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Finding balance when you are WFH (and quarantined)

Many of us are finding ourselves in uncharted waters with WFH (Working from Home) full-time. As someone who has done this on and off for several years now, I know that it can be easy to find yourself never really "turning it off." If you don't have a commute and don't have to get ready, you may find yourself on your computer earlier. And then at 5 or 6 p.m., you just want to get out a couple more emails, and before you know it another hour has passed. From Monday morning to Friday afternoon it can feel like a continuous work flow unless you have a reason to stop.

Well in quarantine, we have even less of a reason because we have nowhere to go! :( womp, womp, womp. So it is more important than ever that we establish some ground rules so that we can be productive without burning out. (Yes I said we - I am struggling too)

Below are my top tips for effectively WFH in quarantine.....

Getting started….

  1. Create a designated space that you want to be in to work

If possible, dedicate a certain place to "go to work" each day. Let this be somewhere separate than where you eat, do other things. Otherwise it will be difficult to separate the two. If you are working from your kitchen table like me, shut down your laptop at your normal time and store it somewhere.

Some other tips to make it a place you can be productive: reduce clutter, get a plant, put a nice picture or vision board in sight. Oh, and sit near a window if possible so you can look outside during the work day. Good lighting is essential - especially if you are in a room with no windows/natural light.

Choose a place that is comfortable - nice chair, ample space to work, etc. You will be spending many hours here each week, so adjust as often as needed and make it somewhere that you enjoy being.

2. Re-create your commute

Take a walk around your neighborhood for the amount of time you normally spend on the train, in your car, etc. And get back into your routine - listen to that podcast or audiobook, call that friend, whatever you did before! Get into a routine that is similar to what you normally did pre-quarantine.

Don't use the lack of a commute as an excuse to sleep later. Try and maintain your normal sleeping patterns so you aren't tempted to binge Netflix until 1 a.m. and then roll to your first conference call in your robe.

3. Shower, get dressed… Yes – even shave/make-up!

It is probably overkill to put on a suit or a full face of makeup, but getting ready and looking presentable can do a lot for your mindset. And if you are like me, you are spending a lot of time on video calls. Your co-workers probably don't want to see your PJ's. Just saying...

During the day…..

  1. Schedule "coffee with co-workers"

We are all feeling a little distance and out of touch. Schedule 30 minutes each day to connect with a co-worker. Use video so it feels like you are in the same room together. And go to a different location if possible. Maybe use this time to walk, sit outside, go to a different room in your house. Pretend you are meeting him/her just as if you would have under normal circumstances. Minus the Starbucks of course.

2.Get moving!

It probably isn't news to anyone that sitting is the new smoking. According to a recent article on NBC News:

People who sat the most were more likely to die from 14 different diseases, the new survey from the American Cancer Society finds.

The survey of more than 125,000 adults found that those who sat six or more hours a day were 19 percent more likely to die over the next 21 years than those who spent less time on the couch or at a desk after the workday is over.

So what can you do?!

Set an alarm and once an hour get up and do something! Spend at least 2-3 minutes getting your heart rate up. If you have exercise equipment or a large space, you can be more creative. If not, below is a routine that can be done using your body weight and in a smaller space.

And after work, aim for 30 minutes of activity. Federal guidelines say Americans should do 2.5 hours a week of moderate exercise such as brisk walking or 75 minutes a week of running or similarly high-intensity exercise.

Here is a sample routine to get you started:

Start the day - walk

  • Hour 1 - 50 jumping jacks

  • Hour 2 - 20 squats/jump squats, 20 push-ups/wall push-ups

  • Hour 3 - 25 crunches, 1-minute plank

  • Hour 4 - 50 jumping jacks

Lunch - 10-15 minute walk

  • Hour 1 - 50 jumping jacks

  • Hour 2 - 20 squats/jump squats, 20 push-ups/wall push-ups

  • Hour 3 - 25 crunches, 1-minute plank

  • Hour 4 - 50 jumping jacks

Evening - 30 minutes of exercise

3. Schedule a lunch break

Even if it is only 20-30 minutes, leave your work area and eat lunch. Or even better - take a walk. Scheduling time for lunch is good to break up the day before you hit your afternoon round of calls and virtual meetings. You need something more substantial than scarfing down a quick meal over a call. This is as much for a mental break as it is for food. Whatever you need to do to make that happen, do it.

After work….

  1. Respect your time after hours

Put a full work day in and then be done. As someone who has worked remotely and at home often for over 4 years now, it can be easy to find yourself checking emails and working earlier and later than a normal work day. At times, this is necessary. Meeting a deadline, end of sales month, etc. But doing this day in and day out leaves little time for quality of life and can result in burn-out.

How to avoid it? Schedule that work-out, host a virtual happy hour, coordinate a fun with your kids, take your dog for a walk - whatever! Just schedule it and take a break before bedtime. I find I don't sleep as well if I try and log off right before bed without giving myself another distraction (insert Netflix, book, anything that takes your mind off work). Allow yourself to wind down. The work will be there waiting for you in the morning.

2. Plan something you look forward to doing after work

Not only does this help you end your work day and turn your mind to something else, it gives you something to look forward to! That is something that we ALL need. Again, don't overthink it here. Did I mention virtual happy hours? :) Everyone's situation is different, but if you have somewhere you can spend time outside, do it. Whether it is in your backyard or taking a walk around your neighborhood. Make plans with someone so you can't cancel.

If you live alone, schedule a phone date with a friend (use video to make it more fun). And bring the cocktails for even more fun! If you are quarantining with others, plan themed dinner nights. Taco Tuesday anyone? Board game night. Even use Zoom or HouseParty and play a virtual game with friends from all over. I know I have seen some Quarantine bingo boards floating around out there...

The point is we all need human connection and to laugh and feel like we are not alone in this. There are plenty of resources and ideas out there, but it is up to you to schedule it and make it happen.

3. Do a Digital Detox once a weekend for at least half a day (*bonus point for a full day*)

I have been a big proponent of turning off the news and staying away from the doom and gloom outlook. You. Can't. Control. It. I am going to say it one more time for the people in the back - You. Can't. Control. It. Watching the news all day, scouring the internet for conspiracy theories, and most of all getting into heated debate on social media (Stay the F home! Mind your business!) will NOT change yours or my situation.

Do yourself a huge favor and commit to either one weekend day, or at a minimum, a half-day of no digital devices. (Note: The only exception is using your phone to call someone. Yes, the phone does still work for that too. No texting or scrolling through social media. Just a good old fashioned phone call.)

There are plenty of things you can do that do not include a digital device. Here are some ideas to start:

  • Call friends and family to check in

  • Read a book (bonus points for comedy or inspirational reads)

  • Go outside - especially if weather is nice!

  • Meditate

  • Exercise

  • Organize a room in your home

  • Clean out your closet

  • Pull out old photo albums or yearbooks and take a trip down memory lane

  • Practice self-care - bubble bath, mani/pedi (I wouldn't get TOO adventurous here - waxing, cutting hair, coloring hair… some of that may should be left to the professionals. Lol)

The point is to give your mind a break from the screen time. While it is tough to do, I never regret it. And the posts on social media will still be there when you get back.

So that's it! My recommendations for things to do to make WFH more productive, while also taking care of YOU! After all, what's really important is your health; mental, physical, emotional, and psychological.

Now let me get back to checking emails.... (I really suck at taking my own advice.... lol)

Sending positive vibes to all of you for wellness and good health.


Holly B.


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