So here’s the deal. You’re at home for what may well be the entire school year. Kind of like high school but now you don’t come home at the end of the day; you’re there all day every day. For some of you that may be a dream come true, and for others it might be a nightmare. Thankfully plenty of people have been working from home (WFH) for quite a while, and have learned a thing or two about what to do and what not to do – and I’ve compiled a list of the best of that advice, including my own. Unsurprisingly, studies have shown that home workers tend to work longer hours and experience a blurring of the boundaries between work and home; i.e. being in the same environment all the time, whether you’re studying or relaxing. This can cause issues such as trouble sleeping due to associating your bed or room with working. It might also make curbing unwanted thoughts about work or school related responsibilities difficult.
Tip #1: At this time, it is extremely important for students to separate school from home practices, such as sleeping and relaxing. We can do this by creating spaces in our homes, if possible, that are designated only for each of these activities. Another obstacle faced by people working from home is self-control. Researchers have found that while self-control is normally a very beneficial skill, in work from home situations it is like a muscle that can become fatigued. Like any other muscle, it requires energy to be used, and when over-stimulated, can function sub-optimally. This worsens mental health and overall wellbeing. Ordinarily, when you are on campus in a library or study area, distractions like your bed, TV and kitchen cupboard are out of sight and mind. At home however, they’re front and center. With more things to restrain ourselves from, we tend to experience overstimulation.
Tip #2: To avoid self-control fatigue, students should set up study schedules in order to break up their days. Try allocating time to work out or go for a walk, forcing you to exit your study environment. It also helps to find a space within your home for work that is as distraction-free as possible. Interestingly, there are some benefits to working from home. A study in 2012 found that structured environments, like offices and libraries, tend to kill creativity. People working from home reported higher productivity in innovation and ingenuity related tasks. On the flip side, the study found that people performed dull tasks better in a “work” environment than they did in a less-structured remote setting. This is because when you’re tasked with a boring assignment in a relaxed environment, ordinary distractions seem more interesting. You find you’d rather watch TV or walk your dog.
Tip #3: Work strategically. If you know that you have a mundane assignment to do, put yourself in a structured environment without distractions. If you’re trying to channel creativity, consider going outside or to a comfier setting. Perhaps the most important thing to note about WFH is that it’s going to be weird. Maybe you’ve been doing it for a while, or maybe you have no idea what it’s going to be like. It takes some time to get used to online lectures and the majority of social interactions taking place over Facetime or Zoom. It is vital that we give ourselves the space to have (any) feelings about the ongoing pandemic and the situations it has put us in. Bottling up frustrations never works. Self-compassion is key.
Tip #4: Know that you’ll have feelings about WFH and let yourself feel them fully. Oftentimes the only way to get over negative emotions is to ‘sit in them’ and let them run their course without internal resistance, as counterintuitive as that sounds! I’d also encourage you to seek out social connection in whatever way is available to you. Spending time with loved ones is essential in this difficult time.
Below are the sources I used that also have additional tips for working from home.
Written by: Elsa Bassi