I’ve worked from home for so long now that I can’t imagine anything else. For many people though, lockdown rules mean getting used to a different way of working. It’s easy to lose track of time if you’re working from home and don’t have the distractions of colleagues and meetings. You may end up working more than if you were in the office, and moving around less. Neither of these are good news for your mind or body! Here are some quick tips that help me every day when working from home:
1 – Stay Hydrated
In the office there are lots of opportunities to drink enough – a coffee in a meeting, a chat with someone at the water machine, a coffee break at the Starbucks along the road… These breaks fall more naturally when we are around other people.
We often forget to drink if we are working away at something with no need to stop. I know I tend to charge ahead and forget to go and get a drink, so I make sure I have liquids near to hand.
Try keeping a water bottle next to you at your desk. I also fill a thermos flask with hot water and drink herbal tea – I top up my cup until the tea is too weak, then start another.
2 – Move!
It’s all too easy to hammer away at whatever project you’re working on and before you know it, hours have passed. If this happens to you, set an alarm to remind you to stop and take a quick break – use your kitchen timer if you have to!
I schedule a mini break every hour. All I do is get up, have a quick stretch if I feel the need, pop to the WC and maybe get myself a cup of coffee. In 5 minutes I’m back at work and refreshed.
Our bodies need regular movement. Whatsmore, in her book Superbetter, Jane McGonigal explains that :
“Physical resilience is your body’s ability to withstand stress and heal itself. Research shows that the number 1 thing people can do to boost their physical resilience is to not sit still. Whenever you sit still for more than a few minutes, your body starts to shut down at the metabolic level.”
This has a knock-on effect for our health. Thankfully, NOT sitting still does the opposite, so take regular breaks and move. It doesn’t mean run, just a quick stretch, walking to the bottom of the garden and back, throwing the ball for the dog… It will renew your energy levels.
3 – Do Exercise While Sitting
I tend to sit cross-legged when I’m in a chair – it must be the consequence of many years doing yoga. Sometimes though I need to stretch out afterwards but I’m not ready to get up and break away from my work. Instead, I do a few easy movements while seated.
Ankle and wrist rotations, shoulder circles, neck exercises… there are so many ways to ‘reset’. My favourite is to sit up tall, as if someone is holding you up like a puppet on a string from the top of your head.
Then slowly lower your chin down towards your chest. You will feel a stretch in the upper back through to the nape of your neck. Hold for a couple of seconds then lift your head again.
Personally I prefer exercises I can do without leaving the chair – you know, the same ones you do when you’re sitting in a plane. If you want something a little more energetic though, try these.
4 – Look Away From The Screen
Too much screen time can lead to many health problems, including dry eyes, tiredness, blurry vision, headaches and irritation. There’s no way I can get away with less screen time, since I work online. However, what I can do is minimise the consequences as much as possible.
If you’re already doing steps 1 and 2 above, you will be taking regular breaks from looking at the screen anyway. In addition, try noting things down by hand, on paper, rather than on a tablet or computer.
Firstly, this will relieve your eye strain. Secondly, research has shown that writing by hand versus typing is beneficial for us: writing by hand calms the brain and makes us more focussed.
Fill your work area with images of nature, and with plants. Glance away from your screen, for instance, when you are thinking something through, and let your eyes settle on the images. You don’t need to contemplate them, or think about them. Just glancing away and refocusing will be helpful. Whats more, having plants and images of nature around us has been shown to improve our mental and physical health. Not bad, right?
You can read more in-depth consequences of screen-time eye strain here.
5 – Home Office Set Up
If you find yourself forced to work from home, it’s imperative that you carve out a little space for yourself where you can work comfortably. Sometimes this can be in the most unlikely of places.
In my case, my office is an old caravan at the end of the garden. I repainted it and filled it with plants and it’s a pleasure every time I open the door each morning.
My brother repurposed a guest shower room – of all places! – when forced to work from home during lockdown. If the space is large enough to get your desk area set up, and give you some essential peace and quiet away from the hustle and bustle of family life at home, then you will find that working from home can be much more comfortable and productive than being in the office.
With just a few little tweaks to your daily routine and structure, you can make working from home a pleasure rather than a punishment. There are simple steps you can take to protect your mind and your body from overwork. You might even find you no longer miss the office! What changes will you make to your working from home routine?
Jane McGonigal, Superbetter: A revolutionary approach to getting stronger, happier, braver and more resilient.
I suggest you listen to it on Audible – you can make the most of otherwise wasted time, like when you are driving, or cooking, in the shower or washing the dishes. Changing your habits like this will help you become more productive too.