For the last few months, many workers have needed to adapt to working from home – having to log into virtual meetings, update technological capabilities, and complete work assignments from an adapted home office space. Plus, everyone’s trying to do this in the midst of distractions such as partners who are jostling for work-at-home space, children who need computer time, housework that’s piling up, and pets that are demanding attention.
How to Make the Most of Working from Home
While we’ve already been adapting and adjusting to these changes, there are some ways to ensure we’re getting the most value out of the experience of working from home.
Way #1. Energy costs
While you’re likely saving money on fuel and transportation costs because of less commuting time, you might be incurring additional expenses at home, particularly with the onset of summer. With the days growing warmer and longer, it can get pricey working from home since you’re running your air conditioner all day (instead of turning it off while you’re in the office, then turning it on when you get home at the end of the day).
Now, since your home is the office, you’re taking on the expense of cooling it. Save yourself a little cash while taking care of the environment, and still keeping your home cool. You can easily save energy in your home (and money) by taking a few steps to ensure you’re getting the most from your energy budget.
Do thorough research and maintenance on your air conditioner. Doing things like making sure it’s the right size for your home (too big or too small and it will cost you more to run your AC), has clean air filters, and doesn’t have any leaks will help keep your energy bill lower while still keeping your home at a cool, comfortable temperature.
Adding blackout curtains can be an easy way to cut down on the sun’s heat, giving your cooling unit a break. In rooms where you don’t get intense direct sunlight, keep the lights off whenever you can, tapping into the power of natural lighting. Some office buildings configure their cubicles in a way that makes the most of natural daylight – is there a way to reconfigure your home office to harness the best light?
Think about utilizing underground spaces such as finished (or even unfinished) basements whenever possible, as they are naturally cooler. Just make sure you emerge every now and then for some healthy daylight. Adding personal touches such as lamps with low-energy-use LED bulbs or a string of Christmas lights can help keep things cheery.
Now might be a good time to upgrade to smart items, such as a smart thermostat, to regulate the temperature in your home automatically. Programmable thermostats can help by cooling your house only when it’s needed, rather than running constantly, and you’ll see the savings when your electricity bill arrives. Adding smart power strips also can help keep energy costs lower when you have multiple family members using multiple devices all day – the power strips help prevent phantom electrical drain when items are not in use.
Way #2. Technology working for you
Since working from home has meant we’re spending more time online instead of having in-person interactions with people, it makes sense to find ways to use technology to make us happier. Set a limit on social media time, which has been shown to increase stress, and instead use the power of technology to keep our stress levels to a minimum.
Try running a music app in the background as you work, finding favorite music genre stations on sites such as Pandora or Spotify. Take breaks with meditation apps such as Calm to get centered and focused before starting a new project, or before sending that tricky email.
Spend quality time with a partner or children by playing a video game together (rather than zoning out on one yourself as an escape). Always put a time limit on online activities to give your eyes and mind a break. That goes for work, too – taking a short break after a certain amount of time working helps keep you sharp and helps you avoid burnout. After all, if you were in the office, you’d get up every now and then for a cup of coffee or to visit the water cooler.
Keeping a schedule is key—especially during a time when the days and weeks seem to blend into one another. Use a time management tool or scheduling app, or even simply set the alarm on your phone, to remind you when it’s time to take a break or start a new activity.
This is especially important when you have multiple family members in the house, all working on different things, whether it’s a job or school commitments. Schedule in time that you absolutely need to focus on work, and stick to the schedule. That also means stopping work when the time’s up, leaving your chair, and doing something else.
Way #3. Managing distractions
It’s natural to feel pulled in eight (or more) different directions at once when you’re working from home, especially if you have children, whether they’re small and need most of your attention, or they’re school-age and need help with their online work. (Or if they finish their work in no time and need ideas about what to do next.)
If you have a partner, communicating about each other’s work schedules, project demands, and necessary meetings can help you to balance and share time with the kids.
If your kids are old enough, have them get involved with building a family activity and chore schedule. Can they be in charge of feeding and walking the dog, for instance? Can they make simple no-cook meals with minimal supervision? Such activities can give them a sense of ownership and responsibility as a key member of the family.
Can your children understand the need for you to have uninterrupted work time? If so, plan to follow that schedule and reward them with parent-child time, such as playing a game, going for a walk, doing an art project, or another activity that they enjoy.
Keep an age-appropriate limit on their tech-time and TV time to help foster summer reading efforts, outdoor time, and other non-screen activities to help keep them physically and mentally healthy. Join them in whatever activities you can, and allow them to develop creative play on their own.
Have you set up your own workspace in a part of the house for working from home where you can have privacy? If you have a partner that can supervise the children, or if your kids are old enough to manage some time on their own, having your own space can make a huge difference. It’s also a great way to be “at work” and keep work time separate from your downtime.
Regardless, keep to a schedule to avoid the stress of being “on” at all hours – your home is still your sanctuary, and whatever you can do to keep it that way during these unusual times is important to your well-being going forward.