Can WFH be a happy new norm? Yes, if done right.

Working from home is my reality and if you work in technology, finance, marketing or law, it’s most likely your reality too. According to CBS News, the number of U.S. job postings on indeed.com in January 2021 that mention “working from home” has more than doubled from the year before. Many of us, may have anxiety about returning back to work as we’ve created a new groove that is benefiting our mental health (bye-bye office dynamics and long commutes). Some of us may be looking forward to going in a few days a week and are energized when meeting face-to-face (there’s nothing like a good in-person brainstorm). But as we adapt to our potential new norms, it’s important to create separation between home and work. Without it, we may find ourselves in not the best mental health, stressed and anxious or always working.

I know I haven’t been trained for this moment and over the last year, I’ve had to do a few adjustments to how I work so it worked for me and my family. Here are the most important things I’ve learned in my WFH journey that’s keeping me sane and yes, happy.

  1. Create physical separation, where you can

We converted a sunroom area to my home office that faces our backyard. I get to watch my son play and I can hear the birds singing most days. We may not all have the space to create an office but dedicating a work area — even if it’s a table and chair you call your own, helps you feel like you have arrived and are ready to work.

2. Create mental separation

The lack of separation from our home and work environment is blurring a line of when it’s time to dedicated to each. We may find ourselves always working. Since we use our devices for work, it’s not healthy to have them on all night. Even if we are not looking at what’s due or what’s new on email, we are physically interacting with a device that’s truly our workspace. It’d be like staying at the office and not working. You’d probably feel the nag to work and hence not let your mind rejuvenate. I can’t always turn off at the same time every night but my rule is by 8 pm, all devices and ourselves need to start powering down.

3. Establish a pre-game routine

Before my first cup of coffee, I meditate before my day starts. This allows me to clear my mind and prepare for the day. Having some sort of mindfulness or spiritual practice is especially important for me during times like this. I’ve mentioned this before but superstar athletes like LeBron James and Steph Curry meditate before big games and as part of their regular wellness routines. It’s how they get ready for work and get their head in the game. Same for me and I use apps like Calm and Headspace to help me meditate.

4. Get dressed for work

Look, I’m not knocking sweats. I love a good pair of sweats but for me, my WFH uniform is a combination of comfort meets some style. And, I believe, when you look good, you feel good! I know that may sound old fashion or silly but getting ready for the day puts me in the mindset to start working. It’s like how Mr. Rogers would change his cardigan and shoes before starting or ending his day. Since there’s no physical separation between work and home, getting dressed up just a tad helps create that mental separation for me.

5. Stay connected from afar

2020 was an unparalleled year of crisis. Our nation suffered. Business shuttered and lives were lost. Though hope is on the horizon with vaccines, we are still in the midst of coronavirus chaos, it might seem like the world is upside down and all of your priorities are fundamentally different. But the best-run organizations tend to have a sense of “True North” and stay focused on a few key priorities in times of crisis and this is even more important as we work remotely. I stay connected by concentrating on these priorities:Taking care of our partners, supporting our employees, communicating with stakeholders and engaging with the community.

6. Unplug and reconnect

After dinner, my son and I will watch a show together and then we have a Ebert and Roeper moment afterwards, debating what we loved and what we didn’t. Our healthy debates benefit us both. He hones his critical thinking skills, flexes his creative muscles and learns how to respectfully disagree with me. It helps me unwind from my day and reconnect with my home environment plus I learn what Gen Z is thinking and feeling which energize me and helps me in my job! Surprising or not, many of the complaints from my son has aren’t just about the TV content itself but how we access it and more so, how can we find more content based on what we love.

7. Take breaks during the day

Go outdoors and get fresh air even for 15 minutes a day! Go for a walk in the park or hike on a trail. Do some jumping jacks outside or a few minutes of intense cardio like jump roping. Download the free apps: Peloton’s app is free for 90-days. They offer yoga, bootcamps, strength training and running. A few more of my favorites that are free right now: Nike Training Club, Daily Burn, CorePower Yoga and Les Mills (including options for kids). Staying physical, even if it’s only 15 minutes a day, can help reduce stress.

How do you WFH and what’s been key to your success?

An inventor and leading voice on #entertainment and #innovation. COO, Invention Investment Funds @Intellectual Ventures