Keep up with your routine while telecommuting

Millions of people nationwide are working from home indefinitely, including many of us at Baylor College of Medicine. Baylor experts are here to help for those of us who are not accustomed to telecommuting and are unaware of how to continue an office routine at home.

Dr. Eric Storch, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and vice chair of psychology at Baylor, says it’s important to continue with your normal schedule, even if you are telecommuting. He offers tips to maintain your mental health while working from home:

  • Maintain a regular work schedule and hours that mimic your usual life. If you wake at 7 a.m. to be in the office by 8, continue this routine.
  • Stick to your usual morning routine up to leaving for work (in this case, to your home office.)
  • Set up a home office that has the requisite materials in a quiet, dedicated space.
  • Let those around you know of your hours, expectations and ground rules for what is and is not ok.
  • Schedule and take breaks such as short walks, and a lunch break. Stepping away from home for a walk around the block can be very healthy.
  • Let your supervisor know what you need to be successful, such as equipment, programs, VPN, etc.
  • Remain connected. We do this at work naturally, and it is important to do at home. Use the video option on Zoom meetings so you can see each others’ faces.
  • Maintain communication even more than before. Be clear with your supervisor on expectations and goals, and what you are working on.
  • Maintain your optimism – this too shall pass, and keeping hope will facilitate adjusting.
  • Be positive about the perks – reduced commute, working in comfy clothes, and being home in time for family dinner are great things.
  • Don’t be too hard on yourself. It takes some time to get used to a new environment such as this. This is a new but temporary norm; we don’t need to achieve perfection but rather just good enough.

An essential part of working from home is creating a comfortable workspace where you can maintain good posture. Melanie McNeal, a physical therapist and manager of orthopedic and sports therapy at Baylor, offers tips on how to sit comfortably while being away from your work desk:

  • Find a chair that can help support the normal curve of your lower back. If you have a straight-backed chair, put a small towel roll behind the lower back to maintain proper spinal alignment.
  • Sit in a chair that is more firm while you are working. Sitting in a soft chair can make it easier to slump and more difficult to maintain good posture.
  • Keep your shoulder blades back against the chair while sitting. This helps your head maintain an upright position rather than placing stress on the neck muscles.
  • Move your chair as close as possible to the computer. Being too far away from the computer causes you to lean forward, which puts stress on the neck and lower back.
  • Keep your computer at eye level – try not to move your head up or down to read what’s on the screen.
  • Support your forearms when typing on the computer – this will help decrease the stress on your neck and shoulder muscles.
  • Don’t work with a computer in your lap – it is difficult to maintain good posture like this.
  • Avoid sitting in a chair that is too low. This causes you to slump and increases stress on the back muscles.
  • Remember to take frequent breaks by walking or standing.