It’s been a long year — nobody can deny that. You’ve spent entire months in your home doing the same tasks once reserved for the office, and your work ethic has suffered for it.
Now your workplace may have opened its doors again, and you can finally return. But how many of the trappings of remote work are you taking with you? Or maybe you’ll still be toiling remotely for the foreseeable future. How can you get your work mojo back?
Whatever your current work situation, consider these four bad habits you may have developed during 2020 and how you can break them.
1. A Decreased Capacity for Self-Accountability
The unpredictability of 2020 may have caused your productivity to falter in ways you did not expect. Perhaps you had to set aside your spreadsheets to oversee your child’s online schooling, or the neighbor’s barking dog interrupted your concentration. Each remote day seemed to feel more like an independent challenge. Without the office environment to spur you forward, it became quite easy to lose sight of the importance of your work.
Instead of giving into the urge to slack off when you are struggling, keep yourself accountable by scheduling your day in advance. Checking off each item on your to-do list will give you a visible sense of accomplishment. Follow up the completion of particularly difficult tasks with a reward. Doing your monthly reporting will surely be much more fulfilling with a piece of chocolate waiting at the end!
If this tactic isn’t for you, there are other productive habits you can cultivate to foster self-accountability. You may find that prioritizing “deep work” or batching your tasks will help increase your productivity and keep you focused.
2. An Inconsistent Sleep Schedule
When you’re following the same routine day in and day out, the escape provided by sleep can become incredibly enticing. You’d hardly be the only remote worker to take an unscheduled nap! At the same time, the activities that take a backseat during the workday (spending time with family, watching TV, etc.) fill your evenings. The time spent on these activities adds up, and you may have found yourself shifting your sleep schedule to accommodate them.
While we’ve all been there, it is important to understand just how essential consistent sleep is for your daily energy levels. A bad night’s rest can translate to an unproductive day.
So the next time an 8 a.m. start to your workday looms, ensure you’re ready for it by scheduling eight hours of shut-eye. Although you may have to sacrifice that second episode of “Schitt’s Creek,” establishing a regular sleep schedule will pay dividends. A nightly routine can improve your REM sleep quality and give you reliable energy for the day ahead.
3. Blurred Work-Life Boundaries
After a year of working remotely, an oversized T-shirt and pair of sweatpants may be your definition of “business casual.” Because of the home comforts you’ve likely become accustomed to, it can be hard to readjust to the workplace dress code. But whether you’re going into the office or just to the spare bedroom, dressing for success can boost your mental outlook for the day.
Picture wearing a cozy set of pajamas in the conference room versus slacks and a tasteful jacket. The pajamas would provide more comfort, but the business wear would be more appropriate (and help bolster your confidence!). This is just one example of how workspaces and living spaces can and should be separated in a post-pandemic world.
Another important consideration is your immediate environment. Make it easier for your brain to distinguish work from play by establishing a desk space that is conducive to concentrating on work responsibilities. Place your go-to reference works on a desktop book rack, or tack up some motivating decor. Even habitually placing your coffee in the same spot each morning can get you in a work frame of mind. Once your day ends, leave your duties at your desk, whether you’re already at home or heading back there.
4. Online Procrastination
During a period of remote work, you are usually expected to be on your computer for most of the day. This is easy enough, but with that constant screen time comes a gateway to the ultimate enemy: online procrastination.
Why not take a moment in between tasks to check your Instagram feed or scroll through Amazon? It’ll only take a second, right? One second can quickly become five minutes, and five minutes can become 10. How can you avoid falling into that hole?
If you have been using a schedule to improve your self-accountability, set aside specific time slots for online breaks. This will assure you of their availability and keep your focus uninterrupted during work time. Nothing feels better than taking a well-deserved break, and your work quality will improve in return.
Although some of the workplace changes wrought by the Covid-19 pandemic may prove to be temporary, others are likely here to stay. Many companies, for example, have given their workers the opportunity to work remotely whenever it suits them. Yet repetitive days at home have brought old and new work habits to the forefront of our minds.
While some of these habits are good (no commute equals fewer carbon emissions, for example), others are less so. Fortunately, with the right tools and mindset, these bad habits can be remedied. If 2020 has taught us anything, it is that we are all capable of rising above bad habits for our own good.