Working from home isn’t always the dreamy fantasy we imagine in our minds. Yes, it’s great to roll out of bed and step 5 feet into your “office” and skip paying $7 for a coffee on your dreaded commute into work. But you also face succumbing to cabin fever. Feeling isolated, distracted, unmotivated, and really, really hungry are all normal feelings when working from home.
It’s important to set boundaries to mimic a similar environment to working in your actual office and find ways to still socialize and collaborate with your coworkers. Working from home requires tons of self-discipline and creativity when it comes to maintaining your productivity levels. Otherwise, you might start to feel trapped and maybe even a little bit craAaAzzZyYyyyY.
Here’s how to avoid cabin fever when working from home
1. Don’t work from your bed
Seems like a no-brainer, right? But once you’re put in the position where you have the choice to work in your comfy, cozy bed, it’s hard to resist. Make sure you set up your workstation at a table or on a counter somewhere other than your bed. Otherwise, you’ll be taking cat naps all day long.
2. Record your feedback for the team
Instead of hitting reply to your email chain and typing out long, dense paragraphs, record yourself giving feedback or opinions to your team. Hearing feedback from an actual human voice allows you to interpret tone and inflection and avoid biting your nails over (maybe?) misinterpreted sarcasm.
3. Take exercise breaks
Whatever you do, don’t become a sedentary blob when you work from home. Sitting is terrible for your health, and it’s easy to become glued to your seat once you get in a groove. Practice the pomodoro technique, and focus really, really hard for 25 minutes at a time, then get up to stretch your legs, do some jumping jacks, or walk the dog.
4. Schedule coworker breakfast chats
Pour your morning tea, butter your toast, and catch up with your coworkers over breakfast before you start the workday. It’s not like you wouldn’t start the day with a little socializing first in the office anyways. And if you’re really tight with your coworkers, you can schedule a second catch-up meeting over lunch.
5. Don’t be a cookie monster
You don’t have to board up the pantry and wrap it with caution tape, but be smart about your snacking and keep some healthy treats in arm’s distance. If you already have some carrots and hummus sitting next to you, you’ll be less likely to creep to the pantry for the Chips Ahoy that’ll inevitably cause you to crash later. I shall appease you, growling tummy.
6. Crank up the ambient noise
Listening to ambient noise (think crackling fireplace, crashing waves, etc.) while you work can improve your focus and productivity. According to science, low levels of ambient noise can help increase our creativity levels, and we need all the creativity we can get when working from home.
7. Surround yourself with inspirational things
Speaking of creativity...whether it’s a vision board or your favorite Frida Kahlo painting, surround yourself with items that boost your creativity when you’re working from home. If you’re looking at things that inspire you, you’re more likely to create work that’ll inspire someone else.
8. Become a plant mom
Not only are little succulents adorable, they also make us happier. Studies have shown that indoor plants can reduce stress, boost your mood, and improve your concentration and productivity by up to 15 percent. Today’s the day to start building your green baby plant sanctuary.
9. Join a community group
One in five Americans works from home. That means there are plenty of online groups for employees who work from home on Facebook, Meetup, Slack, etc. You’ll get to meet fellow WFH-ers and discuss strategies for staying productive, inspired, and ultimately cabin fever-free.
Read more: How to Stop Procrastinating. Now.
10. Let natural light be your friend
You are not a vampire (we hope), and you do not live in a cave. Open your blinds or curtains, and let some light in. Natural light increases your serotonin levels, wards off seasonal depression, and improves sleep. If you don’t have a ton of windows, it might be wise to invest in a light therapy lamp.
11. Put on real clothes
Okay, you can cheat a little bit here. Since you’ll probably be video chatting with your coworkers or boss at some point throughout the day, you don’t want to show off your little-bit-too-worn Lizzo fangirl pajama top or accidentally give a show while enjoying your day bra-free. Make sure at least your top half is professional, or however much of your body shows on camera. From there, if you want to rock a blazer up top and sweatpants below, go for it.
12. Track your accomplishments
Keep track of what you’re getting done and what you’re scratching off your to-do list. This is a great way to help you feel proud of the work you’ve done, while also starting a written record of all the badass ways you’ve contributed to the company (which you can bring up to your boss when you finally ask for that raise).