Tips for Work, Sleep, and Productivity During a Pandemic
The current pandemic has led to disruption and change in the workplace. A large number of Americans are now working from home. This comes with a risk of decreased productivity due to factors like child care, new daytime schedules, and an increased number of distractions around the house.
Thankfully, there are ways we can leverage our knowledge of sleep medicine, circadian rhythms, and human behaviors to help increase our productivity. In this article, we discuss ways to help make your home a more efficient workplace.
Tip 1: Keep key elements of your routine
In my previous blog post, I discussed the importance of a nighttime routine for sleep. However there are many parts of your daytime routine that are equally important. First, get dressed each morning and get rid of the pajamas. It might be tempting to spend the day in your most comfortable clothes. But a study for Northwestern University showed that clothing can actually influence how we think. The study found that those who wore a lab coat were more attentive and careful with tasks. It’s also important to draw a distinction between work mode and relaxation mode. Spending all day in your pajamas may make that distinction more challenging. Next, act as if you’re going to the office by finding a designated space in your house to do all of your work. Start the morning by creating a checklists of tasks to accomplish for that day.
Tip 2: Cater to your circadian rhythm
We are naturally more productive at specific hours of the day. This daytime fluctuation is productivity is linked to our body’s level of alertness thanks to our underlying biological clock, the circadian rhythm. When we look at the circadian rhythm and sleep physiology, certain times of the day have higher levels of alertness. For the average person, this includes late morning, as well as late afternoon and early evening. On the flipside, the hours of noon to 3 p.m. tend to have a slump in alertness and energy level. Many blame this on eating lunch, but it’s mostly due to a dip in your natural circadian rhythm. It’s best to avoid tasks that require prolong attention and excessive thought around these early afternoon hours. If you tend to naturally wake up early (i.e. you’re a morning person), you’ll find that early morning hours can also be very productive. For those with night owl tendencies, some of your best work may occur in the evening and early night hours. Just be careful that your work schedule doesn’t interfere with the total sleep that you need, which for the average adult is between seven and nine hours each night. And avoid screen time for 30 minutes prior to bed.
Tip 3: Consider adjustments for the children
Although it is very important to keep children on a schedule, those that find themselves balancing childcare with work during the day may need to make adjustments. For those that have relatively young children, one potential option is to consider a slight delay to the children’s sleep schedule. It may be worth having them stay up slightly later in the evening and spending more time with family while waking later in the morning or taking a longer nap at midday. Children that have outgrown naps can still benefit from some quiet time or independent reading around noon as well. Just be sure to get the children back on their typical sleep schedule a few weeks prior to the restart of school.
Although we all hope to return to our normal routines soon, in the interim it’s important to find ways to balance work, life, and sleep to maintain a healthy and happy home.