How to keep healthy and sane whilst working from home
We all know by now that Covid-19 and the subsequent lockdown has materially changed so many things in our lives. We are all still adjusting to new ways of life and practices. Furthermore, we all know people who are working from home. Some have experience of this but for a large number this is untried territory.
It is important to remember that working from home may well continue for a lengthy period of time. Indeed some roles may not revert to previous practices as employers and employees discover the benefits of having a smaller office based workforce.
Clearly, working from home has its plus sides e.g. no commute, managing your own time and greater productivity to mention a few. It can however have its downside – boredom, distractions, frustration, poor facilities etc.
Look after yourself by trying the following
Prepare a work area
Try not to get in the way of the rest of the household. To do so is likely to cause stress, annoyance and reduced productivity. Ideally you will have an office area e.g a spare bedroom or conservatory or even perched at the end of the dining table. Wherever it is should be quiet and free from distraction such as TV or constant conversation.
Try and organise your hardware and stationery requirements so that they are near to you and importantly find a peaceful area which you can call your own.
Try to avoid working from the sofa – many of us have done this simply because it’s an easy thing to do but beware of bad postures which can creep up on you very quickly and cause unnecessary muscle problems and ongoing discomfort. So, get quiet and comfortable!
Set your own routine
With the absence of the office discipline, it might be difficult to prioritise and stick to regular hours. This by itself can be stressful. It probably makes sense to get showered and dressed before you start work. It is so easy to confuse work and home duties but do try to separate them.
Consistency is especially important so try to stick to similar hours rather than burning the candle at both ends. Try not to waste good time during the day by performing household chores thinking that you will catch up your work later – you probably won’t catch up and this causes added stress the next day.
It helps to maintain working sleep patterns as if you were still going into work and to eat as normal too. Consistency helps productivity and general mental and physical health.
At the end of your working day – do try and relax and commit yourself to a proper home wind down. Most importantly, when your workday stops, stop working. Shut down, stop checking emails and focus on your home life. And at the end of the evening, try to get to bed at your usual time.
Keep your boundaries
This aspect can be easily overlooked but is especially important. Let other members of the household know when you are working and not to be disturbed or pestered e.g. to go to the supermarket or walk the dog! This assists your new routine and provides assurance and reduces stress.
At the same time, you can still enjoy your new found flexibility – so if you do decide to walk the dog during the day it should be your choice as a result of making time to do so, and not because someone has pestered you to do it.
After all – you are working and not on holiday! Involve your family by discussing your requirements and intentions and get them on board with you.
Take proper breaks from work
You can easily be more productive at home than at work. The casual office chat is not there, nor is waiting for meetings, or even attending needless meetings! You will probably find yourself more responsive to emails and messages but do remember to break off every now and again.
Breaks are vital to recharge your bodies and minds. You will probably have earned the right to take slightly more breaks than when at the office. After all – you have not had the commute or had those unproductive office moments!
You can also leave the house for short walks or whatever – something you probably could not do so much when at the office. Short breaks every 90 minutes or so will ultimately help your concentration and mental health. Do not be afraid of trying some stretches or even "Joe Wicks" type bits of exercise.
Keep in touch with your colleagues and friends
It is important not to feel too isolated. An element of isolation will be inevitable and not to be feared but do not let it overwhelm you. Keeping in touch with your work colleagues will reduce any feeling of isolation and help them too. Valid communication is good for mental health and your colleagues will no doubt be in the same position as you. Why not have a video coffee with your closest colleagues? If you are aware of any colleagues who are struggling, try and be there for them. If you experience problems, you should contact your colleagues or manager for help.
The longer you work from home, the more ideas you may develop how to improve your working life. If you can, treat yourself to a proper chair, or buy yourself that whiteboard you could do with. Why not buy some decent fibre tips instead of those rubbish biros you have had for ages? Is it time to buy a new laptop?
Now with summer is on its way, consider whether there are work areas you could do outside in the garden? If you have a report to read, why not do it outside? If no garden – do you have a local park?
Overall – look after yourself. Sleep, eat, drink, and exercise. A fit body and mind hugely helps productivity and reduces stress and anxiety. It is important to be realistic about what you can achieve. Do not be hard on yourself but work hard and relax accordingly.
Finally – avoid being a workaholic and trying too hard to impress your bosses or colleagues. If you follow a sensible structured routine, you will inevitably experience greater productivity which will manifest itself to others anyway. Look after yourself and your colleagues!
19th June 2020
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