How To Stay Sane While Working From Home

Although working from home sounds like a vacation, it isn’t. A 2019 poll found that people who work remotely log in 1.4 more days a month than their in-office counterparts. Additionally, 29% of remote employees struggle to balance work and home life.

If you now work from home, you may worry about feeling stressed or stir crazy. But by following specific tips–establishing routines, setting up your workspace well, and getting dressed in the morning–your remote job can run smoothly. Learn how to remain sane, happy, and productive while working from home.

Stick To Consistent Work Hours

A person checks her wristwatch.
Free-Photos/Pixabay
Free-Photos/Pixabay

If you mix work with laundry, cleaning, and hanging out, there’s no clear line between employment and relaxation. Not only that, but you may not put in the full amount of hours. Schedule your work hours and breaks beforehand to ensure that you’re getting in enough hours.

Unless you’re on break or lunch, don’t mix chores with employment. The more you mix your job and free time, the less likely you’ll be to get out of the “work” mindset. Do you want to feel like you’re still working after hours? Probably not.

Get Ready Like You’re Going Out

A woman applies makeup using a mirror on an eyeshadow palette.
@kellysikkema/Unsplash
@kellysikkema/Unsplash

When you get up in the morning, get dressed. Do your hair or makeup if applicable. Wash up as if you’re heading out and working from an office. Doing so will wake you up and get you in a “professional” mindset. And what’s a worse feeling than working in your pajamas all day?

Here’s another tip: wear shoes while you work. Although it sounds silly, putting on shoes signals that you’re getting productive, CEO Dan Pontefract wrote in Forbes. In contrast, wearing socks or slippers puts you in a relaxed state outside of work.

Over-Communicate

A woman talks on the phone while working on her computer at home.
Manish Rajput/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
Manish Rajput/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

When employees work separately from each other, it’s hard for employers to know what anyone needs. Never hesitate to ask for support or clarification. While working from home, over-communication helps much more than under-communication. Plus, it feels nice to talk to others when you’re working alone.

Always ask what is expected from you. How much flexibility do you have? Are there any high-priority assignments that you need to tackle first? When you open up to your employers, they’ll know that you’re taking your job seriously.

Dedicate One Space To Your Job

A work desk is set up at home.
inkflo/Pixabay
@tookapic/Pixabay

Not everyone has the luxury of a personal office. Even so, you can designate a specific spot in your home as your workplace. Keep your work supplies there, and make sure it’s comfortable. Since you’ll be sitting in the same place for most of the day, you’ll want a quality chair to support your back.

Also, separate this space from the rest of your home. If you can, have a personal computer that’s separate from your work computer. Don’t work in the bedroom or game room, or else you’ll associate your employment with free time.

Schedule Breaks

Avery Francis, founder of 3 successful companies, takes a break while sitting outside.
Rene Johnston/Toronto Star via Getty Images
Rene Johnston/Toronto Star via Getty Images

In the U.S., employees are to receive two 15-minute breaks and a 30-minute lunch for every eight-hour shift. Are you incorporating all of those into your routine? If not, you should schedule when you’ll take these breaks. Set alarms if you have to. A short break can raise your productivity and mood.

When you’re taking a break, step away from your workspace. Do some chores, exercise, or listen to a podcast. If you scroll through social media while at your work desk, you won’t fully separate your mind from your project. That’s not a real break.

Follow A Morning Routine

A woman eats cereal and coffee in bed.
DanaTentis/Pixabay
DanaTentis/Pixabay

A morning routine transitions you out of relaxation mode and into productivity mode. It also serves as a boundary between free time and work. If you repeat this routine every day, your brain will learn to separate work from relaxing in the morning.

Your morning routine could be as simple as making coffee or saying “good morning” to your coworkers. It could be taking a shower, getting dressed, and making breakfast. Regardless of which actions you pick, you should perform them in the same order at the same time every weekday.

Create A “Cool Down” Routine

A woman stretches at her computer desk.
Koby Mettie Barks/Pinterest
Koby Mettie Barks/Pinterest

Just as a morning routine can get you into work mode, a “cool down” routine can transition you out of work mode. It’s a way of telling your brain, “I’m done working now.” If you do this every day, you’ll no longer feel like you’re going to bed at your job.

Say goodbye to your coworkers, exercise, or take a shower. Close Slack and email, turn off your computer, and clean your desk. Tell yourself that you’re done thinking about your job for the day, and then you can truly relax.

Pinpoint What Needs To Get Done Each Day

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Which sounds more productive: “I worked eight hours” or “I finished my project”? Likely, checking off individual goals will help you feel more fulfilled. Michael Pesochinsky, VP and CTO of Great Neck, recommends identifying your work goals every day. After you complete a task, pat yourself on the back.

You may want to create a daily to-do list. When you finish a task, check it off. If you don’t finish, leave it for tomorrow. After finishing your day and marking what you completed, you may feel more deserving of time off.

Set Up Your Tech Strategically

A work desk features two notebooks, coffee, and a macbook pro.
@dmjdenise/Unsplash
@domenicoloia/Unsplash

Imagine that you’re in a workflow, and then suddenly, you need something from the other room. That’s frustrating. Set up your work area so that this doesn’t happen. Make sure that all supplies, from notebooks to whiteboards to your favorite candle, are easily in reach.

Keep all of your work technology in one place, including extension cords and monitors. If nothing else, this solidifies the area as “your workspace.” And since you’re going to spend most of your day in this area, why not decorate it a bit?

Leave Your Work Space Frequently

A man walks outside with a skateboard.
StockSnap/Pixabay
StockSnap/Pixabay

Sitting at home all day will make anyone stir crazy. Whenever you’re on break or lunch, leave your workspace. Eat lunch outside on the porch. Take a walk while on break. If a coworker calls you, get up and walk around during the conversation.

Studies show that exercising just 15 minutes a day can drastically improve your mood. Walking around, doing laundry, and stretching all refresh the mind before you return to your desk. When you’re able, leave the house so you don’t feel trapped.

Set Ground Rules For Your Housemates

Three apartment rules converse in their kitchen.
Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post via Getty Images
Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Whether you live with your kids, partner, or roommates, you likely don’t want them interrupting your workflow (unless it’s an emergency). Set ground rules with your housemates beforehand. Tell them when your breaks are, and when they absolutely can’t interrupt you.

The same applies to friends and family members who like to keep in touch. If your mom often calls you during a meeting, tell her when you’re off the clock. Let your friends know that you’ll text them back during your break. Doing so will remove the temptation to dive into a conversation instead of working.

Remove Distractions

A woman scrolls through Instagram on her phone while sitting at her work desk.
@freshhconnection/Unsplash
@freshhconnection/Unsplash

Know yourself, and know what distracts you. Is it your favorite snack? Your phone? Keeping these at your work desk may zap your productivity in an instant. While working, remove these items from your space. You can return to them during your break.

If the bane of your existence is social media, you can install apps to block certain websites for a certain amount of time. SelfControl, AppBlock, StayFocusd, and many other apps (for both computers and phones) can block social media while you work.

Talk Face-To-Face When You Can

A psychology student studies with two friends over video chat.
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@mohamed_hassan/Pixabay

Although many employees work online, they can still talk face-to-face. Video chat with your colleagues during meetings and check-ins. If you’re able, meet in person with your coworkers once a month. Seeing each other’s faces can encourage brainstorming and provide a refreshing change of pace.

Also, don’t be afraid to have some fun with your colleagues. Everyone needs a fun break to send GIFs or Twitter links to each other, as long as it isn’t replacing work. Getting along can imitate the “watercooler talk” that employees have in an office.

Adopt A ROWE Mindset

A man concentrates on work with a notebook and computer.
StartupStockPhotos/Pixabay
StockSnap/Pixabay

Tim Jones, CEO of Precision Nutrition, runs his business on ROWE, or “results-only work environment.” According to ROWE, it doesn’t matter where you work, what your hours are, or what you do during breaks; it only matters that you see results from your productivity.

ROWE gives you tangible goals to reach. If your goal is to work eight hours a day–well, you can do it, but it won’t feel rewarding. Setting a goal to clean your inbox creates a tangible result that you can feel proud of at the end of the day.

Prepare Meals And Snacks Ahead Of Time

A young woman eats sushi while working.
marka/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
marka/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Working from home means eating from home, but you can’t do that if your fridge is empty. For the sake of your time and health, plan your meals and snacks beforehand. Stock up on nuts, cheese, or protein bars for when you need a quick bite. Store your leftovers for an easy lunch.

You don’t have to prep elaborate meals to make a difference. A carton of eggs can make an omelet, scramble, or fried rice for lunch. You can heat frozen potstickers in a pinch. Chopping fruits and veggies beforehand will make your cooking a lot easier.

Avoid The Kitchen

A monk eats pancakes at the Nikolo-Perervinsky Monastery.
Mikhail TereshchenkoTASS via Getty Images
Mikhail TereshchenkoTASS via Getty Images

According to the president of Martini Consulting, Joy Martini, the curse of working from home is snacking. “I shudder at the thought of how many times I opened the fridge that first year,” she admits. Unless you’re on lunch or a break, stay out of the kitchen.

If you have frequent hunger pangs, drink more water. In 2016, scientists discovered that people who drink more water consume fewer calories. If you find yourself craving snacks out of boredom, drink lemon water, tea, or sparkling drinks.

If Possible, Stick To Your Natural Schedule

A woman peels back curtains to look out the window.
Samuel de Roman/Getty Images
Samuel de Roman/Getty Images

In 2019, a study in Sleep reported that morning people don’t always perform better than night owls. Both can have a productive day, as long as they stick to their natural schedule. Often, people who work from home have flexible work hours, so align those hours to your circadian rhythm.

If you work better at night, you can start the day later. If you’re too tired to exercise in the morning, do it after work. Schedule your day according to your strengths, and your job will improve.

Don’t Schedule Appointments Midday

A doctor schedules appointments in his office.
BSIP/UIG Via Getty Images
BSIP/UIG Via Getty Images

Unless it’s part of your job, try not to schedule appointments in the middle of the day. Would you leave an office for a hair appointment? Probably not. Although you work at home, you need to treat your job as a job. The last thing you need is a midday distraction that will throw off your entire workflow.

Linda Stokes, a managing partner of the Academy Physicians, recommends booking appointments early or late in the day. Treat social time, hangouts, and calls the same way. You’re on the clock, after all.

Block Outside Noises

A university student removes her headphones while she studies in a library.
JHU Sheridan Libraries/Gado/Getty Images
JHU Sheridan Libraries/Gado/Getty Images

Garbage trucks, noisy neighbors, and barking dogs are all distractions that you can’t control. Take steps to block out these sounds before they occur. Shut the door, close the windows, or invest in a pair of noise-canceling headphones. These will also tell your roommates that you’re in work mode and shouldn’t be bothered.

If you listen to music while working, be mindful of what you play. Videos, slow music, the weather…all can influence your mood. If you’re feeling especially stressed or distracted, then you may want to change the channel.

Take Advantage Of The Flexibility

A woman stretches on a yoga mat at home.
@zenbear/Unsplash
@zenbear/Unsplash

As crucial as a schedule is, working from home allows more flexibility than in-office jobs. Take advantage of it. If you need to take care of some laundry during a weekday, do it. If you need to sleep in and start work a bit later, why not? You can give yourself a bit of breathing room while you have it.

The CEO of Entelechy, Terry Traut, advises employees to go with the flow. “Instead of trying to force yourself to be productive when you’re not, or to relax when your mind’s whirling, just go with the flow,” she told Entrepreneur.