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Hunkering Down Happily: Tips for Surviving a Work-From-Home Winter


There may be no better term to encapsulate the lifestyle change we’ve adopted in 2020 than “working from home.” Since the onset of COVID-19, we’ve all had to get a little bit more cozy with the idea — and, in some cases, a lot more cozy. Facebook, for example, announced plans to permanently shift tens of thousands of jobs fully remote.

In spring, summer and fall, working from home came with the perks of being able to get outside and enjoy fresh air much more easily. With winter soon upon us, it’s going to be a bit more of a challenge to keep ourselves sane. But think of it this way: We’ve been practicing for this for the past eight months. We’re old pros by now.

Still, in case you need a few ideas on how to maintain your sanity while working from home during the chilly winter months, we’ve scoured the internet, and developed a handy guide. As eternal optimists, we believe that there is a light at the end of this tunnel, and with a little practicality and determination, surviving the home winter office will be no problem.


Tip #1: Be Intentional about Your Workspace

For starters, after you wake up, do your best to change out of your PJs and into a designated workday wardrobe. We know it’s chilly, and we know nobody can see those flannel bottoms on Zoom calls. But still, it’s psychologically important to establish boundaries between your working hours and your rest hours. No, we’re not advocating for a full suit and tie — just start with actual pants, and see where your inspiration takes you.

Then, set and adhere to a work routine. While you’re working, make a point of communicating readily with your coworkers, as distance makes it a little bit tricker to be on the same page. Then, give yourself the permission to take breaks at regular intervals. Stretch, breathe, say hi to your kids, have a healthy snack; do anything to give your brain a much-needed pause.

While we’re on the subject of breaks, make a point of escaping your screens every once in a while. Excessive screen time has been linked to a number of health problems, including blurred vision, headaches, and neck and back pain. If you’ve got something to write, or notes to take, why not go old school, and pick up a pen and paper? Better yet, grab your smartphone, open the voice memos, and dictate it instead. Giving your eyes and brain a much-needed rest from screens will work wonders.

Lastly, do your best to resist the siren song of the couch. Many of us have dreamed of having couches in our offices, and working from home makes it seem like that dream has finally come true. It may go against every fiber of your being, but for as long as you can, stay at your desk. Lounging on your couch may actually be less healthy for you than sitting upright at a desk.


Tip #2: Take Care of Yourself

Working from home usually translates to sitting all day long, in front of screens, on calls, and inside. Particularly during the winter months, when daylight is scarce, being indoors this long can cause damaging Vitamin D deficiencies.

Keeping good levels of Vitamin D has a range of positive impacts, including reducing your risk of disease, reducing your risk of depression, and encouraging weight loss. Basically, it helps you Grow Happiness. So, try to find a workspace that takes advantage of natural light. Then, every day, make a point of getting outside once or twice. Walk the dog. Bundle up and take yourself on walks. Fire up a podcast or an audiobook and dissolve into another world for a while. Make a step goal for yourself, and try to hit it every day. Take advantage of the daylight while you can — it’s more important than ever.

You can even consider getting Vitamin D-rich light boxes or taking Vitamin D supplements to give your body even more of what it needs. To keep the air you’re breathing full of brain-friendly oxygen, invest in some indoor plants, which will help circulate the air. Or, if you’re built like a night owl and your profession can allow for it, try substituting an hour or two of daytime work for getting outside, and make it up in the evening.

Traditional self-care like diet and exercise become more important in challenging months like these as well. Studies have shown that even 10 minutes of exercise per day can have an effect on happiness. To contend with mental stressors, try meditation or other mindfulness practices. If you can find your zen in as challenging a time as this, you’ll be able to find it anytime (Plus, if mindfulness means getting talked to sleep by Lebron James, it must be worth a try.)

Even though it may have to be virtual, give yourself some plans to look forward to. Do some trivia nights with friends. Schedule remote happy hours with coworkers. One app, Kast, even lets people in different locations watch the same movie at the same time. Having some social activity to look forward is always important, and will make those winter work-from-home hours much more bearable.


Tip #3: Get Economical

As air conditioning bills did during the summer, heating and electricity bills are likely to climb this winter. To help reduce this impact, have a really honest conversation with your family about what they can tolerate, temperature-wise, during the winter. Sure, it might be nice to sit in nice and toasty 74 degree weather all the time — but what about 68? 66? Is there a magic temperature where you’re still comfy enough to be productive, but not so cold that you’re working in a coat? If you can find it, you’ll be amazed how much you can save with just a few ticks of the thermostat. Likewise, being really strict about turning off lights and other electrical appliances when you leave a room will have a nice cumulative effect on your electric bill.

As you have throughout the pandemic, you’ll be saving time each day on your commute. With more and more time indoors, think, What else can I do with those free “no commute” hours? Be economical about how you spend that extra time. Maybe take an online course to learn a new skill or get a new professional certification. Did you know that more than 900 universities offer a grand total of 13,000 courses, which are free? Courses taught by the likes of Nobel Prize winner Robert Shiller? You can pay to receive a certificate at the end, if you want something to mount on your office wall — but you don’t have to.


Hang in There

It’s been a long, difficult time. We understand that, and we empathize. But like most challenges, the only way out of it is through it, and the only way to get through it happily is to be intentional about how you spend your effort. Give yourself the best possible chance of work-from-home success by establishing and sticking to some work protocols, taking good care of yourself physically and mentally, and being hyper-economical about your choices.

Winter will no doubt be a challenge, but we’re always proudest of the times we were able to get tough and overcome. Additionally, at the time of this writing, several companies have reported very promising results on COVID-19 vaccines. Hopefully, if we can get through this, it’ll be our first and only pandemic winter.

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December 10, 2020