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April 22, 2020 Peggy Liu

7 tips to help you create structure when working from home

For those who may need a little help, here are seven tips to set up some structure for your day-to-day.

We’re all trying to navigate this strange new world of physical distancing. Many of us are now working from home, some for the first time. Some will adapt faster than others, and others might struggle to find a rhythm. For those who may need a little help, here are seven tips to set up some structure for your day-to-day.

Do one thing at a time

A WFH environment is very different from an office environment. There may be more or less distractions in your home (ie: if you have kids or a pet or live alone), but regardless, one strategy to help you maintain focus and structure is to do one thing at a time. Many of us have become used to multitasking for our jobs, but multitasking can actually cause us more stress. Doing one task at a time can help you focus, prevent anxious thinking, and stretch out the timeline of your day to combat boredom.

Ditch the pyjamas and get dressed

Although it’s easy (and tempting) to spend the day in sleepwear, doing so every day can transform into a long term, lazy habit. We don’t know how long social distancing measures are going to last, so it’s important to remain motivated to work.

Try and stick to your regular morning routine as much as possible: brush your hair, spritz on a nice scent, and put on proper but comfortable clothes. Getting dressed is not so much about looking presentable; it’s about getting in the right mindset to work.

Take a short break every hour or as you need

If you’re currently working from home, it can be tempting to keep working and working…and working. A strong work ethic is commendable, but the line between working productively and forced productivity can be hard to see if you’re not intentional about it.

Take a short 5-10 minute break every hour to stretch, eat something, or check on your kids or partner. Check in with yourself, too, to ensure you’re feeling okay. Don’t neglect other responsibilities and needs just because you have more time available to work.

Eat at regular meal times

Following your normal eating routine is a great way to keep your days structured. Nothing says “off balance” like eating breakfast at 1pm because you stayed up binge-watching Netflix. Not to mention, it’s easy for your routine and habits to spiral after that — especially if you’re struggling with your mental health during this time.

Work in a workout

Gyms may be closed, but you can and should still find time to exercise. Staying at home all the time naturally invites a sedentary lifestyle, and it’s more important than ever to keep your body active and healthy. Moreover, exercise can be a great way to practice discipline and it’s great for your mental health. Whether it’s 30 minutes of yoga, a livestream Zumba class, or walking your dog in the evenings, make sure you get some form of exercise every day. 

Make a plan to help you stay on track

Being clear about what you need to do and setting goals for your day can help you organize your daily schedule. In an interview with Canadian Underwriter, Stanislav Kojokin, a broker at KASE Insurance, recommends preparing a game plan the night before.

Don’t work right up until bedtime

Try to avoid viewing WFH as an opportunity to squeeze in more work. Considering that the reason people work from home is a response to a public health crisis, it’s important to draw boundaries between work and personal time.

In the interview mentioned above, Kojokin also advises, “Don’t mix up home and work together so that while you’re supposed to ‘home,’ you’re working. Or else the work never stops. I think that’s important. Be able to walk away from work and go back to your time with family. Be able to draw that line.” 

Working remotely from home can be a dramatic shift for people who are accustomed to working in-office. The shift involves taking responsibility for creating a new routine, learning digital tools, and moving all communications online. For others, it’s simply hard to be proactive during this time of uncertainty. So, while these tips are here to help you, it’s okay if you fail at your attempts to create a structured WFH routine. We’re all in this together.

Peggy Liu

Peggy Liu is a freelance writer and content creator and editor. She graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in English Literature, where she was also a mental health columnist for the student newspaper. When she isn't digging her way to the bottom of a peanut butter jar or petting friendly dogs around Vancouver, she can be found sitting in cafes with a notebook and a cup of coffee.