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© 2020 ACM STRATEGIES, LLC
  • Alesa Mackool

Six Ways to Be a Happier, Healthier Remote Worker in Uncertain Times

As COVID-19 continues to spread across the country, we recognize that many more people will be taking steps to work remotely. Concerns about the coronavirus outbreak have led employers including Google, Amazon, and Microsoft to tell some of their workers to work from home.


Our full-time remote team has worked across time zones, and we know from experience that successful remote work is a skill that takes practice.


Here are our tips for being your most productive, healthy, creative self while working from home:


1. Have a dedicated work space.


The best way to make sure you stay on task is to throw a wrench into any non-work routines or habits that might keep you from doing what you need to do. Don’t work from the exact spot on the couch you usually sit to watch Netflix. Working from a cozy bed is tempting, but it can lead to or exacerbate sleep problems. A kitchen counter is a fine place to work in a pinch, but only if you won’t feel compelled to procrastinate by cooking or cleaning.

If you’re working from a small space, consider moving furniture around — something as simple as moving a kitchen chair to face a new wall can trick your brain into feeling like you’re somewhere new where you can focus on work.


When I’m sharing my workspace with family members and truly need to focus, I also put on noise cancelling headphones and a white noise soundtrack.


2. Establish a routine that breaks up work and leisure.


One of the most-common challenges for remote workers is sticking to regular work hours. Everyone on our team has their own strategies for making the transition from home-mode to work-mode.


If you normally exercise, shower, get dressed, and eat breakfast before you go to work, continue to exercise, shower, get dressed, and eat breakfast before you start your remote work day.


As you’re winding down at the end of the day, be deliberate about how you “go home.” I’ve given myself a fake commute to end the day — I walk my dog around the block before settling in to make dinner. If you have exercise equipment or stairs where you live, you can easily give yourself the feeling of travel in while maintaining any necessary social distance.


3. Use video when possible.


Facial expressions and vocal tone are important. If you’re having a conversation you’d typically have face-to-face, visual communication is typically a better option than a phone call or email. We use Google Hangouts and Zoom for team and client video meetings, and there are free versions of both. An added bonus of video calls: they give you a reason to change out of your pajamas and look somewhat presentable to the outside world.


4. If you can, continue to pay people who would otherwise do work for you.


You’re in the minority of Americans if you’re lucky enough to have a job that can be done remotely. These are unusual times — if you’d typically employ a house cleaner or childcare provider, but their services aren’t necessary or possible due to quarantine, consider whether you can keep paying them as you would otherwise.


5. Keep doing the things that help you stay healthy.


Move and stretch often. Practice good posture. If you’re going to have to skip the gym, try one of the many free workouts that exist online. If you’re going to have to miss a regular mental health appointment, ask your provider if it can be done by video or phone. Maintain regular contact with friends and coworkers even if you can’t see them face-to-face. Set up a remote coffee/lunch hour where you can gather by webcam and chat — this is one way to maintain and strengthen relationships that would otherwise exist in the office.


6. Embrace the weirdness of remote work.

My remote officemate

There are a lot of perks to working remotely, and more companies are seeing the benefits of allowing workers to telework. If your work-from-home time is temporary, use it to find inspiration and happiness in new places. Several of our team members get to enjoy the comfort of working alongside their cats. When I’m stuck on a strategy-related puzzle and need to break my routine, I bake a pie.


What if you take that call from your yoga mat? What if you have a family game hour in the middle of the day? What if you try meditating right before you open your stressful inbox? What if you make an extravagant breakfast when you’d otherwise be commuting?


I’ve long been an advocate for virtual offices. As an employer, I love that I can hire talented, dedicated people who live outside of major industry hubs. As a parent, I appreciate the flexibility. As a military spouse, I especially value that I can have a job that moves with my family.


We’re facing a lot of uncertainty as a society right now — I hope that these suggestions for healthy, effective remote work help you build some predictability back into your day-to-day life.


We wish you and those you care about good health in the months ahead.