WFH: A “new normal” that requires its own boundaries

In the last month since I’ve updated this site, the world – both my own and everywhere – seems to have taken a sharp left turn. Among the multitude of changes our household has been adjusting to, I have now been working from home for nearly four weeks.

Thousands of people worldwide are making the same adjustments as myself and my coworkers, familiarizing ourselves with video conferencing and other digital tools that allow us to continue to get our jobs done. The pandemic has forced many previously hesitant and/or anti-WFH employers to find ways to accommodate both the safety of their employees and ever-changing government policies. I am fortunate to work in an industry where WFH is both often accepted and fairly accessible. Give me a computer and decent internet access and I’m pretty much set.

Having had multiple remote-based jobs throughout college, I am also familiar with the WFH lifestyle and understand how to manage my time, that’s not to say this adjustment hasn’t been without its challenges.

Among the commonly expressed concerns surrounding working from home is the total removal of physical barriers between our professional and personal lives. As this TikTok hilariously puts it, “My home is my work now, and my work is my home.”

Pre-pandemic, I made a commitment to myself to establish and adhere to boundaries between work and home – and to do my best to not bring said work home with me. This included marking my calendar with a daily “out of office” slot to signify my mental clocking out, as well as refraining from checking emails after 6 p.m. (with the exception of crises or urgent situations, of course). I would then do my best to be present and enjoy my evenings, setting work aside until my alarm the next morning. This was clearly much easier whenever I was able to physically remove myself from the office every day and transition to a different environment.

As we all continue to navigate the pandemic and to adapt daily changes, I have worked hard to maintain a semblance of normalcy and to craft a new routine for myself that can imitate a sense of separation between work and home. Some things that have been working for me include:

Designating a work space

While one of the biggest benefits of working remotely is the ability to do your job anywhere in the house, I actually do not do any work from my couch. I instead alternate between two spaces in our tiny duplex, one in my kitchen and one in our spare bedroom, always emulating a typical office set-up. I make no judgments on those who prefer to answer their emails from the sofa – I have just found it helpful to keep separate spaces for work and relaxation. Though my dining table and couch sit approximately four feet apart, I swear it does make a difference to “leave the office” at the end of each day and relocate to a different spot in the house.

Taking a (lunch) break

I don’t know who else needs to hear this, but you should eat something. No, seriously, if it’s 2 p.m. and you’ve barely eaten anything today – go get up and prepare yourself a meal.

When I am on a roll with assignments, I tend to put off meals for as long as possible. I’ve noticed while working from home I got especially bad about drinking my morning coffee on a completely empty stomach, which obviously isn’t good for my mental or physical health.

It is important to dedicate time for yourself throughout the work day, and getting up from your home office – even just to make a quick sandwich – can help clear your mind. I have also been trying not to eat my lunch hunched over my computer, but instead taking it as a separate occasion somewhere else. On nice days, I’ve been ducking outside to enjoy my meal or a snack in the sunshine before I go back to work.

Getting ready (to go nowhere)

Jenna Marbles had it right when she made a recent video called “Get Ready With Me To Go Nowhere.” I’ve found that getting up early and following the same routine (with less make-up) as I used to really helps me kick-start start my day. I complete every step I used to on any given Monday morning, except for walking out the door with my computer bag. (Instead, I take a seat at my kitchen-table-turned-home-office.) This includes making it a point to continue going to bed and waking up at the same time every day so that my sleep schedule doesn’t get off-kilter.

Each of these things are minute changes, but I believe they’ve helped me be more productive as a remote employee, as well as greatly helped my well-being throughout all the external chaos.

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