Working remotely can make your workdays incredibly efficient, but it can also drain you of energy and joy if you’re not careful.
Sure, it’s great to roll out of bed and be able to get to the office in 30 seconds flat. Having the opportunity to interact with pets and family throughout the day is a great perk. And you can’t forget about how much time you save by skipping the commute.
But remote work can have a dark side. Without the physical buffer between home and office, it can be harder to shut off at the end of the workday. Sometimes it can feel isolating, especially to those who live alone. There’s even a chance it can negatively impact your mental health, whether due to loneliness or the burnout that often comes from the “always on” feeling.
Yet there are ways to minimize, or possibly even eliminate, these remote work issues. Below, remote work experts share their best advice on how to ensure your workday is not only productive, but joyful. With the right habits and some fun office supplies, you can build a better remote workday that leaves you feeling energized, happy, and fulfilled.
Customize your environment to your interests.
“If your home office is just a garage sale desk shoved into an empty corner, you'll never feel inspired to work. The psychology of interior design is very powerful, and one of the greatest things about not working in a shared office is the opportunity to customize your environment to uniquely fuel your intrinsic motivation.
What genre of music ramps up your energy and focus? What colors and decor inspires the most joy for you? What times of day are you the most efficient? Take advantage of working in an office of one by designing a space and schedule that maximizes your individual motivators.
Most employees also have no idea how carefully designed and inspected the safety and ergonomic regulations are in an office. From the height of a desk, to the brightness of the lights, to the arrangement of the furniture, all of the elements in corporate design are strategically chosen to maximize your attention and productivity.
So, when we move out of that carefully curated space and start working from bed for 10 hours straight, it's no surprise that our ability to focus changes. Our physiology, including our cognitive ability, is compromised by poor ergonomics. Invest in a space and schedule that supports good blood flow in your body and light and airflow in the room. You'll be shocked at how much more clearly you can think throughout the day.”
CEO and Founder, Distribute
Listen Now: Hear Laurel's best remote work tips to help you thrive in a remote work environment by listening to the Ripple Effect podcast episode Remote Work Truths and Misconceptions with Laurel Farrer.
Build an ergonomic workspace.
“Having a productive day is highly dependent on following a routine that supports health and happiness. For me, that means starting a day with a HIIT workout, either online or at my local studio.
Then, I make myself a cup of cold brew, which I prepare with a CoffeeSock ColdBrew Filter the night before, and settle into my workspace. Some ergonomic workspace elements that I love are the Roost laptop stand, a second screen (I use an iPad Pro), a mouse pad with wrist support, and the Apple magic keyboard and mouse.
Head of Content Strategy, Kona
Change your scenery.
“When I'm working from home, I find a location change, even within my own house, does wonders for my focus. I recently upgraded to a lift-top coffee table that allows me to make my living room a great workspace. I'm astonished at the volume of work I crank out from my couch with daytime TV playing softly in the background. It's a great way to power through an afternoon energy slump!”
Product Manager, MakeMyMove
Train your brain to know when to work or relax.
“I’ve worked from non-traditional spaces—a home office, coffee shops, the back lounge of tour busses—for the majority of my career. I have a laundry list of tactics for how to keep myself focused in the midst of chaos depending on where my laptop and I are set up at any given time.
My home office, while a stable and quiet location, comes with a hefty dose of “I could be doing _______ instead,” so in addition to creature comforts, like easily-accessible snacks and a tea mug warmer, I’ve had to trick my brain into understanding the difference between what I like to call “work mode” and “relax mode” when in the same physical location.
By far the most success I’ve had in training myself to slip in and out of work mode is using lighting. It used to be aspecific lamp that I only turned on when at my desk, but a few years ago, Target started carrying neon-style LED lights that come in various adorable shapes and are small enough to sit on the ledge right beside my monitors. Whenever I sit down to work, I turn on my little purple unicorn, and my brain goes into work mode. I’m able to focus more quickly (plus my inner child goes nuts over the cuteness).
But the REAL kicker of this approach is that when the light is turned off, my brain can quickly shift back into relax/home mode. This has been especially important because, without a commute, I don’t have a more traditional break between work time and home time. For a while, that lack of shift was resulting in a feeling of always being at work.
As someone who’s not very skilled at actually relaxing, the result was that I felt stressed all the time. I couldn’t stop thinking about work tasks, and in general, I wasn’t much fun to be around. I’d come downstairs only to talk to my partner as though we were in a work meeting! The little unicorn lamp is a super small thing that’s made a huge difference for me; I highly recommend experimenting with something similar to anyone who’s looking to create a more comfortable—but distinctly separate from the rest of the home—home office.”
Founder & Owner, Berry Interesting Productions, Inc.
Keep your physical and mental health in mind.
“One of my favorite additions to my home office, especially since the start of the pandemic, has been my smart workout mirror.
The Mirror is great for a vigorous workout, but it’s also good for a light 5-15 minute session between meetings or whenever you have a break in your workday. I keep some workout clothes nearby and love how easy it is to start up a quick cardio class, yoga class, or even a guided meditation. They have sessions that are both live and recorded and even an affordable personal training option. It’s a great way to get moving and stay in a good physical and mental health space when working from home. I keep it right in my office so it’s easily accessible and as a reminder to do something kind for myself.
I also keep a small notepad on my desk that has daily prompts for gratitude. It asks me to list three things I’m grateful for and three things I’m looking forward to that day. This is a good way for me to keep perspective, even when I’m having a rough day.
Additionally, I recently got a subscription for easy fruits and vegetables from a company called Kencko! I love making these in the morning before work to make me feel energized and healthy. It’s super easy to mix up a shake (no blender) and it’s a nice ritual that never feels overwhelming or like I don’t have time for it. It’s good to know I’m getting my full recommended servings of fruits and veggies when I don’t have time to prepare a balanced meal.”
Author of The Remote Work Era
Focus on setting the stage for work.
“I have struggled with writing for many years—and with acknowledging creative writing as real writing, which was entirely counterproductive. Last year, my therapist suggested a different approach: ‘Instead of focusing on the performance (i.e., productivity), focus on setting the stage and getting in the mood to perform.’ So, I purchased a few items to do exactly that!
Not only have these brought me joy, but they have also led to a boost in productivity. The three things that help me to set the stage are:
- A beautiful ceramic oil diffuser with a Damask design, which both infuses the air with invigorating natural fragrance and can be set to light up in different colors.
- My insulated tumbler, which was made by a local artist with alcohol ink—it’s gorgeous to look at, keeps me hydrated all day, and has made me an adventurous tea drinker.
- A vibrant and lively neon pothos plant, expertly chosen by a friend, which reminds me that I have people in my life who want to see me thrive.”
Dr. Margie Serrato
Certified Professional Coach and Consultant, Human Empowered
Enjoy some virtual coworking.
“Try virtual coworking to shared music with your teammates in Remotion. This free tool creates a small coworking 'room' on the edge of your desktop, without an extra map, link, or window to manage. It helps make room for casual conversations that happen naturally in a physical office but are more difficult to foster remotely.
We typically work side-by-side with our cameras off, on mute, with our favorite Spotify playlist playing in the background. Every once in a while, someone will come off mute and have a quick chat that helps add a little bit of joy and connection into our day.”
Growth Lead, Remotion
Clearly mark the end of your day.
“When COVID hit, my husband and I both started working at home and had to make do with desks we hacked from Ikea furniture. It wasn't ideal. So for our anniversary last year, we got his & her sit/stand desks. We got the DIY base from iMovr (I got black; he got white), and my husband built the desk tops in his woodshop.
My sit/stand desk pulls double duty, making sure I'm not sitting all day, while also helping me set boundaries. I start my day standing up to do my simple tasks: looking over emails, morning touch base meetings, document reviews. For the tasks that require a lot of focus, that's when I sit. At the end of the day, I set my desk back to standing as a way to mentally end the day and to set up for the next day. This simple action also encourages me to NOT get lost in my work after hours.”
Director of Member Experience, Together Digital
Bring more joy to your workday.
Don’t let working from home drain your day of energy or joy. With a few office tweaks and simple strategies, you can easily avoid common remote work pitfalls. Do you have a helpful tip to add? Tweet it to us @formstack.
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