Living in lockdown has been chaotic, to say the least. For many of us, the pandemic has completely dismantled our daily work routine. Desks have been replaced with dining tables, office besties have been replaced with our pets, and workplace dress codes have never been more casual (from the waist down, at least). Whilst this change in routine can be daunting for those who have little experience working from home, it also provides us with an opportunity. As remote working appears to be here to stay, it’s time to focus on how working from home can benefit both our career and personal lives, if we let it.
Thrive in Your Own Space
We are living in an era of hot desking. As the trend has become more and more common, many employees are now unable to personalise their work stations. However, evidence shows that those who have their own, personalised workspace feel more valued than those who don’t. Hot desking can also increase stress levels amongst employees, and decrease levels of productivity. Additionally, changing desks so often has proven to be unhygienic and a surefire way to spread bacteria. As offices are required to be Covid secure before our return to the workplace, the trend may start to lose its popularity.
When working from home, the only option for hot desking many of us have is rotating between the dining table or the sofa. Although these limited options can seem restrictive, it’s time for us to embrace having our own space. Seize the opportunity to create a workplace that works for you. Use this time to figure out what environment you thrive in. The chances are that finding a space that works for you won’t be too difficult. Even incorporating something as cheap and simple as a new house plant for your workspace can reduce stress levels and increase productivity.
Create Your Own Routine
Since the lockdown has restricted our movement, many of us are unable to work from the office. As a result, our daily structures have been dismantled. Fortunately, many employees are able to work from home. However, the increasing lack of meetings and supervision has led to workers being left to their own devices. Although this can be nerve-wracking for some workers, it also provides us with a unique opportunity.
Research demonstrates that an individual’s work efficiency and quality can be affected by the time of day they work. This is not a new revelation: people have long proclaimed themselves to be night owls or early birds. But now, we have a prime opportunity to find our own most efficient time for working. This of course cannot apply to every aspect of most peoples careers. The weekly Zoom meeting probably won’t be moved to 5:00 AM because you work best before dawn. But taking the time to find our most productive hours of the day could be the key to advancing your career. Being able to choose your own breaks is great for your physical health too. When you feel yourself flagging, take a break and take a walk outside. Even a short walk can improve your mental capacity and increase your life expectancy. Embrace your new-found independence, and the chance to determine your golden hour.
Fewer Time Constraints
One thing that many of us aren’t short of at the minute is time. The average daily commute has been reduced from just under an hour to the 15 second stroll between the bedroom and the living room. This spare hour of the day could also explain why home workers have been found to be more productive than their colleagues working in the office. And this spare time isn’t just better for our work lives. Achieving a healthy work-life balance improves both our physical and mental health. This is because having more time at home gives us more opportunities to practise self-care. This doesn’t just mean face masks and bubble baths (although these can be great too). Consider using your spare time to find new nutritious recipes. They don’t even have to be complex — acquiring a handful of quick and easy recipes will come in really useful when life starts to become more normal again. If you’ve been stuck in a rut with your old workout routine, try and find a new way to exercise that engages you more. Using your newfound spare time to look after yourself will do wonders for your mental health.
But evidence suggests that home workers are in fact increasing their workload. One study finds that workers have been doing up to 28 hours of overtime a month since lockdown began. Of course, doing overtime isn’t a negative in itself, but doing too much can lead to burnout. One potential factor contributing to this increase in workload is the inability to separate our home life and work life. Working and living in the same space can be challenging for some, with many of us not knowing how to separate the two. There are a number of ways to tackle this issue, such as creating strict boundaries or ensuring you factor in breaks throughout the day. Mastering the art of switching off when you need to will greatly improve your work-life balance.
This is a word that has come up repeatedly in this article. Like many things in life, working from home is what we make of it. The technology and resources available to us today has made working from home easier than ever before. If the thought of remote working fills you with dread, you are not alone. But make the most of these challenging times, by viewing obstacles as opportunities. You may be surprised by what you achieve.
Written by Siobhan Kelly
Siobhan is a recent Sociology graduate, with a passion for writing. Her degree has given her experience researching a range of topics relating to the Sociology of both physical and mental health. She has a particular interest in understanding how the effect that body image has on mental health.