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How to avoid the work-from-home blues

By: Malaika Karriem and Megan Wojcik

Living in a virtual world can be intimidating and overwhelming. The normal breaks in our day, like catching up with co-workers, running out to grab lunch, and actually meeting with people face-to-face are no longer a part of our routine. This means finding a new way to live and work from home — which comes with the need for balance, boundaries, and being intentional in how we spend each day.

We asked DCGers across the company to share their top tips on working from home and how to balance work life and self-care. Here are their responses!

How do you prioritize your health and wellness while working at home?

Chelsea Radler: Constant hydration — I am a seltzer devotee and drink liters of bubbly water every day. Also, this is so nerdy, but I love birds and I have several bird feeders and a bird bath that I maintain near the windows around my house. I recently got one that suction-cups right to my office window! Taking a few minutes to pause and enjoy a cardinal or a chickadee flitting around reminds me how, even when work is busy, there’s time to pause, refresh, and appreciate something that brings me joy!

I also treat myself to cheap cut flowers when I grocery shop to keep my desk bright and lively, especially in the winter when it gets dark early. This certainly doesn’t constitute mental health care, but it just makes me happy.

And, I swap out the words on my inspiration board and the photos in my desk and wall frames regularly so I always have something new and happy to look at in my workspace.

Chris Lynch: Being stuck inside has rekindled my passion for PC building. I have always had a fascination with how things “tick” so between that and watchmaking, I have been able to not only keep my mind busy but my hands busy as well, so I’m not just stuffing my face with everything in the fridge.

Kara Schiaparelli: An important part of my work-life balance is taking breaks away from my laptop and phone throughout the day. I like to take walks outside to get some fresh air, do a 10-minute yoga flow, or even just take the time to cook myself lunch instead of microwaving leftovers. While I sometimes feel guilty for taking breaks away from my laptop, I know I work at my best when I have some time to decompress after a long meeting or a writing sprint.

Do you have any tips on how other DCGers can incorporate self-care into their routine?

Witney James: Take time for yourself. I have a designated quiet space at home for before and/or after work to take time for myself.

Take short breaks throughout the day, when work will allow. This helps me with refocusing and settling my thoughts on my priorities for the day/week.

Establish a set schedule for work. This can be really hard to do when working from home all the time but the benefits are huge in a time like this where it’s extremely easy to continue working even after your high priority tasks have been completed.

Elizabeth Meyer: When we first started working from home, I found it was really important to “leave” work every day — even if I wasn’t leaving home. At first, this meant that I would put my computer, notebooks, and other supplies away so that my home space felt more like home. This helped me draw a mental line between my work life and personal time that really helped me maintain balance over the past year.

Chelsea Radler: For a standing internal call, switch from video/Teams to phone so you can go on a walk mid-day. Be transparent with your team about being away from your desk, but take that opportunity to stretch and get up from your work space!

Chris Lynch: This sounds pretty generic, but people forget to do this all the time. At a minimum, continually try and remind yourself to get up from your desk every so often. Even if it’s as small as getting a glass of water or sharing a quick spaghetti lunch with your furry friend, it really does help break up the same in-same out feeling of the week of never-ending meetings.

Kara Schiaparelli: My best self-care tip is to listen to yourself and your body. If you think you need a break, then take a break.

If you live with someone or have a roommate, how do you balance working from home and respecting their time and space?

Witney James: If you can, establish separate working spaces and honor a set working time or schedule so the two of you can spend time engaging with one another; not just sharing a workplace.

Chris Lynch: My wife and I have two separate offices, so we don’t get into each other’s way too much. We tried sharing one office at the beginning of the pandemic, but if that would have continued, I would not be here today to answer these questions.

Kara and her best friend and roommate, Kiersten

Kara Schiaparelli: Right now, I’m living with my best friend in a two-bedroom apartment in Arlington, Va., and we both work from home full time. Earlier on in the pandemic, we lived in a one-bedroom and both worked in the same area of the apartment (me in the living room and her in the kitchen), which could sometimes get difficult. Now it’s much easier to work from home since we can work in our bedrooms! Even then, however, the challenges of working from home aren’t gone. Working right next to my bed can be difficult when it’s a slow day and all I want to do is lie down. To combat this, I take walks around the block to wake up!

How do you maintain a balanced workload and what are some tips you can give DCGers on how to better manage their schedules?

Chelsea Radler: Carve out meeting-free time. I strive for “Meeting-Free Mondays” (or at least recurring meeting-free!) so I can concentrate and do deep thinking without interruption at the start of each week.

Don’t work from your sacred space. If space is tight and you don’t have a dedicated desk area, sit at a different place at the kitchen counter than you would for dinner — just to create some physical separation between work and “play” times. Never work from bed, or your mind won’t know if it’s supposed to work or rest when you lay down to go to sleep.

Sacred space for me also means weekends! Since the pandemic, I joined a virtual creative writing circle that meets on Saturday mornings, which helps me transition from work brain into my creative mental space. On that note, I highly recommend having a passion project or hobby that allows you to learn and grow outside your professional lane!

Make a big pot of soup at the beginning of the week for lunches. This helps me stay away from less healthy convenience foods when I’m busiest during the middle of the week.

Chris Lynch: If you’re like me and have your schedule chock-full of meetings, I usually go through my calendar in the morning and give an even 50/50 split between all pieces of business. But for those who may not have to be so meeting-inclined, I would definitely suggest putting your own blocks on the calendar to work through whatever you need to. Just add a little more structure and focus to your daily routine. Also helps account folks to not book over that (although my “EATING FOOD NOW” meeting always gets booked over somehow …)

If you have children, what are some ways you are managing homeschooling and your work priorities?

Witney James with her son Miles and her daughter Zora

Witney James: Starting my work day very early in the morning, prioritizing writing or editing projects while the kids are still asleep, and wrapping-up earlier in the afternoon which allows me to help with any homework that needs to be reviewed or submitted before the end of the day.

Chris Lynch: My daughter’s school is open, so this is my pouring one out for all the parents at DCG who do not have this luxury. Thinking of you all.

What are some fun ways you have been able to keep your little ones preoccupied while you handle meetings, calls, deliverables, etc.?

Witney James: Nap time for my youngest! For my six-year-old, I usually have him read books, write stories, color, or even do kids yoga on Kids YouTube.

Chris Lynch with his daughter Olivia

Chris Lynch: Ryan’s World & BBQ chips (parents know what I’m talking about).

Is there a funny work-from-home moment you’d like to share (i.e., your child video bombs a client meeting)?

Witney James: My infant burped loudly while I was speaking on a client call. I was so embarrassed but the client just laughed about it.

Elizbeth Meyer with her furrbaby Rosie

Elizabeth Meyer: As my DCG colleagues will attest, my cats find it impossible to not participate in conference and video calls. A couple of weeks ago, I was presenting about a client’s campaign to 200+ VA nurses when my fur-kids knocked a box of treats off the table and started gobbling away noisily — right next to my computer. The treats now live in a cat-proof closet!

Kara Schiaparelli: When I’m back home in Florida, my dog, Skittles, likes to crash video calls to say “Hi” or to hide under my desk during thunderstorms. There is no one-size-fits-all work-from-home strategy, and you may have to try several ideas before you find what works for you.

Once you think you found your ideal way of approaching each day, consider periodically reevaluating to ensure a good fit and making sure you’re prioritizing your well-being.

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