With millions of people figuring out how to do their jobs from home right now—many with the added stress of doing it with kids in the house—I figured I could better serve readers this week by sharing tips based on what I’ve learned working from a home office for eight years. My wife and I both work from our house and split childcare for our two-year-old. Here’s the gear I use to help me stay as efficient (and sane) as possible.
Standing up while I work more than doubles the amount of time I can spend in front of the screen before I take a break. I know that logging consecutive hours in front of a monitor isn’t necessarily good for me, but I find that taking every focused streak to its maximum is the key to getting a lot of work done at home. I’ve used the Fully Jarvis Standing Desk for years now and could write over a thousand words on why I love it so much. But I imagine that ordering a new desk or paying $450 for one that might not be permanent doesn’t make sense for most people. Good news: any desk—or table or counter for that matter—can be a standing desk with the right amount of books stacked beneath a laptop. Just make sure your elbows are at 90 degrees when you’re typing. Trust me, even if it feels silly, working from your feet is a game changer.
A Perfect Fitness Multi Gym Pull-Up Bar lives permanently in my office, because it provides me with the opportunity for five to ten minutes of head-clearing exercise. While push-ups and squats are awesome options if you don’t have a pull-up bar, there’s something about the pull-ups themselves that gets me out of my head and makes me feel like I took a longer respite. Better yet, put the three together and start a mini circuit. Taking exercise breaks without ever leaving my work space helps me stay sane.
A good stretch and some deep breaths can turn a stressful day around, especially when I’m feeling isolated and stuck inside my head. I don’t suggest buying a new yoga mat just for this purpose—you can do this on the ground—but if you already have one, you should move it into your work space. Spreading the mat on the floor sets the intention that you are going to disassociate from your work for a few minutes at some point in the day. One or two sessions really manages my stress level.
I am currently using the Kygo Xenon over-ear headphones, and I love them. My wife uses the Bose Quiet Comfort pair that I gave her. While the noise-cancelling component of both of them is nice when our toddler charges the door, the most important part of wearing them is the subtext: my wife and I have a deal that you do not interrupt other person if they are wearing headphones, unless it’s an emergency. Any pair will work here—just make sure you follow the rules.
I have written about a lacrosse ball as a recovery tool many times but never about how fantastic they are in my home office. Standing and massaging the bottoms of my bare feet with one hurts just enough to keep me from zoning out on a project, but it’s still something I can do while actively working. This practice has also cured me of plantar fasciitis from running. If jogging isn’t in the cards for you right now, it still feels invigorating (in a painful way) to massage your dogs while you work. It’s also great for some quick loosening if your neck or back get sore—no one will judge you for self-massaging at home. Tennis balls or baseballs work, too.
Your Biggest Water Bottle
Repeatedly filling up an eight-ounce glass with water seems like an awesome way to break up a day in an office and connect with coworkers. But at home, refilling that glass will invariably lead you to find some dishes to wash or start making an overly elaborate snack. While drinking the contents of a 40-ounce water bottle will not save you from having to use the bathroom, it will save you multiple trips to the kitchen. And while it’s unlikely that a bathroom trip will derail your focus, the kitchen is a killer.
There are solid arguments in favor of getting ready for work and looking nice to set the mood for a productive workday. But I’m in the camp of treating yourself to the most comfortable clothing your current work situation allows for. There’s enough stress in your life right now. On top of keeping your lower body extremely comfortable, the right pair of athleisure pants makes firing off those mini workouts significantly easier. I reviewed athleisure pants this winter if, you’re in the market for a pair, but your oldest sweats will also do.