These are difficult times for many and lots of us will soon be thrust into the unfamiliar environment of working from home, either because of social distancing or social isolation. It can be a difficult transition moving from an office or a clinic environment to working in relative isolation in your house, these tips should prepare you both physically and mentally to work in a productive manner and environment.
Get up, get showered and get dressed!
This seems obvious and something that most of will do anyway, but it is really easy when working from home to fall out of your usual routine. Trying to get up at the same time as you normally would and stick to your normal morning rituals. It will help get you in your ‘work’ headspace and focus you for the day. I don’t think we need to go as far as getting dressed in a shirt and tie or usual work attire, but having a clear distinction between what you wear to relax in and what you wear for work can be a small but important psychological switch.
Carve out a specific workspace
It can also be very easy when working from home to sit with your laptop on your knee on the sofa. It will help you be more productive and focused if you have a very specific space for work. It doesn’t need to be an office by any means (mine is the kitchen table for example!) but having a space that is separate from ‘home life’ is important. Having an area that feels like ‘work’ will help with concentration and can give a feeling of normality to the working day.
Don’t mix work & leisure activities
When you work from home, your work can bleed into your private life very easily. This links to the point above. Having a specific work area keeps your work life and your home life separate which is really important for your mental health. It can be easy to sit down for 5 minutes in the day and watch a bit of TV or get distracted by something on the radio and slip into things outside of the realm of work. This often means you can end up working later and are still doing emails or projects after your normal working hours which leads on to my next tip.
Stick to your normal working hours
As eluded to above continuing to work at your kitchen table or in your office is an easy habit to fall into because you are already at home. Having a clear separation between work and home needs to be maintained. At the end of your working day refer to point 1; get changed! Getting changed out of the clothes you work in, into something to relax in, or to work out in, can symbolise a clear shift between work and home.
Maintain human contact
It will be really difficult for us all having reduced contact with other humans, particularly if you are used to being surrounded by people all day. When you can, call someone don’t send an email! Even better if you can have a video call with someone, have a video call with someone! Continued regular interaction with your colleagues will make work feel more ‘normal’.
It’s good to talk
Whilst its important to maintain contact from a work perspective as above, it’s also really important that we are sharing our stresses and worries with our colleagues where we feel comfortable. The people we work with can be a brilliant support network and many of us will miss out on the ‘non-work’ conversations we have on a regular basis. We need to try and not lose this. Be open with your friends, talk about your worries and try to support one and other where we can!
When considering your set up at home the key here is comfort! Have your laptop in a position where you can see the screen easily, have the things you use regularly (notebook, pens, phone etc) within easy reach and don’t have all things on one side. If you are right side dominant its easy to have all things (mouse, phone, pens, paper etc) on the right side. Spread the load a bit and have things on the left and right so we can maintain some movement variability. We know that posture is very poorly linked to pain so do not fear a sitting in a new chair or in a new way. The key here is varied movement which leads me onto the next, and probably most important point!
This is potentially the most important point regarding physical health when moving to home working. When at home you have reduced interaction with colleagues and reduced need for all the ‘incidental’ movement that happens usually when you are at work. Less time walking to get a coffee, to go to the printer, walking to a meeting, walking to speak to a colleague etc. It is essential we try to build this into our new lives working from home. If you are taking a phone call, get up and take the call walking if possible. If you need a coffee, walk around the kitchen as the kettle is boiling. If you need the toilet, walk up and down the stairs twice before you do. Take every opportunity to add movement into your day!
Working from home at the moment maybe much different to how we might usually work at home. Due to social distancing or social isolation it reduces our ability to use a gym as we normally would. It is important we try to get into a regular exercise routine as soon as possible. The easiest way to start is to add in a walk at lunch time. Giving yourself some time away from your desk is not only good for mental health but our physical health too. There are some great online exercise resources that can give us some good ideas for exercising from home (especially if you don’t have any equipment); the NHS has an excellent online ‘Fitness Studio’ if you need some guidance. Try to stick to your usual exercise routine once again, so if you usually exercise before work for example, try to do the same. Get in touch with a colleague or a friend and get on a facetime or a skype call and exercise together to keep morale up!
Working from home and as I do from the kitchen, plus reduced opportunity for incidental movement and exercise can be a dreaded combination. Trying not to rapidly increase the amount of food we eat can help to maintain our usual weight. Try to eat foods that are going to aid our immune system such as citrus fruits which are rich in vitamin C, along with foods like broccoli, garlic, ginger and spinach.
Hopefully these tips will help you to maintain some normality, productivity as well as mental and physical health. In these times its important we help to support one another. It will be difficult for all of us at some point so let’s stick together!