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5 productivity and self-care tips while you work from home

18 Mar 2020

Working from home can be a major adjustment, but it’s important to look after yourself as well as your productivity levels.

As the world settles into a large, very sudden remote working experiment, many employees and employers alike are working from home for the first time.

Even those who may be used to taking a day here or there to work from home are facing the prospect of doing so for weeks or even months, so their usual haphazard way of working remotely may need a little more structure.

While the need to turn a lot of our workforce into remote workers can be seen as a positive step, this is far from an ideal path to a remote working revolution, as Siliconrepublic.com editor Elaine Burke wrote earlier this week.

Aside from the scramble to sustain businesses through a global health crisis, even the nimblest of businesses and employees will have had their routines indefinitely uprooted. Add to that the general anxiety that comes with a global pandemic, and it can become almost impossible to maintain your normal productivity levels. So, what can you do to stay productive and connected to your colleagues as you work from home?

1. Think about your routine

Your office routine is not going to be the same when you work from home. You have no commute, no physical water-cooler chats and probably no morning trip to your usual coffee shop.

However, it’s important to think about the parts of your office routine that benefit you, such as the fresh air you get on your commute or the break from your desk when you go to the kitchen.

You will need to make a new routine to work from home, but you should find ways to incorporate the healthy parts of your old routine, such as going for a walk in the morning, having a coffee in the garden, or stretching your legs and getting away from your desk for five minutes every so often. Set reminders if you have to – working from home can seem more casual but when we’re less disciplined, we can let our own health fall by the wayside.

2. Set up your workspace

There’s plenty of advice out there preaching about the perfect workspace: don’t work at the kitchen table, set up a dedicated space, but don’t let it be on the couch or the bedroom, make sure it’s near a window, make it a room that you can close the door to avoid distractions, the list goes on.

But these are not always feasible. In fact, they rarely all are at once and, when you take into account a situation such as the current coronavirus outbreak, many households will have more than one person working from home. So, how many single dedicated workspaces do you even have?

That said, there are a few things to bear in mind that will be beneficial. If you can work in a room with natural light, it will be better for your mental and physical health. Working on a couch or in a bed may not negatively affect your productivity levels, but it’s bad for your neck and back.

Another reason to avoid working in traditionally comfortable areas of your house is that it can affect how you see those spaces. As important as your productivity is during work, your home life and relaxation spaces should be sacred. Work is the thing that has come in and disrupted our home life, not the other way around.

If you’re tight for space, consider working from a different side of the kitchen table to where you eat. If you must work in a room you normally relax in, make sure the set-up is different to where you like to chill out in the evenings. Protect the line between work and home.

3. Cut yourself some slack

While employers have often wondered if their employees were slacking off while working from home in the past, the reality is that those who work from home can suffer more sleep problems, higher stress levels and can actually end up working longer hours.

Still, when employees work from home, they can often be harder on themselves about their productivity levels. Just consider all of the advice out there about making sure you maintain optimum production levels when working from home. While routines are important and tips such as getting dressed for work and making sure you have a to-do list can be helpful, it’s also essential that you cut yourself some slack when working from home, particularly in the current climate.

Working from home is a massive adjustment for those used to working in the office. Add to that the general anxiety that comes with a global pandemic and the required social distancing. It’s a lot to expect yourself to work as hard as you possibly can right now.

Additionally, while the strict desk space and getting dressed for work are good things to try, especially if you need to get into the ‘work’ mindset, don’t be too strict with this either. Give yourself the home comforts you can’t have in the office. Use your commute time to read in bed with some tea, and get out of your pyjamas but stick to comfortable, casual clothes that you’d wear at the weekend.

4. Allow some distractions

Another thing to consider is how hard you really work every single day in the office. Do you sit at your computer all day, without walking around, without talking chatting to your colleagues, without getting a little distracted by your phone?

The practice of ‘presenteeism’ often means that once we’re in the office, at our desk, we don’t pay too much attention to how distracted we are. After all, we came to work and did a few things and we stayed until 5.30pm. But we often don’t give ourselves the same breathing room at home.

Employees allow for plenty of distractions and social interactions in the office, so why not at home? Take the time to play with your pet, check in with your family, watch a few YouTube videos or read a few pages of your book. Most good productivity advice, for both in and outside the office, talks about the importance of taking regular breaks, so that should not change just because you’re working from home.

5. Add in some additional self-care

Not only should you welcome the distractions of home life just as you would office life but, in these uncertain times, everyone should be particularly mindful of their physical and mental health.

Everyone should practise social distancing and many people are in self-isolation, so it’s important not to neglect self-care. Make sure you’re scheduling plans to go for walks if possible, even if it is just a walk around your own garden.

Take part in virtual mindfulness exercises or join online yoga classes, many of which are currently being offered for free due to the coronavirus outbreak.

It’s also a good time to use your breaks to look after yourself in more ways than simply stretching your legs. Take advantage of the ability to watch some TV, read a book, have a lie down, or play with your pets. You could also ‘go for lunch’ with a colleague or another friend working from home via Skype or Zoom.

Suddenly having to work from home is a major transition and while some businesses and employees are better equipped than others, some understanding, flexibility and kindness needs to be afforded on all sides, and that starts with yourself.

Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny Darmody became the editor of Silicon Republic in 2023, having worked as the deputy editor since February 2020. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

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