How to Stay Safe and Sane While Working from Home

I’ve worked from home for more than 30 years. Way before it was socially acceptable and technologically supported. My two investments when I opened my marketing firm in 1988 were a Mac computer (because DOS hadn’t been invented yet) and a $2,000 thermal paper fax machine from Sharper Image.

I felt like a pioneer back then and was even interviewed by Entrepreneur Magazine in 1998 for an article called “Damage Control.” (This picture of Connor and Allyson peeking in my home office accompanied the piece.) I offered advice on how I got my work done with two inquisitive little ones at home. It involved keeping the office door closed during the workday and relying on the help of a savvy au pair.

We’ve all come a long way since then. With so many of my clients and colleagues thrust into home offices, I was reminded about all the strategies I learned the hard way and now take for granted.

If working from home is new and challenging to you, here’s some advice.

Set Yourself Up for Success

Shower and dress every morning. Dedicate a space for work, ideally a separate room where you can focus during the day and leave it behind in the evening.

Feng Shui, which means wind and water, is the ancient Chinese art of arranging your surroundings to attract positive energy, prosperity and harmony. Consultant Jen Boyd of Elements of Harmony says the position of your desk matters. “Seek a room or area where you are facing the door,” she advises. “It represents the mouth of opportunity and we feel empowered when we are aligned to take those opportunities head on.” Plus, we won’t be startled if someone enters our space while we’re deep in thought. You can learn more by downloading the free 18 Feng Shui Principles Guide and visiting the Elements of Harmony Facebook Page.

As I virtually coached a client who was new to working from home, I was surprised that she initially attempted to work from her bed. Never a good idea!  Besides putting unnecessary strain on your body, it also blurs the line between work and rest. Melissa Galt, a gifted interior designer, is a business and marketing coach for creatives, and the author of Marketing Luxury Design. She recognizes the importance of the right ergonomic support. “You need a really good chair or you’re going to tire quickly, stress your back, and lose focus,” she says. “You can often get reconditioned quality office furnishings online. This is as important as your laptop, so don’t skimp.”

Enhance Your Space

Consider using aromatherapy, such as peppermint candles to energize you in the morning and lavender potpourri or essential oils to relax you as you wind down from your day. If you’re not out in the sunshine or there’s no sun to be found, you could suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which can make you feel, yes, sad. Treat yourself to a light therapy lamp to brighten your mood.

Lighten the Load

To maintain some work-life balance, schedule lunch, exercise and social breaks. Set your phone timer to remind you to stop working. If you’re used to decompressing during your afternoon commute time, replicate that transition with a short walk in your neighborhood or maybe even drive around for a few minutes.

“To help your next day go smoothly, always end your workday with a to-do list,” advises sales trainer Lloyd Lofton. My wise husband, Rick, also recommends his nightly ritual of taking a few minutes to recall all the things that went right that day. We tend to focus on the negative, especially at stressful times, and this will help you sleep better,  

And don’t forget to keep your sense of humor! Some couples now working from home name an imaginary coworker they can blame things on. “Can you believe Carol left dirty dishes in the sink again?” Our coworker is Bob and he’s seriously coming close to getting fired.



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