The 2021 Guide to Surviving Permanent Remote Work

One year ago, a near overnight transition to remote work transformed kitchen counters and coffee tables into a hybrid of a classroom and corner office. If you Googled “working from home” last March, you’d find a mosaic of cheerful professionals sitting beside calm children diligently focused on their schoolwork. Some reached inbox zero donning fluffy pajamas with their feet up on their desk, casually sipping coffee or cozying up with a pet. However, one year later, the true picture of remote work has proven anything but easy. 

The new digital daily grind strains not only WiFi capacity, but can drain us mentally and emotionally as well. While many of us hopefully looked toward the light at the end of the tunnel—a return to normalcy—companies of all sizes are committing to a longer-term WFH business model. For many still cooped up at home, the novelty has started to wear off. We now miss the low hum of our office din, the lobby muffin cart, and zippy exchanges with cubicle mates. So what do we do now that ‘working from home’ has fully transitioned to ‘living at work’? 

Don’t forget to eat lunch

Even when you’re populating the same square footage as the fridge, it’s easier than ever to forget to eat lunch. Time almost moves at a different pace. After all, you’re without your normal cues. Your house doesn’t buzz with the escalating crescendo of chattering voices as lunchtime nears nor the fragrant waft of Todd from Accounting’s warming leftovers. 

So establish a new lunchtime ritual. Set an alarm to eat lunch at a time that works best for you. Most importantly, vow to do something not work-related while you eat. Read a book for pleasure, pin some new recipes to try out later in the day. For the hardcore, five days in a row of missed lunches sounds badge-worthy—but missing out on the day’s nutrition ultimately degrades your productivity.

Discover your spirit sound

When you’re not under the watchful eye of management, you can be a little more creative in how you accelerate your creative juices. 

For some, the erratic noise of other WFH and remote learning subjects is a death knell for their focus. For those who aren’t quarantined with a gaggle of rambunctious children, home can be almost too quiet compared to the typical low din of an office space. 

Even for an introvert that begs for the tucked-away sensation of a quiet space, silence is a killer. Ask anyone subjected to the torture of the Orfield Labs Quiet Chamber: 10 minutes of hearing your own blinking is enough to drive anyone mad. Now is the perfect time to find that audio that helps you stay in the zone. If music isn’t your inspiration go-to, apps like Coffitivity simulate the low din of busy coffee shops around the world. You can find Youtube videos that share the calming din of an airplane cabin. Learn to hone your brain waves with the right kind of audio for you. 

Put on real clothes—or at least change out of the jammies

Ralphie Parker found pajamas mortifying, but most of us daydream of busting out of our stiff workplace armor for our coziest, fluffiest sleepwear. But remember, our brains interpret loose-fitting jim-jams as a direct flight to Snoozeville. Even though a day in pajamas sounds like Heaven on earth, it can quickly drain your motivation and leave you feeling listless. 

This isn’t to say you should bound out of bed every day and suit up in your Sunday Best. But the small effort of at least changing out of what you slept in the night before can do wonders for your psyche. 

Find new ways to bookend your day 

Without a commute to bookend your day, it sounds compelling to just jump out of bed and immediately dive into the day’s to-do list. This process might work for a few days, but before you know it you’re dragging your feet the few yards that separates your bed and dining table. On the flip-side, it’s easier than ever to pop open your laptop to polish off just one more project. Before you know it, it’s one o’clock in the morning. 

Find new ways to signal the ‘beginning’ and ‘end’ of the day, using mental “bookend” hacks.  

  • Start your day with a meditation app: Apps like WakingUp and InsightTimer provide short bursts of meditation to help ease into your day. 
  • Head out the door: Even if you don’t have to jump into the car for a commute, the act of “heading out the door” in the morning jump-starts your brain into a work-ready state. A simple walk around the block can add an extra pep in your step.
  • FaceTime with a fellow WFH pal: Missing time with your good friends or favorite co-workers? When it’s time to shut down for the day, hop onto a virtual happy hour or just a check-in call. The post-work socialization boost helps inform your brain that it’s quittin’ time. 

If you’re really having trouble separating the work and the home, some experts even suggest sitting in your car every morning for the length of your old commute. Catch up with family members, listen to podcasts—whatever was your most cherished part of your pre- or post-work routine. 

Few predicted that a year later, we’d still be clocking in and out from our kitchens. But, for many companies, the grand experiment has turned out to be a resounding success—over half of executives agree that employee productivity has improved dramatically. One thing is for sure: remote work is here to stay. With a few brain hacks and tweaks to our daily routines, you can make the best of it all and emerge as a new rockstar in your organization.


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