Looking after your wellbeing whilst working from home
Some people will be well-adjusted to working from home, but for others this will be a completely new experience. Expect there to be a bedding-in period of getting used to this new arrangement, but here are our top tips for looking after yourselves and working productively during this time.
Try and stick to a routine
Keeping some sense of routine is going to be really important here. It’s surprising how much we can struggle when the physical place of work is taken away. We don’t have colleagues around us to have a coffee with and communal lunch breaks to punctuate our day. We need to create this routine for ourselves or our days can quite quickly descend into chaos.
Decide what time you’re going to wake up and stick to it (you can factor in a little lie in thanks to the lack of a commute!) I’d recommend getting outdoors before your workday starts, even if it is just a five-ten minute walk around the block. It will make a big difference to how you feel and your productively levels in the morning. It will also help reduce that feeling of cabin fever.
Aim to stick to scheduled times for your meals, as you would if you were in your place of work. Rather than snacking throughout the day, aim to have breakfast, lunch and dinner with snacks in between when you feel hungry (if this is what you would usually do at work).
Have a time you will finish work and again, aim to stick to this. Routine will be your friend here.
Your usual gym or yoga studio may be out of bounds, but that doesn’t mean you should throw your exercise routine out of the window. Movement is going to be especially important as we are out and about less and spending more time at home.
We know from previous research, that home-workers tend to get less exercise than those who work from an external workspace, so we need to make an extra effort here.
At-home workouts and outdoor workouts are both viable options. There are some great online fitness and yoga programmes that you can sign up to that require minimum equipment and only a small space in your home. I personally use Glo (https://www.glo.com) which has thousands of yoga and pilates sessions of varying lengths and for different abilities. Remember something is always better than nothing, so a twenty-minute body-weight fitness session or half-an-hour of yoga is still definitely worth doing.
Running outdoors and using park gyms can also be an option (would recommend wearing gloves here). If you can do it with a workout buddy (whilst keeping a sensible distance from each other!) that’s even better as you are more likely to stick to the workout and again, this will help with our social needs.
I’ve also set hourly alarms to remind me to get up, have a stretch and walk around the house, ensuring I’m moving throughout the day.
Get out the house
Cabin fever will become a very real fact of life if home-working continues over a long period of time. Sometimes we have to force ourselves to do things, even if we don’t want to. I’d really recommend leaving the house three times a day (or at least twice) – once in the morning, once at lunch and once after you finish work. I know this is hard when we don’t have to go outside but we can’t underestimate the wonder of fresh air and how much more refreshed it makes us feel. It doesn’t need to be long but aim for at least ten minutes, three times a day.
Use video calling
I know it’s all too easy to stay in your pajamas with bed head and voice call your colleague instead of video calling, but video will help you feel much more connected to others and is the next best thing when it comes to social interaction. Through video we can read somebody’s facial expressions, we can see them smile and this often fires up our mirror neurons which help us understand and feel more connected to others. This sense of connection is going to be ever more important as our time spent working alone increases.
Optimize your ‘workspace’
As much as possible, try and keep a degree of separation between your workspace and your living space. If you are working at your kitchen table, for example, perhaps consider having lunch in your living room (so not ‘at your desk’). Clear away your workspace at the end of the day (if it’s not in a separate room) so there is a sense of the work day ending.
Try and create a pleasant workstation for yourself. Add a plant, maybe a nice candle, keep it clean and organized. Try and make it as ergonomically optimized as possible; you can use books to stack your laptop on, cushions or foot rests to create the right posture when you’re sitting. We may be here a while, so don’t underestimate how important this will be for our musculoskeletal health.
These are both virtual boundaries and physical. If you’re anything like me, your Whats App will be filling up with talk around Coronavirus, complaints about self-isolation, calls for distraction and even funny memes. This can be a nice way to connect with friends but it can also be a constant distraction throughout your working day and can also be a source of intrusive information that you don’t necessarily need every minute of the day. For periods of the day, consider turning your notifications off and having a break from your mobile.
You may also need to create some boundaries with the people you live with (if you do live with others.) Have an upfront conversation about what you need during this time. Perhaps you might work out a rota of when you can use the desk or a rota for housework which is likely to increase in this time, now we are spending more time in. You may also want to outline periods where you’d like to work quietly or without being disturbed. Remember to ask for what you need here to work successfully.
Continue or introduce mindful eating
When we are working from home, it’s all too easy to keep hitting the snack cupboard out of a sense of boredom or because we’re in need of a distraction. What we want to do here is to distinguish when we’re eating because of hunger, versus when we’re eating because we’re bored. Mindful eating, is really about eating consciously; engaging your frontal cortex, your conscious brain, before we head for the snack cupboard. Next time you find yourself doing that, ask yourself a few questions; am I hungry? How hungry am I on a scale of 1-10? Why I am choosing this particular food? How will it make me feel afterwards? If we can go through this process mentally every time, we will hopefully find ourselves eating less mindlessly. You can even stick a sign up on your snack cupboard with these questions on!
Try some relaxation exercises
Try some simple relaxation or mindfulness techniques that will help manage anxiety and fear around the pandemic. You can try a very simple exercise that helps activate the parasympathetic nervous system (the aspect of our nervous system that promotes rest, recovery and a sense of calm). Try breathing in for a slow count of four and breathing out for a slow count of six. Repeat this several times. There are also a range of great apps you can try like Headspace and Calm.
Remember we can also use this situation to our advantage; we can use the extra time we save from commuting to read that book that has been on our shelf for ages, learn a language or master a new recipe. Positive reframing will be really important in this challenging time of uncertainty, so let’s try and focus on the things this situation brings us, rather than what it takes away.
Lastly, remember to call your friends and family members and to check in on elderly neighbours, we’ll all need to support each other through this time.