Amid the current and ever-changing events with Covid-19 many of us have found ourselves now working from home unexpectedly. While it may bring flexibility, this change in working conditions can have its pitfalls.
We spoke to workplace wellness consultant Carrie Budds of Quokka Wellness for her advice on how to keep on top of your work and maintain decent work/life balance when working from home. Try out some of Carrie’s tips to help you stay productive and motivated today:
Have a dedicated work space & work time
Many of don’t have the luxury of additional space for an office, you may have to find other ways like working from the kitchen table. Whatever your situation, it is important to have a space that you dedicate to work during working hours. Try to not make it your bed though – it’s a slippery slope going from doing a few hours work to spending the whole day there!
If you are sitting at a desk or area that has not been set up ergonomically it can hard to do long periods of desk work. Likewise when working off a laptop to do detailed work or data entry. If possible, use a separate keyboard and mouse. If you have a TV screen you can also use that as an extra monitor for detailed work or to help your eyes. Use sturdy books or boxes to set up your working station so that it suits your work, keeping your screen at eye-level.
And remember – focus on your work when you’re at your desk, and set yourself dedicated break times for other activities and tasks so you don’t get distracted.
Don’t leave mealtimes to chance
Working through lunch is not a good idea, and you will not be as productive as you think you are. Make sure you don’t eat in front of your screen, move to another area or even the other end of the table to have your meals. This ensures that you are getting a real break from emails, work etc.
Also don’t forget to eat regularly (but not too often!). People often go one of two ways when they work from home. Type A people get so engrossed in their work that they forget all concept of space and time and meals go out the window. Or type B people take every opportunity for a snack break. So it’s best to acknowledge which type you are and plan accordingly. If you’re a type A, make up some meals or snacks that are easy to grab and eat so that you won’t have to think much about your mealtimes when you’re engrossed in work. Type B’s should also plan ahead, by having healthy snacks, herbal teas and meal ingredients available that they can use when the regular snack urge hits.
Manage your online time well
If your laptop stays open on the table, chances are you will almost certainly go back to it during the evening, impeding on relaxation and time with your family. Once your working day is over, shut down your laptop or desktop and put it out of sight. Same goes for your work phone and work email, wherever possible. People often feel guilty when they work from home, like it’s a luxury that they have to make up for by working longer days or being more available. Try to avoid this mindset as it can make working from home much more difficult than it needs to be.
You may also have less time in meetings and more time at your screen when working from home. It is important then to manage screen time during the working day as much as possible. A few options are to schedule calls, which you take away from your screen. Do some paper-based reading if possible. You may have the option to print some content instead of looking at it on the screen.
Have regular breaks, and get fresh air
The risks associated with prolonged sitting are well documented. Sitting for long periods of time without moving can have an impact on both our cardiovascular health as well as our posture. Research has shown that moving even for just 2 mins every hour can help to reduce these risks. However, when we work from home, we often don’t have those external prompts to let us know to move – these prompts could be others taking their breaks, or going to meetings. I recommend setting up a reminder in your email calendar or on your phone to move each hour so you don’t forget.
It can also be too easy to get completely immersed in work when working from home. You may even feel like you’re getting that bit of “extra time” you crave to tie up some loose ends, as you don’t have the additional time spent on your commute. But don’t forget that concentration levels are finite, and we all need breaks. Once or twice a day, get outside – even for just a quick 10 minute walk. Not only will you concentrate better afterwards, you will also break up your sitting time.
Keep in touch
Isolation can be a real issue for those who work remotely on a regular basis and it is something that you have to actively manage. Although in current circumstances we cannot meet face-to-face, meeting virtually should be encouraged when you’re working from home. Schedule regular calls with your colleagues/manager/work buddies to catch up with them and go through any issues you’re having. And don’t forget you can Skype, Zoom or call friends too. A virtual cuppa is a decent (if not perfect) replacement for a real one!
Finally, remember that this is temporary. Whatever your circumstances, working from home on a full-time basis is unlikely to last for an extended period of time.