When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, no one was sure how long it was going to last. Remote work was a stop-gap measure that many companies put into place, hoping that it would be temporary and people would soon return to work. A year later, the pandemic is still in full effect — and for many — working from home has become the new normal.
Even when the pandemic is over, the face of the job force may drastically change. For example, 30% of workers have said they will quit their job if they have to go back to the office after the pandemic is over.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re waiting to get vaccinated before you go back to the office or you’re one of the many workers whose career transitioned to a remote one for the foreseeable future. The habits that served you in the first weeks of quarantine are probably not effective long-term.
6 quarantine bad habits to break
Here are some of the most important quarantine bad habits to break — and, more importantly, how to break them while maintaining your socially distanced lifestyle.
1. You wear your jammies all-day
Let’s be real. When quarantine started, one of the few silver linings was knowing you wouldn’t have to get dressed in your typical business suit every day of the week. But what started as a delightfully rebellious choice to work in your pajamas may have quickly devolved into a habit of not getting dressed ever.
Here’s why this matters. When you work from home, it’s already hard to strike a work-life balance. The usual signal that it’s work time — getting showered and dressed and then heading to the office — is no longer there, which means that your mind doesn’t know when it’s time to turn work mode on or off.
You can feel the effects of this when you’re scrolling through work emails while still in bed, or you’re struggling to fall asleep at night because you’re thinking through a project you worked on throughout the day. Signaling to your body when it’s time to start work and when it’s time to stop can have a huge influence on your stress levels.
Getting dressed each morning in real clothes tells your body that it’s time to start your day. When you switch over to PJs in the evenings, it can cue your mind to turn work mode off and to start relaxing. Studies also show that the simple act of getting up at your usual time, getting dressed, and combing your hair can be good for your mental health.
This doesn’t mean that you need to wear a three-piece suit to commute from your bedroom to your kitchen table. To fix this habit, pick out an outfit each day that includes a semi-professional top — in case you get called into a last-minute Zoom meeting — clean underwear and a comfortable pair of pants that you wouldn’t be embarrassed to answer the door in.
2. You’re eating all the time
When the pandemic hit, getting food went from “no big deal” to “kind of a huge deal” overnight. Restaurants closed, grocery stores — if you dared go in them — were frequently out of even basic food items. Many grocery stores canceled grocery pick-up so they could handle stocking issues in-house.
The result was that you had to come up with creative ways to feed your family. Some people stocked up on items when they found them in the grocery store. For many others, take-out food and delivery — the few restaurant options that remained available — were an easy fallback. And quick access to the kitchen meant snacking while working from home was a given.
Unfortunately, this combination of lifestyle choices is not sustainable long-term. Weight gain since the start of COVID-19 has been a serious issue for many people. If you’re buying extra snacks and take-out food, it’s not great for your wallet, either.
Fixing this issue can be hard. A good first step is to delete food-delivery apps if you’ve been using take-out as a crutch in the past few months. Next, try tracking what you’re eating in a journal or food log. Modern apps make it easy to count calories, and studies show that just tracking what you eat can be enough for some people to change bad eating habits.
3. You’ve stopped moving
One good thing about commuting to work every day is that at the very least, you have to walk from your house to your car and then from your parking spot to your work.
Not only has working from home cut these basic movements from most people’s lives, but it’s also put a hamper on real workouts. It’s hard to go to the gym when there’s a statewide lockdown in place, for example. Even if your state permits it, you may not want to go into a small space with many other nearby people.
However, lack of movement can be damaging not just for your waistline but also for your sleep cycle and your mental health. It’s hard to think creatively and productively when you’ve sat in the same chair and stared at the same four walls for a year on end.
This is a habit worth fixing, and it’s not impossible to do so. Try adding small bits of movement into your day. Take a walk around the block after each meal, for example, or jog up and down the stairs a few extra times to get your blood circulating again.
4. You’re drinking too much
In the first week of quarantine, alcohol sales soared. A third of Americans stated that they’re more likely to drink during work hours when working from home. Having an occasional alcoholic drink after work is no big deal. But if you’ve gotten into the habit of having a glass of wine with your lunch or drinking every night, it may be time to cut back.
Cutting back on alcohol is best done in short spurts. The first step would be to cut out any day-drinking. You might want to put a hard limit in place — such as going drinking while on the clock. This is also a great way to build work-life separation and keep yourself accountable and productive during working hours.
If you still find you’re drinking too much, cut your consumption down by a couple of drinks each week until you’re back to your pre-quarantine habits. If you find that it’s too hard to cut the drinking habit out by yourself, get help from a certified doctor.
5. You’re doing a lot of online shopping
If you were used to getting out of the house and going into town before quarantine happened, you’re not alone. For some people, online shopping was an easy way to cope with quarantine in the early months. They were able to stay up-to-date on fashion trends and feel like they were still connecting with the world.
Unfortunately, like many things, online shopping can become an addiction. If your wallet has been suffering since the quarantine hit — or packages arrive, and you’re not even sure what’s in them anymore — you may have fallen into this habit.
One way to help cut down on this habit is to make a firm budget for your money and allocate only a small portion of funds to online shopping each month. Once you’ve spent that money, cut yourself off from online shopping until the next month.
Online wish lists are also a great way to help curb your shopping desire. You can browse fun things online, but make yourself add them to a wish list. If, after a week or two, you still really want the item on the wish list, it’s probably an actual desire, and not just that might be an impulse purchase. But you may surprise yourself with how often you no longer care about the items on your wish list after a week has passed.
6. You stopped socializing
Social distancing has forced us to change how we interact with other people. But for some people, especially those who tended to keep to themselves anyway, social distancing has become synonymous with social isolation — and that’s not a good thing.
Interacting with other people is important for your mental health because it allows you to de-stress, talk about things going on in your life, and have fun. It’s still not safe to socialize the way we used to, but if you’ve virtually cut off contact with friends, canceled holidays, and shut yourself off from the world, it may be time to research new ways to interact.
Tons of apps have been developed since COVID-19 hit, allowing you to video-conference with friends and even host virtual game nights. But after a year, it’s time to start reconnecting with family and friends and making having a healthy social life a priority.
Prepare for the future you want
Most of us went into quarantine thinking that it was going to be a short-term problem and that we’d be able to nip the pandemic in the bud early. That has proven itself not to be the case.
Instead of thinking about your habits with a temporary mindset, the time has come to acknowledge that working from home may be a long-term situation — and if that’s the case, then it’s part of your job to make working from home as comfortable as possible. Work on your quarantine bad habits to break one by one, and start getting healthier.