Since March last year, many people have been working from home, maybe for the first time, and this is showing no sign of changing anytime soon. Some people may never return to working in an office full time and it is easy to get into bad habits such as staying in pyjamas all day and missing out on the physical activity. Additionally, people may find it difficult to separate their work and home life and their mental health is suffering because of this.
The best work comes when we are healthy, happy and well rested. There are a few things we can do to make our workspace at home more comfortable, ourselves more relaxed and our work better quality.
Giving yourself a routine to follow will improve your productivity, your mood and allow you to set boundaries between your work and home life. Try to set yourself a similar routine to that which you have when working from the office. Wake up at the same time, have a good and healthy breakfast and get changed ready for work. Have regular breaks throughout the day and set aside time for your lunch break. Then once your working day has finished shut down your laptop and do whatever relaxes you. Having a routine for your working day with regular breaks and a set finish time will allow you to stay productive throughout the day and allow you to be able to ‘switch off’ when you finish.
Furthermore, scheduling breaks into your working day can be very beneficial, especially if you are staring at a computer all day. Take your mind off work and focus on something else for a while, go for a walk, do a short at home work out, read a bit of your book or watch daytime television. These breaks will make you more proactive when you return to work and stop you feeling overwhelmed or stressed.
To further set boundaries between your work and personal life make sure you have a dedicated workspace, this physically keeps your two spaces separate making it easier to relax when you are in your home space and be productive when you are in your workspace. Before you start work make sure you have everything you need, this way you are not constantly running around your house looking for things. This includes laptops, notebooks, pens, pencils and chargers, take them all to your workspace and so you don’t need to leave unless for your breaks or when you have finished the day. This will also stop you from getting distracted from things happening around your home, for example, if you are trying to find something like a pen or piece of paper in your living room you may start to do other things such as cleaning, start talking to someone you live with or watching something on the tv. Having everything you need in your dedicated workspace means you have fewer reasons to leave it and so less chance of being sidetracked.
Furthermore, a tidy workspace is always better for productivity levels, so make sure to declutter the area you have decided to work in before you start. Studies have found that clutter can raise the level of cortisol, a hormone related to stress, in your body which if prolonged over a period of time may lead to more serious issues such as anxiety, depression, headaches and sleep disruption. Keeping your workspace clean, tidy and separate from the areas you relax in will impact both you more and your quality of work drastically.
Working in a light area is also good for our minds. Sunlight releases the hormone serotonin, which helps us to feel calm and focussed, while also boosting our mood and reducing any feelings of anxiety. Choose the lightest room in your house to set up your home office and keep the windows open during your working day. You can also increase the amount of light in the room by using mirrors to reflect the light around. If you don’t have access to this amount of sunlight in your home, make sure you take regular breaks and go for a walk or sit in your garden, the sunlight and fresh air will have a positive effect on yourself and the work you produce when you return to your desk.
Many people’s moods are lifted after having social contact of some sort, in normal circumstances we spend a lot of time at work and have around 80-90% of our social interactions there. While in lockdown it is easy to start to feel lonely and isolated, especially when working at home as the social side of work is taken away, and you may now only talk to your co-workers now through emails.
If you are a person who thrives off social interaction make it a priority of yours to still get some of some kind, while this is hard in lockdown and we need to do so in a socially distanced and safe way, if it improves your mental health and your mood, find ways to achieve this. Meet a friend in a park for a walk, schedule a facetime call with your close friends or family, and check in on the people you care about. This time is hard for everyone, we need to be there for each other and do what makes us happy.
It is well known that exercise and moving our body improves our mood. Multiple studies have found that exercise reduces feelings of anxiety and stress, helps us both mentally and physically and releases mood-boosting endorphins.
For some people, their commute is the main part of their exercise, especially if you walk or cycle to work. Now however the commute is to another room in the house and you miss out on any physical activity. To make up for this why not go for a walk after work, join the gym (if it’s open in your area) or do a home workout video/zoom class. Any activity like this will keep you physically and mentally healthy, improve your mood and make us more productive.