How to balance your productivity and wellbeing when working from home

Posting date:19 May 2020

The potential for better work-life balance 

This year’s Mental Health Awareness Week falls during unprecedented times. Many of us have been working from home for many weeks now and have gone through many ups, downs and adjustments along the way. There can be no doubt that it will be even harder for those already struggling with their mental health.

There are of course many benefits to remote working, not least the absence of the daily commute and the potential now to have more of a work-life balance.One finance leader I spoke to recently said, “With no commute I start work at 7am but I dedicate the time between 5pm and 7pm to spend with my family and play football or basketball with my two sons.”

I say potential however, as I am acutely aware that maintaining a healthy work-life balance may in fact be harder in these difficult times. It is of course different depending on individual circumstances. Some of us will be dealing will ill health, financial worries, isolation or caring for children or vulnerable relatives. These pressures all add layers of complexity, anxiety and stress to the remote working scenario most of us now find ourselves in.  

Take burnout seriously 

And while it can seem like a huge perk to roll out of bed and begin our workday, working from home, particularly in these challenging times, requires more planning and a different type of focus than most of us are used to. When the lines become blurred between our day-to-day and working lives it becomes easier to end up working longer hours and never really switching off. Over a sustained period, this can become damaging to our mental health, leading us to become overwhelmed and ‘burning out.’

According to NordVPN, there is evidence that employee working hours have increased sharply since the outbreak of Covid-19. In the UK, workdays have typically increased by an average of two hours – and for many, it may well be more.

Home working that works for you

To stay productive, we each need to test and learn what works for us and what does not, creating our own working structures, habits and routines - and these do not necessarily need to look anything like our old working schedules. What they must be, is sustainable and work for our own personal circumstances. In my job I have the privilege of being able to speak to an array of talented and insightful employers and jobseekers across a variety of different industries every day. The one thing they all agree on when it comes to staying productive is the importance of instilling healthy remote working habits and looking after their mental and physical wellbeing. 

Here are some of the best tips to follow to ensure you don’t ‘burn out’

8 healthy remote working habits 

1. Don’t neglect normal daily routines

Set a routine for working from home and don’t neglect normal daily routines. It is important to get up and get started. No matter how tempting avoid working in your pajamas all day – getting ‘ready for work’ will change your mindset and get you in the right frame of mind.

2. Dedicate a space just for work

While it might seem like you could work just fine from your sofa, having a separate space where you can work without any distractions not only benefits your levels of focus and productivity, but importantly for your mental health, it helps separate your day-to-day life from your work.If you have difficulties in doing this speak to you employer, they may be able to help with practical solutions. 

Likewise ensure you have comfortable furniture and an ergonomic set up. You wouldn’t put up with a sore back from an uncomfortable workspace at work, so don’t do it at home.

3. Prioritise 

Try and set clear tasks for your day. To-do lists can help identify which tasks are a priority but one great tip to help you prioritise is to create a WEB list. W - what you want to achieve, E – What you expect to achieve, B – What you had better achieve that day. 

4. Time block

If you’re not time blocking your schedule, you may be wasting a lot of time. Time blocking consists of dividing your daily schedule into several sections based on priority. For example, you can work on replying to emails in the morning and meetings in the afternoon. This could also be done every week. The important thing is that you stick to your schedule and don’t get distracted, otherwise it won’t work. 

If you are home-schooling whilst trying to work, have a conversation with your employer about these realities. Try and set a routine which time blocks and clearly separates the two, trying to do both at once will leave both suffering. 

5. Take proper breaks 

Even though you will want to achieve several goals during the day and be efficient, it doesn’t mean that you should forget about your mental or physical health. Since there’s no one to tell you when to start and when to finish and no one is coming up to your desk to distract you, it can be easy to forget to take regular screen breaks. Take regular breaks from your desk, including a proper lunch break.

6. Exercise

Try and get outside and get some natural sunlight, if you can do so safely and try and get some exercise, again within guidelines on social distancing. Personally, I have been going out on my bike four or five times a week, often before work. I have found that this has really helped set me up for the day and I’ve seen a huge increase in my productivity and personal wellbeing.  

7. Support your colleagues

We should all be mindful that there will be further challenges ahead and whether you manage a team or not, colleagues will need to support each other and share their resilience. Maintain the relationships you had at the workplace and let your colleagues know you’re there to help if they need.

8. Enjoy the perks 

Remember to enjoy the perks of working remotely – work during your most productive hours and tend to your personal and family needs when necessary. There’s no point to all of your hard work and increased efficiency if you don’t make time to enjoy it!

Establishing a good routine is likely to involve a lot of trial and error, but if you stick to healthy working habits you will enhance your productivity, improve your mental health and wellbeing and enjoy a better work-life balance. 

Finally, here is a really helpful guide to working from home from Career Karma, with more ideas to help keep you on track.

Stay safe and well.