When COVID-19 shut down offices across the globe in March, millions of employers quickly pivoted to remote work to keep their companies operating. Employees were thrown into a new world of work without much preparation. New technology was adopted, new routines formed, and the new way to work became somewhat “normal.”
For many employees, working from home meant seeing their family more often, skipping out on lengthy commutes, and dressing a little more casual (when was the last time you wore shoes?). These changes were welcomed by many, and productivity remained high.
However, now that we’re six months into working remotely, what used to be new, interesting, and exciting has grown dull, routine, and onerous.
Many of us are stuck in a new rut–the one we like to call the “Work-From-Home Shuffle.”
What’s the Work-From-Home Shuffle?
It’s the unchanging routine that at-home employees navigate every day. It goes something like this:
Throw on a presentable shirt and some sweatpants (although the pants are optional).
Shuffle over to your “home office.”
More Zoom meetings.
Walk to the kitchen and eat lunch.
Return to your “home office.”
One last Zoom meeting to recap all the Zoom meetings.
Finally, you’re done.
Does the Work-From-Home Shuffle sound familiar to you? Do all your days end up being about the same? Are you falling into this never-ending cycle of repetition?
Well, let’s change that.
Here are 7 ways to revamp your boring routine and escape the Work-From-Home Shuffle.
1. Change Your Location
Every now and again we recommend that you switch things up and change the location of where you work. Home offices are usually pretty small, pretty stuffy, and pretty boring. And that’s if you have a home office. A lot of employees are working from their couch, bed, or kitchen table. Chances are that you’ve been doing your work from the same place, every day, since the middle of March. Well, now’s the time to switch things up!
If you want to keep things simple, you might start by switching the room you work in. If you’ve been working at the desk in your bedroom for the last few months, why not give the kitchen or the living room a try? Or, if the weather is still nice and your wi-fi connection is strong enough, you may consider taking your laptop outside and working on the porch or deck. Simple changes like this can break up the monotony and help you be more creative.
For people who really want a change of scenery, we recommend breaking free of your house entirely. If your phone carries a wi-fi hotspot, you can literally go anywhere as long as you can still connect to the internet. Try working from a local park or coffee shop. Go to a co-working space (if and when they’re open in your local area). Go visit your parents, whether they’re local or far from you, and stay with them for a few days.
Whatever it is you need to do to get a change of scenery and break free of the Work-From-Home shuffle, do it.
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2. Go Outside
Before COVID hit, the 9-5 at the office was the norm. Expectations were clear that most, if not all of your work would be done between those hours. Leaving the office during “work time” was not always allowed. If you wanted to work out, you were supposed to do that before or after work. If you wanted to take a walk, then you had to make it quick because you were on the clock.
Work-from-home has a different set of expectations. More than anything, your employer is just wanting you to get the work assigned to you finished. As long as you work hard, are on time for meetings, and continue to contribute, you can treat yourself to some mid-day activity away from your desk.
One thing that we suggest to do is get outside. While working in an office, this is nearly impossible because you have to keep up appearances. Plus, if you wanted to go for a jog, you’d have to come back to the office sweaty. Nobody wants that.
But now that you’re working from home, this is totally possible. Clear out an hour of every day and get outdoors. Spend some time in the sun. Soak in that Vitamin D. Go for a walk or run. When you come home, there won’t even be anyone around to smell your sweaty gym clothes. Not only is this good for your mental and physical health, but it’ll be a great reset for your mind. Break up your Work-From-Home Shuffle with a little help from the great outdoors.
3. Create a Team Challenge
Your team has been working together in a virtual environment for half of the year. It’s likely that there isn’t a lot of variety in your operating cadence. You probably have morning and afternoon meetings where you check in on the progress of various projects and initiatives. The usefulness of all these meetings could probably be questioned, but more than anything, the entire team is growing tired of the repetition.
Break out of the routine by trying something totally new. This could be anything that excites or energizes your team.
We’ve heard of some teams that have decided to tackle massive projects in short amounts of time. These micro-sprints give teams 3-4 days to try to dissect, plan for, and execute on major projects, campaigns, or features. The whole team comes together to create a plan that includes everyone, working at capacity, for a short period of time. Initiatives like this can build team chemistry, enhance purpose, spark creative thinking, and perhaps most importantly, get people excited about work.
At Eddy, we took a different approach to a team challenge and had equal success. We created an “at-home-bingo” game where each bingo square had a different workout or physical activity to perform each day. Employees who completed all the workouts on the board won the game and received prizes.
Creating a team challenge that rallies everyone and gets people invested in something new is a great way to break out of the Work-From-Home Shuffle.
4. Get Dressed Up
Do you remember the Office episode where Jim Halpert decides to wear a tuxedo to work?
Ok, maybe you don’t need to get that fancy (although, no one’s stopping you if you’d like to) but you could experiment with some new wardrobe choices just to switch things up.
If you’ve fallen into the routine of shirt + sweats every single day, then give yourself a reason to level up. You may even decide to replace casual Friday with fancy Friday.
In all reality, wearing professional clothing can help you get into a better frame of mind when you’re feeling bogged down at work. A lazy attempt at an outfit can lead to lazy behavior and sloppy work. If you’re feeling like you’re dragging a bit and need a boost, try an outfit change. For an entire week, put on the clothes you’d wear to the office (pants and shoes included!). It may be just the thing to help you renew your focus.
And for those of you who are looking to take things to the next level, we recommend checking out what these employees wore for their work meetings. You get extra points when your attire matches perfectly with your background.
5. Create Checklists
Although this idea might not be as fun, unique, or creative as the others on this list, it’s proven to be extremely effective. We’ve heard from many employees that working from home can feel overwhelming because there are no social cues to start or stop your day. It can also be very isolating to spend much of your day alone, even when you can connect with your team over video. The isolation can cause people to feel that they’re carrying a heavy burden, especially as the work piles up.
To combat these feelings of isolation, as well as to help create clear finish lines for each day, we recommend using checklists.
Start by creating a checklist at the end of each workday. List out the things that you have to (or want to) accomplish the next day. Do your best to ensure that your list doesn’t extend beyond your capacity. We recommend no more than five or six items on the list.
When you sit down for work at the beginning of the next day, you’ll know exactly what must be done. This will help focus your attention throughout the day, making you more productive and more efficient. When all your tasks are complete, you can call it a day. Make your list for the next day to continue the cycle.
We’ve found that this helps us break free from the Work-From-Home Shuffle because it gives us a very specific focus for each day. We’ve noticed that the days where we don’t have specific tasks to accomplish are often the longest and most unproductive.
6. Make Meetings Less Disruptive
The length of the workday has extended since working from home, and it’s mostly due to the increase in meetings.
Technology like Zoom and Google Meet has done an excellent job of facilitating communication across remote teams. It’s never been easier to connect with a colleague from anywhere in the world. But all these meetings bring significant disruptions to our day.
Work meetings are a necessary evil. They keep people informed, align expectations, and promote accountability. However, meetings also prevent real work from being accomplished. A software developer cannot write the code that leads to the creation of a new feature while in a meeting. A graphic designer cannot design the new graphic for the website while in a meeting. No matter what profession you look at, no matter what job needs to be done, it typically cannot be accomplished while sitting in a meeting.
So, how can you give people more time with fewer disruptions? We have some ideas.
First, you can designate a “no meetings” day across your company. Pick a day (Wednesday’s are good) and prohibit anyone in your company from scheduling a meeting. A meeting-free day will signal to employees that they have nothing to inhibit them from diving into a deep state of work. No distractions. No interruptions. Just work.
Second, if you don’t like the idea of a single “no meetings” day, then you might choose a block of “no meetings” hours. For example, what if your company created a rule that from 2-5pm, no one could schedule a meeting? This would allow the entire company to focus solely on their work for at least three hours every day, with the promise of zero interruptions.
Finally, if you don’t believe either of those ideas will work for your company, consider implementing a policy where all meetings have to be scheduled at least 24 hours in advance. This way, an employee doesn’t have to worry about unexpected disruptions or distractions during the day. The calendar they see in the morning will be the calendar they see in the afternoon. Nothing can be added to that calendar during the day. All meetings must be scheduled with at least 24-hour notice.
HR Software built for 2020. That’s EddyHR.
7. Practice Mindfulness
2020 has been a crazy year for all of us. Not only has the way we work totally changed, but the way we do just about everything has completely transformed. The global pandemic has kept us indoors, prevented us from seeing loved ones, and disrupted nearly every aspect of daily life. Political frenzy is reaching a fever-pitch as November’s election is causing both parties to lash out against the other. A wide-reaching racial justice movement sparked from unlawful police brutality has created a great deal of civil unrest. And if that weren’t enough, we’re also dealing with raging forest fires, apocaplytic windstorms, and destructive hurricanes.
If you’re overwhelmed, you’re not alone.
America is seeing a massive increase in mental health-related issues as people struggle to process their new world.
To break free of the Work-From-Home Shuffle, and to energize your mind and body, we recommend practicing mindfulness techniques.
Mindfulness is a meditation technique that will help you be more present. Mindfulness exercises are designed to help you coral your thoughts and feelings and become intensely focused on what’s happening in the moment. This technique will enable you to preserve your mental energy for the things within your control, and therefore be less exhausted from the mental gymnastics you jump through every day.
In a previous article, we wrote about ways to improve the mental and physical health of employees. One way to do this is by subscribing to a meditation app such as Calm or Headspace. These apps will guide you through meditation sessions and help calm your mind.
Learning to practice mindfulness is almost becoming a required skill in our frenzied world. A few minutes of mediation each day can go a long way.
It can be really easy to get caught up in the Work-From-Home Shuffle. After all, many of us see very little variation in our routines from one day to the next. It’s important to recognize this and purposefully break up the monotony.
We hope some of these ideas will be a catalyst for a new and more productive version of you.