Wearing pajamas to work sounds like a nightmare, right? But it may be a reality for millions of people working from home to slow the infection rate of the coronavirus. For those juggling homeschooling, technical snags and other hiccups, your outfit seems inconsequential, but ordinary touches can raise your mood and productivity.
“Working from home is now a survival tactic and there is no specific way to do that,” Shoshanna Hecht, LCSW, a New York-based executive and personal coach tells Yahoo Lifestyle. And if you thrive in a buzzy office or have a job that demands collaboration or face-time, your new schedule could feel unwieldy and unmanageable. “This time is temporary but also indefinite,” says Hecht. “And exerting control over your workday is grounding.”
These small changes can make the WFH adjustment easier and rewarding.
Practice daily habits. Eliminating lengthy or expensive commutes is a time-saver — or a rare moment to catch up on podcasts or novels, providing a crucial buffer between work and home, says Hecht. Regardless if it’s finding new ways to fill up old space or continuing daily routines, mindful “me” habits will help structure your day.
Dress for casual Friday, not Sunday brunch. Even without a client-facing job, getting semi-dressed for the day could help you work better. That’s what scientists at Northwestern University learned by asking people to wear lab coats while performing tasks that required attention. Ultimately, people wearing coats — and those who understood the garment belonged to “doctors” — concentrated better on their tasks. “It is the combination of physically wearing that coat and the symbolic meaning...” study co-author Adam Galinsky, PhD, told Columbia Business School. But don’t bother with dry-clean-only items — even Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour is wearing cozy knits these days — but a collared shirt, tinted lip balm, or at bare-minimum, wear a bra.
Sit up straight. In addition to improved posture, sitting tall helps you think positively, reported a study of 216 students published in the journal Biofeedback. When subjects had to recall positive and negative memories while either slumping or sitting tall, 86 percent had an easier time conjuring the negative when slumping and 87 percent the positive when straightened up. “Our bodies and minds are interconnected and both can influence the other,” study author Erik Peper, PhD, of San Francisco State University tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “You may feel slightly more optimistic and open to possibility when you sit taller.” Another study authored by Peper showed that people more easily solved math problems when they sat up straight.
Adjust your work hours. If it’s possible, adjust your work hours to match the new reality of your day, recommends Adam Hickman PhD, content manager at Gallup, a global analytics firm. So, if you now spend mornings getting your children situated for homeschool, starting your shift one hour later may work to your benefit.
Communicate your needs. You could notice new personality quirks among colleagues, as micromanagers scramble to connect or team players struggle with autonomy. Hickman suggests defining expectations from the start. “Have a conversation about your availability and limitations so you won’t feel guilty about logging off at any given time,” he tells Yahoo Lifestyle. And if you’re a manager, know that compassion and trust are two qualities that inspire performance from remote employees, according to a 2018 Gallup survey of 100,000 people.
Take regular breaks. With no change of scenery throughout your day, breaks — evidence-based productivity boosters — are essential. “If you had time to make tea in the office kitchen and chat, you still have that time,” says Hecht. Even with mini rest periods to text friends, watch YouTube or stretch, you’ll work hard: a State of the American Workplace report found that remote employees log about 4 more work hours per week than onsite workers.
For the latest news on the evolving coronavirus outbreak, follow along here. According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please reference the CDC and WHO’s resource guides.
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