute to and from work – no matter how fleeting or arduous the journey – we came into contact with other people and spent time in various environments. This created a physical separation between home and the workplace and psychological separation between personal time and worktime.
When your place of rest shifts into being your place of work, it’s easy for the two to start overlapping. This compromises not just your productivity and efficiency, but also your relaxation and private time. Accordingly, it’s important to set clear boundaries for yourself. So, take a moment to determine when and where you will work, and when and where will be your private space!
Staying socially stimulated
Even if the office was not a huge source of socialization for you, it did provide a space where social interaction would happen naturally and spontaneously. Over coffee you may have chatted with co-workers, had a quick catch up before a meeting began, and even while working quietly you might have heard the sound of others tapping away on their keyboards around you.
These things are seemingly minute. However, they are highly important by keeping the social side of our brains exercised.
When we take to working from home, it’s important to keep social interactions going because they create a sense of belonging and support the society that we have grown to rely on. It’s as simple as a quick call to a friend or family member, a walk around the block with a flat mate, and even a friendly chat with the cashier at the supermarket will put a smile on both your faces.
Humans are pro-social beings, evolved to live in groups and interact in group dynamics. However, it’s too easy to withdraw from social snippets when you work from home – you’re busy; just one more thing; it’s raining; it’s already dark outside; etc., etc. But, making an active effort to maintain social interactions helps you stay mentally healthy and productive.
Some need more socializing than others, but nobody can do without (even hermits have plenty of anthropomorphized animal interactions). So, don’t let yourself become socially distant because of physical distance – it will lower your mood and your work-rate will drop along with it.
Standing outside on your breaks
When you do this, ideally leave your phone behind. In these moments, just allow your mind to settle, away from the task-to-task mentality of a busy working day. We need a break to process things. Similar to running your day back and thinking about tomorrow when you’re in bed, going outside and leaving your phone and laptop behind gives you a few minutes to reorient yourself.
When your mind is tranquil and present, it is far easier to think clearly. Doing this a couple of times a day keeps you stimulated, and gives you time for refreshing your thoughts. Moreover, by changing the stimuli you are exposed to and avoiding the tedium that can stem from being in the same room or building over an extended period of time you stay mentally engaged as well.
Keep a window open where possible
While silence may be good for your productivity, over extended periods of time it tends to transfigure and become the enemy. As such, silence can harbor feelings of loneliness and disconnectedness. In addition to the murmur and bustle of daily life outside, an open window keeps your room ventilated with fresh air and cooler as well, which has been proven to increase productivity.
The ubiquitous factor underpinning all of these practices is that they imply some level of active engagement. Rather than becoming a slave to your environment, the idea is that you exercise mastery over your environment so it is conducive to your productive output. With these frameworks in place, working from home can even offer increased productivity while also saving on the wasted time of the commuting up and down to work.