When my alarm went off this morning, it took every ounce of willpower to turn it off and get out of bed. Like so many of you, my city is in the middle of another winter that’s cycling between snow and teasing 60-degree days, only to dump more snow. To paraphrase Phil Connors from “Groundhog Day,” that means it’s cold, it’s dark, and it feels like it’s going to last the rest of our lives.
Look, I’m not anti-winter: I love going outside and sledding with my kids and then bundling up with a hot beverage. It can be absolutely beautiful when it snows; we even hosted a team bonding event that centered on sledding in Utah. But I can’t stand waking up when it’s still pitch-black outside and battling the elements just to get to the office.
So what’s the remedy here? Is there a way to be productive without having to pile on down coats to face the cold? Absolutely: by working from home.
How to Get Old Man Winter Out of the Way
As long as your work only requires a computer and internet access, working from home has become an increasingly popular option. In fact, studies have found that working remotely is beneficial for both employees and companies. Working from home actually increases productivity, thanks to eliminating workplace distractions and promoting a more flexible schedule.
Although you can experience these benefits throughout the year, they’re even more potent during the winter. Staying warm, avoiding driving in icy weather, and keeping out of the line of fire of others’ colds are huge benefits of working from home. These enable remote workers to counter winter’s negative effects on their productivity.
Like I said, the worst part about winter is having to leave my house when it’s cold and dark. Commuting to work is already stressful. Factor in the statistics showing that there are 156,164 crashes annually due to icy roads, and you may question why you would ever want to commute to work again. Even if you take public transportation, you may experience delays or slip on sidewalks or train platforms.
Working from home removes the stress of the daily commute, as well as the potential of doing bodily harm. It also allows you to stay nice and warm in your bed a little longer while putting in a full day’s work — and it brings a few other advantages.
1. You can work around your schedule.
There’s another benefit of sleeping in, and we actually need it during the winter. “If our body clock is saying it wants us to wake up at 9:00, because it’s a dark winter’s day, but we’re getting ourselves up at 7:00 — then we are missing out on a complete sleep phase,” Greg Murray, professor of psychology at Swinburne University, Australia, told Wired.
Our circadian rhythms, our internal clocks that maintain a regular sleep schedule, are out of sync in the winter. Instead of fighting this, it’s suggested that you sleep in and work shorter hours. You’ll be happier and more productive by adjusting to a new winter work schedule.
There’s another perk if you’re a parent: You don’t have to worry about what to do if your kids are home because they have a snow day or are sick.
2. If you’re under the weather, no problem.
I think many of us would agree that the worst thing about the colder months of the year is the germs. Personally, I cringe every time I walk into the office and catch a team member sneezing or coughing. I know sickness is inevitable, especially when you have kids, but I’d prefer not to catch whatever you have if I can avoid it. Besides, it’s distracting to listen to multiple people battling flu or cold symptoms in a contained space.
If you’re contagious but still feeling OK in terms of focus, you can at least stay home and get stuff done when you feel up to it. While at home, you can work in short bursts and then take a break to nap when needed. This way, you can get some work done without overextending yourself and making your cold — and eventual time off — worse.
3. You can set the temperature you want.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends that employers keep the thermostat between 68 and 76 degrees Fahrenheit. The Helsinki University of Technology Laboratory for Heating, Ventilating and Air-conditioning says the ideal temperature for the “typical” office should be around 71.6 degrees.
Despite this, some leaders like Mark Zuckerberg keep it chilly at about 60 degrees. The reason? He believes it helps with concentration. There are others who prefer to keep their workplace toasty, but as Cornell University found, productivity is also impacted when the temperature rises above 77 degrees.
If you’re working from the confines of your own home, you can set the thermostat at a temperature that’s comfortable for you, allowing you to focus on your work — not on how hot or cold you are.
4. You can beat the winter blues.
Cold and dark winters aren’t the best for your well-being, particularly your mental health. You aren’t able to get enough sunlight, and your sleep pattern has changed. For some, winter is hard because they aren’t able to get outside to exercise or are still recovering from the holidays.
In some cases, this can be a deeper depression known as seasonal affective disorder. If you’re experiencing this, you may feel fatigued, irritable, and hopeless or have difficulty concentrating.
Remotely working won’t help you treat these symptoms. But because your schedule is more flexible, you have more opportunities to seek professional help or attend to self-care. You can also avoid the temptation to eat unhealthy office snacks by filling your home with nutritious foods that can improve your mood. You can also add a lightbox to your home office to reduce SAD symptoms and increase your energy without distracting anyone else.
While working from home this winter can help make you more productive, it’s only effective if you stick to a consistent routine. Wake up at a consistent time, establish working hours, and act like you’re actually going to work (i.e., showering and getting dressed). What’s more, make sure that your calendars are synched so you don’t miss any important deadlines, events, or meetings you need to call in for.
The winter doldrums can be hard on everybody in your office. To make things easier and keep productivity up, invite your team to work from home more often. Not only will everyone emerge from the cold, gray months with a better attitude, but they’ll avoid the feeling of needing to play catch-up, too.