Now that you’ve been working from home for a while, how do you feel? Have you noticed any changes in your sleep patterns, your work habits, or your general mood? Working at home can take time do adjust, so if you’re not doing it perfectly yet don’t worry! We’re here to help with some easy ways to fix the top 5 WFH challenges you might encounter.
Challenge 1: You are developing pain in your back or hips.
If you made a sudden and unplanned switch to working remotely in the past year, chances are you don’t have a great home office setup. You might be working at the kitchen table, on the couch, or in a tiny corner of your house or apartment.
This can lead to bad ergonomics and poor posture, which over time will create pain. So if you are working at home and noticing more pain than normal, it’s important to take a step back and look at how you sit.
Tight hip flexors
One of the common problems with the way we sit is that the muscles in our hips stay in a shortened position all day. This can lead to chronic tightness, which can eventually cause compression in your spine, knee injuries, scoliosis, and a whole slew of issues.
The quick fix is to sit on a cushion or adjust your chair so that your hips are higher than your knees. Working at a standing desk and taking frequent breaks can also help. Here’s a great article from physical therapist Christine Koth about why sitting all day can be bad for your hips.
Another common issue with working at home is that we develop “text neck.” Text neck is what happens when your head is looking down to read your phone or a laptop screen all day. The weight of your head is constantly pulling on your upper body, which causes tension in the neck and shoulders. A poorly placed keyboard can add to the problem, encouraging our shoulders to slump forward. This creates a pattern of tightness in the front of the chest while the back muscles are pulled taught and cannot activate.
The fix for text neck is to make sure your monitor is at eye level. This may require purchasing an external monitor in addition fo your laptop. Sitting in a chair with a headrest is another great way to check your posture during the day. Try to keep you head in contact with the headrest while you work. Regular stretch breaks and yoga can also help. At Groundwork we take a 20-minute yoga break every Thursday. Here are some other helpful tips.
Challenge 2: You work longer hours.
Do you find yourself working longer hours, or finishing up work after dinner? This is a common problem in WFH life. You are likely facing more distractions during the day, and these small interruptions can add up until suddenly it’s 5pm and you haven’t finished the report that’s due tomorrow. You fire up the laptop after work to finish things off, and suddenly you find yourself in a vicious cycle where one work day bleeds into the next.
In this case, it’s time to set work-life boundaries. There are a number of ways to do this, so you will have to experiment with what works. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Stick to a set schedule every day. Don’t take breaks from work unless they are scheduled.
- Shower and dress for work every morning.
- Add a “commute” at the end of your day– a walk around the block or a short drive will do.
- Confine all work activities to a specific space or area of the house.
- Join a local coworking space. Only do work when you are at the space and out of your house.
Challenge 3: Your sleep patterns are disrupted.
Have you noticed that you are sleeping less soundly since you started working at home? This is a common problem, and it has a lot to do with setting the boundaries listed above. When work and life bleed together too much, you can find yourself checking emails right before bed, so your brain has very little chance to wind down for a restful night’s sleep. If you have to work in your bedroom, this can make matters even worse because your bedroom becomes a place that your brain associates with work.
First of all, see the above “fix” for setting work-life boundaries. Additionally, here are a few things to consider:
- Are you sleeping too much? While it’s nice to stay in bed when you’d normally be commuting, make sure you aren’t spending any more than 8 hours a night in bed. Too much sleep time can be a bad thing, and make it harder for you to sleep soundly through the night.
- Don’t work in bed! No matter what you do, don’t open your laptop or check emails on your phone in bed. Your brain will start to associate your bed with work.
- Get exercise! Exercise helps your sleep patterns and it is also a great way to transition out of or into “work mode.”
- Set a sleep schedule and stick to it. You should aim to get to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends.
Challenge 4: You feel unmotivated and lonely.
Are you starting to feel blah about everything? Working at home is undeniably lonely, even when you are “connected” to people through email and video calls. In fact, the work from home revolution has taught many of us exactly what we miss about the office: human interaction.
Here’s where I get to gloat: we in the coworking industry have known for years that office space is best used as a place to collaborate and form relationships. So if you want to stop feeling lonely, get out of the house! Your local coworking place is a great place to start, and if you live near New Bedford we’d love to show you around Groundwork.
Hopefully your employer will embrace a hybrid work strategy in the near future but until they do, take matters into your own hands and start coworking.
Challenge 5: You are gaining weight.
Have you noticed you are a few pounds above your usual weight? There are a couple facets of WFH life at work here. One is that we tend to be more sedentary when we don’t leave the house for work. The other is that trips to the kitchen often become a cure for boredom. Check out this digital model of what working at home does to the body over time. Eeek!
There are a few things you can do here:
- Exercise regularly! (Bonus: it will help your sleep, stress, and mood.)
- Go to a coworking space where you don’t have all of your snacks on hand.
- Set a timer to get up and take regular stretch breaks.
Boundaries and structure are the key to your top 5 WFH challenges
You may have noticed that boundaries and structure are hugely important to staying happy and productive while you work at home. For some people, this comes naturally and it’s easy to toggle between work and personal life in the same space. For the rest of us, physical separation helps tremendously. So consider leaving the house to work. Even if you are just getting out one or two days a week, it will make a tremendous difference in your happiness and health.