Five Healthy WFH Habits


Wow! Reflecting on the last 10 days, it is astonishing to see how much our world has changed in response to COVID-19.

With several workplaces shifting to work from home (WFH) environments, our Tjene team was also one to adapt to remote work. Our team was fortunate to quickly transition to remote work overnight and continue to discover new ways to make working from home an adaptable one. Although it was easy to physically transition, it can be hard to change ones' personal habits overnight (Psychologist Jeremy Dean wrote a whole book on how it can take 21 days, 66 days, or even up to 84 days to change- but I digress).  

Up until this point there has been a lot of debate amongst Managers, CEOs, HR Professionals, Psychologists, Business Reporters and Academics regarding the "Work From Home" movement. Nonetheless, now more than ever, is a great time to see what aspects make WFH most successful and productive.

Here are FIVE tips to making the most out of WFH:

Five working from home habits shown in text

TIP #1: Dress like you are going to work

The classic 'look good feel good' does have some truth behind it.  There is psychology behind what people choose to wear and what it symbolizes. Studies have shown in sport psychology that there are differences in performance depending on athletes playing in a pinny versus a uniform. People have "lucky" socks, shirts, etc., that they wear because they believe it can help build their confidence in what they are going to do. Plenty of business people and politicians play on this as well, they wear blue, as this colour can build a more trusting appearance. Not to mention the effect of people in their police or military uniform and how that legitimizes their role for themselves and the people around them.

So, bringing this back, those are examples of how your choice in what you wear, can make a conscious or unconscious difference in your own behaviour and of those around you.      

In the workplace, how you dress mostly influences an individual's esteem or confidence and how others may perceive you.  For those of you who like numbers: In 2014, Yale created a study to analyze three different types of individual appearances and its impact on negotiating for money. 1/3 of participants were dressed in full suits, 1/3 in 'casual clothing' and 1/3 in sweatpants and sandals. Their goal was to negotiate as much money as possible individually, to contribute to their groups' theoretical money pool. Those in suits negotiated a fictional $2.1 million, those in casual clothing got $1.58 million and those in sweatpants got $680,000. After further investigation, results showed that those in more formal clothing, had higher confidence levels at the time of negotiation and engaged in high level thought patterns that allowed them to generate higher revenue.

So what does this tell us? We may not have to wear a suit to work from home to be successful, but rather dress like you would for a regular day as this could help keep your creative juices flowing and quality of work up!

TIP #2: Set up a prime workspace

Given that your "office" and home may now be in the same location, it is still important for your brain to be able to tell the difference (read Tip #5 for more reasons why).

In other words, knowing that you are in your 'working spot' can help your brain  get into your "work mode" versus staying in the "chill-at-home-mode". Now, your first argument may be, "I live in a big city, I do not have a whole other room to dedicate as an office". Good news! It does not have to be a whole room. Even sitting at a different spot at the kitchen table works. Think back to tip #1, you are not actually going into the office, but some tips and tricks can help your brain realize that it is time to get work done.

On another, more literal note, it is important to take into account your physical health. If we are going to be working from home for a prolonged period, you should be taking the time to set up a sweet spot for yourself. 

Some things to consider when setting up a workspace:

  • How can you be comfortable, and make sure you have good posture to prevent neck/back stiffness?
  • How can you make sure you are getting enough daylight (this ultimately helps with your Vitamin D exposure which plays a huge role on your mental health)?
  • How can you set up a physical space to help you block out distractions (i.e., away from other people in the house, away from the TV, off social media, etc.)?

TIP #3: Adapt to different communication styles

Given that WFH limits your human contact, a much larger portion of communication is then asynchronous (a gap between information being shared and when others respond). This also means not a lot of communication is done in person, which inhibits the ability to pick up and read on social cues, such as a person's intonation or body language.

However, with technology and how it has evolved over the years, communicating with your colleagues can be made a little easier. We now have so many different methods and channels to stay connected, but how do you pick the right one? The options are endless and can often be difficult to decide which one to use.

Two people communicating together using different communication methods.

Here are some things you can ask yourself to help you decide:

  • Where could I speak about emotionally-charged situations?
  • Where can I contact someone for an urgent matter?
  • Who needs to know this message?      
  • Where is the most appropriate way to notify updates to my team?
  • Where could I ask questions and quickly get a response?
  • Where could I give feedback?
  • Where could I brainstorm with my team?      

Deciding these communication methods in advance with your team can be a great way to prevent any conflict, miscommunication or grievances along the way. In a nutshell: reflect on your communication style, and have a conversation with your team on which styles work best for everyone.

TIP #4: Develop a routine

As alluded to in Tip #1, not only is dressing like we are going into work important for our confidence, it is also a great way to help stay in our routine for work.

When going to the office, we get up, get ready for the day, have our commute and arrive at work. This gives ample time for our brains to separate our home life from our office life. Once we get to work, we all have our routine and go about our business. Although we are not going to the office, we can still make a routine to start our work at home!

Here are some positive impacts in developing a routine:

  • Helps ground us, and keeps us and our productivity on track
  • Positive effect on mental health - to a certain extent, it can help us get through uncertain times which is exactly what COVID-19 has thrust upon us
  • Helps reduce the cognitive load we feel on a daily basis which helps us spend less time thinking about what and when we should be doing things
  • Helps determine how we end work, to help differentiate work-life and personal-life

TIPS #5: Make sure to take a lunch break

Your routine should allow for you to take breaks which you may be unlikely to do when you are working from home.

In fact, remote workers typically take shorter breaks, and less sick days than those who commute to an office. Studies also show that people who work from home also find it harder to separate their working lives from their personal lives. Working longer hours does not always mean you will get more work done, make more money, or perform better. Remember, this is a marathon and not a sprint. There is no shame in taking a break!

Use your breaks to your advantage: rather than chatting to your neighbour (like you would in the office) for a break, you can use your breaks to go for walks and get some fresh air, play with kids, get a quick workout in, browse on social media, etc.

Linking this to Tip #2, make sure your break is spent away from your work area, so you can give your brain a break and a change of scenery. To create this break, resist the temptation to eat your lunch in front of your desk while you work. This is a great example of making sure you have a trigger for when you stop and start work.


All of these habits can help you maintain a work-life balance that can already be hard to achieve on a normal day-to-day life. Especially during this time when we are all expected to quarantine at home with our families and to WFH at the same time…how can you make sure one does not spill into the other? To summarize:

Give your brain as many clues as you can to remind yourself when you are working, and when you are off the clock:

  • Change into work clothes (Tip #1) and set up a workspace (Tip #2) to separate your 'work-life' from your 'personal-life'
  • Think about how you can communicate with your team now that you are in a different physical space (Tip #3)
  • Think about how you can develop a routine that works for you (Tip #4)
  • Take a break to get off the clock and rest to be productive (Tip #5)

Working from home can be a big change but it can be adaptable and managed - stay tuned for next week's post to learn how to Manage Change!


Improve Productivity: Have a Dedicated Home Office Space

The Mental Health Benefits of Having a Daily Routine

The Psychology Behind the ‘Look Good, Feel Good, Play Good’ Philosophy

It Turns out that Dressing well can actually make you more Successful

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