Life on the inside: 10 ways to stay productive while working from home

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Many people report feeling less productive when working from home, compared with being in an office surrounded by colleagues. From having more distractions to missing the social buzz, merging your work life and home life can be a real challenge.

Here, experts share their tips for greater productivity…

1. Take short, regular breaks

It can be easy to skip screen breaks when you’re not in the office, but they are as important for productivity as they are for your wellbeing.

Joshua Zerkel, from work management tool Asana, says: “The trick is making sure your quick 10 minutes doesn’t turn into an entire afternoon. In order to keep yourself motivated, set aside time slots for other activities, like checking the news or your social feed. Once this time runs out, make sure to put your phone down.”

Working in the garden

You might feel duty-bound to stay at your desk (or whichever piece of furniture you’re working on) all day, but Mr Zerkel says a change of setting can help.

“During the current situation, it is easy to feel unmotivated and lose focus. When this happens, don’t give up — instead, get up and look for a change of scenery. Moving to a different setting within your home can help reset your brain and jumpstart creativity.”

3. Rethink your to-do list

Author of The Hard Work Myth, Barnaby Lashbrooke, says: “We tend to set ourselves up for failure by writing unachievable lists of tasks that prevent us from striking off the big-ticket item on our lists. It leaves us feeling guilty and dissatisfied. And, to compensate, we sit at our desks for longer, or use evenings and weekends to play catch-up, increasing our risk of burning out.

“The reason we regularly fail to tackle the bigger jobs on our to-do lists is because we’re naturally inclined to move on the quick and easy bits that offer small bursts of satisfaction with every strike-through.

“Instead, break your big, difficult task down into smaller, more digestible component parts, write them out in list form and work through each, one by one. With a new perspective, everything seems more achievable.”

To avoid going straight from bed to desk, try getting out for a short walk before the start of your day, so when you sit down to start, you’ve already got a few steps under your belt, woken up your muscles and breathed in some fresh air.

‘Walking home’ from work – i.e. around the block and back – can mark the end of your working day nicely too, so you’re more ready to switch off and relax.

5. Fit in at least 20 minutes of exercise

Mark Williams, co-founder of fitness and wellbeing app Revoola, advises finding the time of day that works for you for exercise.

“It might be first thing in the morning, to help you focus and plan for the day ahead. Others find an afternoon workout helps address that post-lunch slump,” he says.

“Try and be physically active for at least 20 minutes every day. Little and often is best – short bursts of exercise break up the day and give a mental refresh.”

You could even challenge colleagues to do the same online class at the same time as you.

6. Ask your employer for more flexibility if you need it

Workplace learning and careers expert Rajeeb Dey says: “With increased demands on your time – potentially childcare commitments, requirements to care for family members, it’s OK to be flexible. If that means starting earlier, breaking mid-day or starting later, ultimately employers should trust their employees to do what’s best.”

working from home

It’s tempting to work in your pyjamas, but, psychologically, getting dressed can have a big impact.

Harley Street therapist Karl Rollison says: “Have a shower and dress in your work clothes. This creates positivity for the day ahead. You’re telling your subconscious mind this is productive time.”

8. Create time zones

“In order to protect your mental health, it’s important to set two different time zones during the day: work and down time – this will put you in sync with your circadian rhythms and ensures you have good sleep and awake patterns,” says Rollison.

Ideally you’d aid these boundaries by working in a separate room (with a door) from where you relax.

9. Drink up

“So many of us are limping through the day chronically dehydrated,” says Suzy Glaskie, of Peppermint Wellness.

“If you’re not drinking water throughout the day, you’ll very likely find yourself feeling sluggish and will quite possibly turn to the nearest quick fix (like a coffee or chocolate bar) to perk yourself up – but that will only leave you feeling worse later on. Aim to drink eight glasses of water a day and watch your mental focus and energy levels rise.”

Water bills
Aim to drink eight glasses of water a day (Rui Vieira/PA)

It’s easy to get stuck in the day to day, but keeping the bigger picture in mind can be really motivating and lead to greater productivity.

“Work is a vital part of our identity, it gives us purpose and contributes to our wellbeing,” says Elissa Makris, business psychologist at Thrive.

“Take the time to reflect on how your role supports not just colleagues and organisation, but also customers and clients who might need you in these circumstances. Helping others elevates our mood and increases both their, and our, wellbeing.”

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