We’re facing an unprecedented time in our world’s history, and the impacts to our workplaces — and work lives — may be changed forever. We’re all doing our best to maintain a sense of order as we navigate a potentially overwhelming amount of change.
If you’re no longer commuting to an office, one of the biggest opportunities to gain a sense of normalcy is reclaiming extra time in your day for self-care. The average American spends nearly one hour commuting roundtrip — giving you plenty of time to explore new activities for career growth, productivity, or mental health.
Here are 10 ways you can repurpose your previous commute time to be productive, or simply maintain your well-being.
1. Trying a walking commute to sneak in exercise.
Studies show walking for as little as 10 minutes can have health benefits, though 30 minutes is ideal. If you're able to based on government guidelines, try aiming for a 15-minute walk each morning and afternoon to maximize the benefits and give your workday a sense of structure. Be sure to observe any applicable social-distancing guidelines, giving other walkers a wide berth.
2. Spend quality time with loved ones.
Schedule time on your calendar to have focused quality time with your kids, call a grandparent or parent, or FaceTime with a friend. If kids are home with you while you’re working, you might try spending uninterrupted time having breakfast with them in the morning before starting your workday.
3. Stay informed — to a point.
Choose several news sources that you trust, and make a pact with yourself to only check them twice a day. Limiting “always on” news and social consumption can help reduce anxiety.
4. Replace "water cooler" chatter.
Have a virtual coffee/tea catch-up before the workday begins, or schedule happy hour with colleagues or friends to socialize after completing your workday. It’s a great way to foster connection, and stay involved and updated on work projects.
5. Read a book.
Read that book you've been meaning to read. The average adult can read a novel in eight hours, and fiction novels are a great way to escape current events if you're able to focus. Nonfiction books also allow you to grow your development and keep your skills sharp.
6. Polish your resume and portfolio.
Updating your resume and nurturing your network is solid advice even when you're not looking for a new job. Whether or not you’re concerned about job security in the current economic climate, it’s easier to update your resume and highlight your achievements when you’re not under the pressure of an urgent job search.
7. Move your body.
In addition to walking, don’t forget to get up from your desk (or kitchen table, or couch, or wherever you’re working these days) every 30 to 60 minutes, as studies show prolonged sitting can have adverse health effects. And if you’re solely working at a laptop or from anything other than a desk, your posture is likely suffering as you hunch over the screen. Try incorporating stretching or simple body-weight exercises — like situps, squats, and pushups — to help ease pain and protect your muscles, joints, and ligaments.
8. Track your day.
Maintaining a to-do list and checking off your accomplishments can help you stay focused and give you a sense of achievement at the end of each day or week, especially during a stressful time when you may be feeling less productive than usual. If you’re feeling especially anxious during this uncertain time, journaling can also help you explore your feelings, and will give you an opportunity to capture this significant moment in time to revisit in the future.
9. Listen or watch, and learn.
Taking an online course or joining a virtual instructor-led course is another way to keep your skills sharp, and may even be covered by your company if it has a continuing education program. Coursera and Skillshare are two options to explore, and include options beyond professional training, even offering interior design or mindfulness courses to help you adjust to a new working situation.
10. Enhance your environment.
Whether you live alone, have roommates, or live with a partner and/or children, working from home and not leaving the house can mean clutter and housework pile up quickly. One easy way to maintain a sense of control is to clean, do the dishes, start or put away a load of laundry, or prep food for meals before and after your workday during what would normally be commuting time. Taking care of a plant or putting together a floral arrangement can also brighten up your home or work area (or both!). Bonus points if you queue up a podcast or audiobook to entertain yourself during these potentially mundane tasks.
Find what works for you
As the workforce adjusts to a new normal — working from home or collaborating remotely with colleagues around the world — each of us will likely encounter new challenges. But remember: These changes also present new opportunities.
Repurposing the time you previously used to commute can provide bookends to your day and a schedule that offers a sense of normalcy, which can help your mental health as much as your physical and professional ones. Not every suggestion or “best practice” will work for everyone; what’s most important is you find what works for you.