We’re approaching three years since the initial office exodus, where millions of people found themselves stationed at home full-time, overnight. The initial shock of that transition has worn off. So if you participated in the office flight, you’ve likely settled into some semblance of a routine.
But is it time to make a change? As a time-management coach, I’ve helped clients all over the world navigate the shift from the office to home, and back again. What I’ve seen is that some small tweaks to your schedule can make a big impact and could give you a fresh approach to the new year.
Here are a few reasons why you may want to shake things up — and how to make these changes effectively.
Reason #1: You’re feeling bored with the same old, same old.
One reason why you may need to change up your work-from-home schedule is that nothing has changed at all in the past two-plus years, and the monotony is getting to you. Instead of really starting work on time, you’re logging in and then snoozing some more. You miss the social interactions with your coworkers. And every day feels like the day before.
If you find yourself in those WFH doldrums and it’s impacting your motivation and productivity, it’s time to switch things up.
One of the most effective ways to do that is through a change of scenery. I’ve seen people go to coffee shops, libraries, or even hang out by the pool if they live in warmer climes. If you want a real office-y feel, you could also position yourself at a co-working space. Getting out and being around other people may add a little bit of time and distraction. But if it overall helps you feel more energetic and motivated, then it’s a productivity win.
If it’s not easy to transport your work because you need multiple computer screens or other special equipment, there are still ways that you can infuse some variety into your routine. One could be through a virtual coworking buddy. You could ask a coworker or friend to work alongside you on a video call. Or you could use a service like FocusMate, which will pair you with someone else in the world who needs to get something done at the same time you do.
Finally, you could add a little spice to your routine by incorporating something new and fresh. For example, if you sign up for ClassPass, you can try out a variety of gyms in your area. Each week could be an opportunity to experience something new. Or you could search MeetUp.com for events happening in your area. Sometimes having something to look forward to in the evening hours can make you much more focused in the daytime hours. Clients I’ve worked with have also said that being in a setting where it would be rude to be on their phones also helps their minds really shut off from work.
Reason #2: Your household routines have changed.
Another reason to adjust your work-from-home schedule is to account for shifts that may have happened not to you, but around you. For example, maybe your spouse has gone back to the office, so they’re gone most of the day, or your kids have changed schools so the pick-up and drop-off times are different, or you got a puppy and now you need to fit walks into your schedule.
These changes in your environment matter and mean you need to think carefully about all the parts of your day. For example, should you adjust your start time to later or earlier? Do you need to look into carpooling help for school or sports? Does your exercise schedule need modifications?
Acknowledge how the changes in your household routine give you more or less time, and then reset your expectations accordingly.
Reason #3: You want to establish healthier habits.
For some the shift to work-from-home bumped up their self-care because they repurposed their commute time to enjoy more sleep in the morning or to fit in some evening walks. But for others not going into the office took a toll on their healthy habits, leading to not having a defined stop time so they worked later and then went to sleep later. Others also ditched their exercise routine when they stopped going to the gym at work and never regained momentum. And still others may have traded the salad bar in the office cafeteria for DoorDash and found that even their stretchy pants no longer fit.
If this sounds a bit like you, it’s time to tweak your schedule to better support your health needs. Some potential solutions include giving yourself firmer start and end times so that you have time in the evening to wind down and get to sleep at a decent hour. If you want more flexibility than a set schedule but also want to have clarity on when you’ve “done enough” for the day, another approach is to count out work blocks that you complete, aiming for eight or nine hour-long blocks. Once you’ve put in your hours whether that puts you at 4 PM, 6 PM, or 8 PM, give yourself permission to stop guilt-free.
To begin to fold back in physical movement, you can start small. Some of the people I work with will begin with even 10 minutes of exercise a day that they can do from home. Apps like Sworkit can give you short routines and you can find a plethora of free videos on YouTube. Another strategy is to do short five-minute walks as breaks instead of checking your phone. It takes about the same amount of time and improves your health and focus instead of detracting from them.
Finally, if you’ve struggled with nutrition since working from home, you may need to incorporate in a time on the weekends or a week night to pick up or order groceries. Most grocery stores do have premade salads and quick meals that are less expensive and often healthier than takeout. You can also pick up apples, bananas, baby carrots, and other quick and easy snacks to encourage nutritious eating.
Just because your work-from-home schedule isn’t terrible, doesn’t mean that it couldn’t be better. Use these strategies if you need a new relationship with your remote work schedule in the new year.
This content was originally published here.