Working from home looked like a great temporary solution to the economic threats of the pandemic for many businesses and their employees during 2020. It allowed workers in many professions to do their jobs from the comfort of their homes and still get paid, and it helped keep many companies afloat.
But as “temporary” became “semi-permanent,” the downsides of remote work became apparent: Pets underfoot, home responsibilities, and family distractions (not to mention fear, dread, and boredom) made it hard to focus.
Another aspect of the flipside became apparent, too: Remote workers have added, on average, three hours to each workday since making the switch to home-based employment, one survey found. And their downtime is anything but relaxing: They’re feeling more stressed — and getting less sleep.
Lack of sleep can lead to physical ailments and lack of mental focus. Over time, it can combine with other conditions to create burnout. Fortunately, however, there are some ways to stay rested, sharp, and motivated while working from home. Here are just a few:
Keep a regular schedule
As much as possible, it’s important to start and end each day at the same time. Not only can this protect your personal time, but it establishes a pattern that can carry over into nighttime.
You may already be dealing with factors that can throw off your circadian rhythm, the 24-hour behavioral cycle regulated by your biological clock. For example, if lockdowns have forced other family members off their regular schedule, this could affect you, too.
Seasonal light changes can affect your moods and rhythm, as well — especially if you live in the far north, where daylight hours take up most of the day during summer. Blackout curtains, eye masks, regulating caffeine, or taking melatonin can help.
To help establish and protect this schedule, let your family know when you’re working and that you don’t want to be disturbed during those hours — barring an emergency, that is.
Speaking of which, not every emergency involves a medical issue, loose pet, or school crisis. Sometimes, your home itself can throw you a curveball in the form of a busted pipe or breakdown in your air conditioning. Try working productively from home on a 100-degree day without anything to cool the air… and your temper! And sleeping in a sauna? Forget it.
You’ll sleep a lot easier, both mentally and literally, if you know breakdowns in your home systems and appliances can be addressed quickly and without extra expense. A home warranty can keep you and your home covered, and let you rest easy.
Don’t forget to exercise
Exercise can wake you up — and ensure a good night’s sleep later on. In addition to promoting sound sleep, exercise can improve your motor skills and concentration, enhance circulation, help with weight control, and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other health conditions.
Even during a pandemic, there are ways to make sure you get a good workout while staying safe and socially distanced. You may not be able to go to a gym, but you can still hike on a little-used trail, play a backyard game of wiffle ball with the kids, go for a bike ride, or just get creative while you get out there and move.
Take up a hobby
One way to make sure you’re not always worrying about your job is to give yourself something to look forward to when the workday’s done. What better way to do that than to take up a hobby?
Plant a garden in your backyard. Clear out that spare room and build a model train set. Hit the road and learn to drive a stick shift. Take up a video game. Learn to cook a new dish. The possibilities are endless. You’ll be relaxing and challenging yourself at the same time, which lays the perfect groundwork for a good night’s sleep.
Address your finances
Worries are what keep you awake at night, and there are few things more stressful than worrying about money. The remedy? Get a handle on your finances. Know where you stand, decide where you want to go, and learn how to get there.
To begin with, make a budget and stick to it. Then make sure you have a backup plan in case of an emergency. Build up a savings account, put some money away for retirement, and work to build up your credit so you’ll be set when it comes to making major purchases like a vehicle or house.
Solid credit can also allow you to rent a car (most car rental companies require credit cards) and will give you access to money on the road if you need it during a socially distanced getaway.
Being financially stable has become even more important in our currently unstable economy, so do everything you can to be sure you’re ready for anything. Once your money’s under control, you’ll be more likely to get a good night’s sleep.
There are plenty of other ideas to help you sleep more soundly.
- Avoid caffeine and nicotine, especially close to bedtime.
- Don’t drink alcohol (or liquids in general) late in the evening.
- Read a book instead of watching TV just before bed.
- Try deep-breathing exercises.
- Make sure you have a comfy bed — but don’t stay there all day, even if you’re working on your laptop: Save your bed for sleeping.
Working from home doesn’t have to be a gateway to sleeplessness and burnout. It can still be a great opportunity for a positive work experience that keeps you close to home. Take some steps to set yourself up for healthy productivity, then relax and enjoy the sleep you need.