This story originally appeared on FlexJobs.com.
In the best of times, working from home is associated with all sorts of positive emotions for remote workers — freedom, autonomy, trust and happiness, to name just a few. Indeed, remote work is often considered the “holy grail” of flexible work options, with benefits galore that far outweigh any potential downsides.
Working from home during the pandemic has been a different experience for some, though. More people are working from home than ever, but without the usual deliberation and preparation that goes into choosing to work remotely. Remote workers are having to juggle personal and professional priorities without access to many of their normal outlets.
With all that is happening, remote work may not feel like the perk that it can be. Here’s how to stay positive and rediscover all the wonderful things about remote work.
Embrace where you’re at
When times are tough, it’s natural to feel down. Everyone has negative emotions, and accepting — rather than resisting — them is one of the best ways to move through the feelings.
Telling yourself that it’s OK and normal to feel stressed while trying to balance remote work with the rest of your life takes the pressure off and enables you to see the brighter side of things as they come. In the same vein, let go of what you can’t change or control and focus on the little wins.
Research overwhelmingly shows that cultivating gratitude in your daily life is one of the quickest paths to a positive, happy outlook. In one study, participants who wrote a few sentences a week for 10 weeks about things they were grateful for were more optimistic and felt better about their lives than those who wrote about what irritated them.
Take time every day to end your workday by writing down what you’re thankful for. Maybe it’s a supportive boss or a flexible schedule — whatever it is, focusing on what you’re grateful for will have a positive impact.
Shift your mindset
How you frame something in your mind determines how you experience it. So, if you approach things with a “glass half-empty” attitude, you’ll tend to experience them as lacking. Fortunately, you are in complete control of your mindset.
Make a home office your own
If you’re new to remote work, you may not have had time to set up your home office before transitioning to working from home. Although it might not have been a priority at the time, having a workspace that you can call your own — and that is set up just how you want — can do wonders for your mental attitude.
Working from home on the couch while the rest of your household goes about their days around you can make anyone feel the strain. So, do what you can to find your own unique home office space that sets the tone for a positive, productive workday. While you’re at it, decorate your workspace with things that make you happy — plants, pictures of your family and artwork can be uplifting.
Establish a routine
Working remotely, especially with a flexible schedule, allows for more control over your work life. That can lead to a happier you. Although this can mean working when and where you want, it’s important to try to stick to some semblance of a routine. Not only will this help keep you on track and on task for improved productivity, but it will also communicate to your boss and co-workers when you will be available.
As a remote worker, it can be easy to blur the lines between work and home. While this ability to blend the two can be a major benefit of flexible work, you may feel like all of it is a struggle if there are no boundaries at all.
Sure, there might be times when your schedule is wacky, or you have to work a few more hours than expected. However, on typical days, it’s important to shut work off and walk away at the end of the day. Keeping your work and personal life separate will help you stay positive while working remotely, and keep you from getting burned out.
Work is work, but to have meaningful relationships with your teammates, you need to connect with them on subjects other than work. Sure, you’ll have meetings and other means of working through projects with your team. But if you don’t make an effort to proactively connect with your colleagues when you’re working remotely, you could find yourself feeling lonely and isolated.
Bonding with others and feeling like you’re part of a community is key for staying upbeat, so work on developing your work relationships remotely. Virtual meet-ups, instant messages, group chats and other forms of remote communication can all help.
Work during your most productive hours
Depending on when you feel most productive, you might be tempted to use those hours to catch up on laundry, yard work or grocery shopping. While occasionally this may be a nice break, those productive hours should be focused on getting your best work completed. Your most productive hours are also usually when you’re feeling the most energetic and optimistic. So, scheduling your work for when you’re “in the zone” can help you stay positive while working from home.
Take stock of when you feel energized and able to focus, then plan your workday around that time. The success and accomplishment you’ll feel from being productive can’t help but make you feel more positive. It may help to block off time on your calendar for these hours, too.
One of the benefits of working from home is that you often have the flexibility to take work breaks and structure your day around other playful priorities.
Instead of scrolling through your phone while you eat lunch, take the time to “play” at something you really love! Spending 30 minutes between meetings doing something you enjoy can temper any stress or negative feelings you’ve been having.
You know the adage: “You can’t take care of others until you take care of yourself.” Nothing could be more true in times of stress. In order to stay positive in any aspect of your life, including your work, you have to make yourself a priority. With increased caregiving responsibilities, shifting job expectations and uncertainty amid the pandemic, it’s easy to let self-care slip by the wayside.
Sleeping well at night, fueling your body with healthy foods, limiting sugar and alcohol, and exercising are all ways to use self-care to combat stress. And research shows that meditating and practicing mindfulness (even while at work!) can help you cope with stressors in life.
Light it up
Whether you set up your home office space in an area with access to good lighting and daylight from windows or you commit to spending time outside every day, studies show that the light in your environment has a major impact on how you feel. In a study of people working from or staying home during the pandemic, those with “somewhat bright” to “very bright” lighting (including windows) had significantly improved mood and sleep quality compared to respondents with “somewhat dim” to “very dim” indoor lighting.
And, people who spent one to two hours outdoors every day reported better sleep and feeling significantly less anxiety, stress and depression than those who spent less than 30 minutes outdoors each day.
Get out of the house
When you work from the place you live, it’s easy to transition between your two roles without ever having to leave. But it’s important to vary your scenery to avoid feeling stuck, burned out and generally dissatisfied with your lack of overall change from day-to-day.
Getting out of the house doesn’t have to mean a big road trip — or any road trip! Simply walking around the block or visiting a local park can give your mental environment a much-needed refresh.
Meet up with others
If you can meet up with other team members once it’s safe to have in-person contact, take the opportunity to do so on occasion. If your colleagues are spread all over the globe and can’t meet face-to-face, set time aside with friends, neighbors and family to (safely) grow relationships.
Accentuate the positive
Few things have upended the world of work like COVID-19. And although it’s easy to get caught up in the stress of trying to work from home with responsibilities tugging you every which way, focusing on the positive while working remotely can truly make all the difference.
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