Before the start of the pandemic, a workday generally included a morning routine and a commute to and from the workplace. In our new pandemic existence, the way that we work and/or go to school has changed drastically.

Loungewear is the new business casual and pets have become our colleagues. It is important to remember that your work from home schedule will not look anything like your former routine. Decreased productivity and motivation is expected with the vast uncertainties that have accompanied the intermittent lockdowns of businesses and restaurants, and life as we know it. By now working from home has become an old hat for many of us, it has been a few months of making do with our new home offices and we have settled with a heavily adjusted routine.

One of the biggest problems in the new work-life adjustment is sticking too closely to your former routine. Pre-COVID generally one would wake up early, get ready for their day, be at work for ~8 hours and then go home to do the rest of their daily activities: socializing, child-care, exercise, cooking, etc. When those things collide with your work day since you are at home all day, trying to find a balance can be difficult. What is important is not to try to push those things til the end of the day or force yourself to ignore them during the 9-5 hours, instead incorporate them in a meaningful way into your routine.

Yes, we are still in a global pandemic. but we are making progress as more and more countries are slowly beginning to reopen. While all that is good and well, work from home is still a very real thing. For some, it has even become a permanent situation. The following are some ways and examples of things you can add to your day to shake up your typical routine while also promoting your own wellness during a difficult time to create a sustainable WFH schedule and overcome WFH burnout.

“More than two thirds, or 69%, of employees are experiencing burnout symptoms while working from home, and this influx is impacting both business productivity as well as the overall health of the workforce.”

Ashley Stahl, Forbes

Get Some Morning Exercise

Personally I enjoy doing my cardio and weight training after work and before dinner, but I still do something for at least 5-10 minutes in the morning to center myself and get mentally prepared for the day ahead. A glass of water and a short work is excellent to wake up your body and feel refreshed. If you prefer to stay indoors, a short yoga routine is a really good way to stretch your muscles and check in with your body whether you are an experienced yogi or a complete beginner.

This is the time for you to ground yourself and spend some time listening to your mind and body. Remove any and all distractions and just focus on your body. We are all used to getting out of bed and heading straight for our desk. Which doesn’t always pan out well for our mental health.By starting your morning with a bit of movement and stretching, you energize your body and give it ample time to fully turn on.

Get Dressed

Now, this is not to say that your WFH outfit will resemble the same one you wear to the office. If that is what makes you comfortable then great! Getting out of your pajamas reinforces your mind to think “okay we are starting a new day” which can do wonders for motivation and productivity. Put on something that is comfortable but makes you feel put together. Maybe that is your favorite pair of jeans and a top that makes you feel good. Maybe it is a pair of leggings with a coordinating shirt. Focus on what will help you get through your day rather than feeling guilty that you don’t get dressed up on a daily basis anymore.

“In some ways, the clothes that you wear might have an even bigger impact because we can often see ourselves and what we’re wearing and that sort of draws that symbolic value [attached] to it even closer to our consciousness.”

Dr. Adam Galinsky, Co-author of a pre-pandemic research on “enclothed cognition”

Actually Take a Lunch Break

When our desks are within walking distance of our kitchens there is a temptation to work through meals. When pressed for a deadline it is easy to think, “I’ll just take lunch to my desk and type between bites.” In a worst-case scenario where you are especially behind, such an activity may be warranted. However, it should definitely not become a daily habit.

Working through eating can increase stress, making it seem like you really didn’t have a break at all. Your WFH schedule should include time in which you get away from work for at least a short time. Take a few extra moments to make lunch, or do something else that you would normally push to the end of the day. When you are constantly work inking like this, you lose your ability to disconnect from your work life even for a few minutes. You have to separate “work you” from “home you” or else you will burn out real quick. If it helps, make a timetable and allot some time to take breaks here and there for meals, a short, or even a snack.

Take a Moment to Breathe

Most of us experience that mid-afternoon drop in motivation. You start thinking about being done for the day and suddenly, time slows to a crawl. It is a great time to then just take a moment, stretch, practice a breathing exercise, grab a snack and finish strong. A small break is not going to get your fired. Staring at a screen for hours in one spot can take a toll on your physical and mental health, so it is important to take out some much needed “you time.”

Get Some Sunshine

With much of our time being spent indoors many of us are not getting enough sunshine. 15 minutes out in the sun can be beneficial to your health and mood. For those in the north where winter can drag on this can be even more difficult. UV lamps and vitamin D fortified foods can help combat deficiency which can lead to weight gain and fatigue. Time outdoors helps mood and allows for a change in scenery especially when we are unable to get out and do the things we normally do.

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