Wellness coaching: Tweak your remote work environment and routine for success

Heatherchristensen Homeoffice

Editor’s Note: It's been an extraordinary year as 2020 has demanded the best of us at work and at home. The pandemic presents barriers to things we crave like personal connection, balance, peace of mind, achievement, exercise — normalcy. In addition to getting sound advice from Notre Dame's Wellness Coaches, NDWorks asked faculty and staff for examples of personal growth in the face of challenge. Here are a couple of experiences. 

Some Notre Dame staff members have been working from home since March. Six months in may be a good time to assess remote work environments and approaches to see what's working and what's not.

Heather Christensen, senior administrative assistant at the McGrath Institute for Church Life, has done just that by using some of the tips from the Wellness Coaches, including changing her workspace.

“When I started working remotely I rushed into my decision of where I should set up my workstation and chose to sit at a desk in my bedroom,” Christensen said. “So before I knew it, a month had gone by and I had barely left my bedroom. I was having problems sleeping. I wasn't doing well at separating my work life from my personal life.”

Michael Hughes

Christensen adjusted her work space by moving it to two different locations in her home for variety. One workspace is on an enclosed patio, which provides a lot of natural light and the ability to spread out her work when necessary.

“Now when I get up to go to my office and get to work, I’m focused and more productive too,” she said.

Our mental approach to remote work is just as important as the attention to our physical space. Michael Hughes, communications specialist with Notre Dame Research, is finding success with communicating as much as possible with his team, as well as using the Wellness Coaches’ tips like keeping a strong routine, managing work by tasks and find a rhythm to his work.

“Your routine can be a motivating force,” Hughes said. “There are days when I’m not as motivated or need to work long hours as things pop up, but a routine allows me to set mini goals and avoid feeling burned out.”

And don’t forget to lean into hobbies to reduce stress or start new ones if your previous ones are on hold.

“I played in a coed flag football league previously, but now I've taken up reading more and continuing to teach myself to play guitar. I've even worked extra work-related reading into my Endeavor goals this year,” Hughes said.

There is a lot of support available to the Notre Dame community, including a remote work toolkit that Human Resources developed. There are also other resources available from hotlines to health and well-being professionals who can guide us through today’s challenges, whether it’s working from home or other areas of our lives.

Here are some work-from-home success tips from Wellness Coaches Martha Vanderheyden and Mary Shafer.

Change your workspace: If your current work setup isn’t working for you, make adjustments that reduce distractions and increase your focus. Remember, this physical space assists the brain as you enter into a productive mental space for your work day. 

Keep your routine strong: Keeping the daily routine or schedule you’ve developed in recent months will continue to provide structure for the day. This structure can help keep you on task, especially when it is easy to ebb and flow from work to home life. Try to start and end your work day around the same time each day.

Try managing by task: If you find yourself struggling to be productive during the eight-hour work day structure, see if you can manage your day through tasks instead of time. Talk with your supervisor or teammates about setting goals for your work day to let your day flow according to the completion of those tasks. 

Nurture connections: Working from home means fostering connections virtually. This presents the opportunity to build broader connections.Embrace the support you can gain through these connections that are not based on proximity to your desk at work.

Find your rhythm: Variety can provide balance and sanity to your at-home work life. When planning your day, make time for focused work, interactive/collaborative work and energizing breaks. This will help your day flow with energy instead of drag and drain. 

Replace the commute: Working from home eliminates our daily commute which serves as our internal ‘switch’ from home to work life. By establishing a ritual to turn on and shut down the work day you can keep work from invading home life. 

For a private consultation with a Wellness Coach, call 574-631-2366.

Carrie Stone in Internal Communications contributed to this story written by the Wellness Coaches.