With all of the recent changes that have been introduced into our lives, working from a home “office” has become a new normal in the workforce. This is unfamiliar territory for many employees and some have adapted better than others. Fortunately, there is plenty of information available online to help navigate the working-from-home experience—just use any search engine. Type in “working from home” and an abundance of advice and suggestions from mental health and lifestyle experts is at your disposal.
The consensus among these professionals emphasizes structure from physical environment to established routines as an aid to productivity. Mental health experts further suggest that waking up regularly, showering, and getting dressed to start your work-from-home day has significant mental health benefits beyond just productivity.
To explore the rationale behind this, I reached out to those folks that were recently thrust into having to do their jobs from home. It was time to hear the point of view of those employees suddenly adjusting to their new working-at-home environment. Their insights on maintaining normalcy by getting up, showering, and getting dressed would provide a broader view as we discover the benefits they’ve experienced by sticking with that routine.
Everyone I polled was in agreement that a major mental health benefit to working from home meant not have to deal with commuting. Being able to start the work day fully focused without the stress of dealing with traffic was huge for most. For some, the commute time they saved meant sleeping in a bit later, others used their normal commute time to exercise and catch up on the news. The lack of commute also allowed options for healthier lunch and dinner choices at home.
So, without a commute to contend with, how important is it to wake up at a regular time, shower, and get dressed when working from home? The people I surveyed found that continuing their usual morning ritual establishes a necessary transition now that the home and work environment are the same physical space. Getting ready for your workday as you normally did before being forced to work from home provides one way to create a separation between “home life” and “work life” and produces a much needed sense of balance.
Respondents mentioned feeling “off” when not completing their morning ritual. It wasn’t so much about needing to be presentable, but more about the constant mantra running through the back of their minds, “you need to take a shower” or “you need to get dressed”, which is a constant distraction. By looking presentable at the onset of their workday, most felt more confident and able to sustain their edge. For many, their focus improved and the need to step away from their “home office” occurred much less often than at their work office.
These employees also discovered that upholding their morning routine not only made them feel better about themselves, but it improved their attitudes towards their jobs and current circumstances. Physically working in an office makes supportive interaction with coworkers easy, like popping in and out of offices. But when working remotely, you have to make a deliberate effort to contact someone and being presentable keeps you ready at a moment’s notice. This is especially important when dealing with your manager. Being dressed and ready for work—even if it is in a slightly more casual manner—projects the appearance to all parties that you are fully engaged.
Employees now working from home tend to agree with those mental health and lifestyle experts. Continuing your workday’s personal preparation routine is important to overall mental health in order to avoid feeling out of sync all day. The flexibility that working from home universally provides is enhanced by upholding a “start of day” structure reminiscent of the days you got up, showered, and got dressed to go into the office. It allows us all to feel a bit more “normal” when everything around us feels so out of control.