12 March 2020, do you remember that day? It was the first day of working from home. Most of us thought that it was only going to last a few weeks. Little did we know. After a few months of working from home the summer came along and things luckily got a little easier. But as we reached October things became stricter again, which is basically where we still are today. So yes, we have been in this exceptional situation for quite a while now.
Rollercoaster year 2020 is behind us. But 2021 so far hasn’t been much easier. You might however have noticed a big increase in your own resilience. If someone had told you a year ago that working from home would be the norm and social activities on the weekend the exception, you might not have believed it and you probably would have thought: ‘’How in the world am I going to deal with that?’’ But here you are: dealing with it.
So what are some of the things that made you more resilient? Here are some best practices from the past year that we thought were worth sharing once again:
Avoid becoming a Zoombie: use your phone
Of course, you cannot do every meeting over the phone. But you definitely shouldn’t do every meeting via Zoom either. One of the reasons is that video meetings exhaust our brains. We are used to automatically processing every bit of information that we get in a conversation: words, tone of voice, body language, facial expressions etc. This doesn’t cost us any effort. But platforms such as Zoom disturb this process (because the connection might not be good, it’s hard to see facial expressions, and you are not actually looking people in the eye). So when you have a meeting scheduled that doesn’t require seeing each other or reviewing slides and doesn’t involve lots of people – consider doing it over the phone. This also provides the opportunity of taking a walk while being in the meeting. And whatever you do, always plan a short break in between meetings to go to the toilet or grab yourself a cup of tea. The function in your email settings that sets your meeting duration to 50 minutes by default should be your new best friend by now!
Leave the house on a regular basis
Since we are working from home, we move way less during the day. Where in the past we would take the stairs to have coffee with a colleague on another floor or walk down the hallway to get something from the printer, that is no longer the case. It is now extra important to get enough exercise. On top of that, scientific research has shown that lunchtime walks reduce tension and fatigue and increase overall vitality. So make sure you go outside for a (short) walk at least three times per day!
Your bed is for sleeping, not for working!
Unfortunately, not everyone has a separate room in their house to make into a home office. If you are someone who works right next to their bed, it is super important to find a way to create some kind of distance between your working place and your sleeping place. The reason for this is that your mind needs your bedroom to be a place where you do nothing other than relaxing. If that is the case, your mind instantly makes the connection with ´it being time to rest´ upon entering your bedroom. If you are in the situation where your bedroom is also your office, your mind automatically connects this space to ´it being time to focus´ instead of ´it being time to rest´. So, how do you fix this? For example by placing a room divider in between your bed and your desk. Or by setting up your workplace every morning before you start working and breaking it down again when you’re done working. Leave your bedroom for a while to do other things, go outside for a walk, have dinner and only come back to your bedroom when it is time for sleeping.
Help your neighbour
By doing things for others, you feel better yourself. It appears that people are happier if they spend money on other people than on themselves. Scientists have mapped out exactly what causes that feeling. It involves hugely convoluted processes in your brain, and basically boils down to the fact that if you do something for someone else, an area in the brain is stimulated that is connected with the ventral striatum, your brain’s reward center. In addition, your brain is stimulated in ways similar to if you were actually spending time with other people.
Keep celebrating successes!
We used to do this all the time when we were still in the office, but somehow it doesn’t seem as natural when we are working from home. But celebrating your own and your team’s successes is still super important! This can be as small as celebrating that you have finished a big task or have delivered an important (online) presentation. Take yourself out for a coffee or call a colleague who you have worked with on the relevant project.
Apart from these best practices that we encourage you to follow, here are some out-of-the-box tips to change things around while being at home:
- Book a hotel room or a forest cabin to spend a few (work)days in a different environment. Or check out hotels where you can book a room to just spend a workday. No budget to spare on a hotel or cabin? Then try swapping houses with a friend or colleague for a day! The extra effort to gather your things and travel there and back allows you to feel more satisfied at the end of the day. And maybe you’re even happy to be back behind your own kitchen table or desk the next day!
- Create little party moments for yourself. Send yourself flowers, a bottle of wine or brownies. Or make your lunch breaks into little celebration moments for yourself by making a nice meal or picking up a fresh baked bun from the bakery (instead of having lunch behind your desk what you should avoid at all costs).
- Try out some new hobbies. Check out this article on NOS for some inspiration (creating an urban jungle, cooking following the alphabet, picking up photography – anything is possible!). Or maybe you can even learn something new by taking a (free) course? Platforms like Coursera or Udemy offer a broad variety of courses!