More and more of us are being asked to work remotely from home, which is changing the way we interact and engage with our colleagues and customers. For those not used to working remotely, this can be a daunting experience and not an easy thing to adapt to. This is undoubtedly going to have an impact on people’s mental health and overall well-being if we don’t acknowledge the impact and take the necessary steps to prevent it.
Having been a remote worker now for over 20 years, I have learned a lot on how to stay healthy (reasonably) and be highly productive. These are my top tips for those working remotely for the first time, or struggling to stay productive.
7 Top Tips to Stay Healthy and Productive whilst Working from Home
1. Create clear start and finish times
You know that feeling when your early morning alarm goes off and you need to get out of bed to go to work and all you want to do is hit the snooze button for another 9 mins? When working from home, the temptation to do this increases exponentially and sometimes you just want to turn the damn thing off altogether. RESIST.
The theory of starting later and finishing later is a bad one and not only impacts you but those around you too.
So, set clear start and finish times for your work. This will create a distinct barrier between your work and personal life enabling you to relax and unwind. If possible, try to mirror your normal office times. This will make the transition easier to handle and more likely to stick for the long term. It will also make the transition back to the office easier too when that time comes.
2. Take regular breaks and go for walks if possible
If you feel yourself getting a little tired, or your eyes are becoming a little strained, you have left it too late. You need to be taking breaks before you reach this stage to keep your motivation levels up and your brain at its most productive. From my experience, a 10 min break every hour is about right.
And a break means a real break. Don’t use this time to catch up on your emails or to check your Instagram. Where possible, go for a walk around the garden, do a little stretching, and maybe check in on the kids to ensure they haven’t killed each other.
3. Whilst on calls, stand and walk around
This is the easiest change to implement and it has a massive positive impact on your health. Every time you are on a call, get out of your chair and just slowly walk around the room. The digital communication tools combined with wireless headsets now are so effective, that every remote worker shouldn’t be without them.
As part of health and safety standards, you are advised to take a 5-10 min screen break. By getting out of your chair every time you are on a call, it will help to adhere to this advice.
4. Stay connected with your colleagues (e.g. digital lunches)
Most of us crave regular social interaction. It is part of our DNA makeup. And because of this in-built craving, most home workers find this the biggest challenge to overcome. However, the technology that is available today can help to satisfy the need. Skype, WhatsApp, Microsoft Teams etc… are all great tools in helping us interact and stay connected with our colleagues.
At Wide Ideas we host a ‘digital lunch’ via Microsoft Teams once a week for an hour. The idea is that if you are free at any point during that hour, then you jump on the video call and talk about anything but work.
There is no real substitution for that face to face in-person interaction. However, ideas like hosting regular ‘digital lunches’ are a great substitution and can also be a lot of fun too.
5. Be patient and forgiving for background noise disruptions
We all have heard the dog barking in the background sounding like they want to join the call, or the baby crying wanting the next episode of Peppa Pig, whilst we have been on a call with remote workers. Yes, it can be a little frustrating.
However, we need to be forgiving. The best approach I have found is generally to make light of the situation accompanied by a little joke and then politely ask everyone who is not speaking to put themselves on mute.
6. Resist increasing your food and coffee intake
This one is tough. When working from home it is true you are much more productive, as you don’t get all the normal office interruptions of people coming up behind you and asking for stuff, or grabbing you to have a chat around the water cooler.
However, these “little breaks” are often substituted by home workers popping into the kitchen for a quick snack or another coffee. The Swede’s call this ‘Fika‘ (one of the first traditions I learnt from consulting for a Swedish based company). I used to have a max of 2 cups of coffee a day when working in the office, now I can easily have 7 or 8 if I am not careful.
7. Turn notifications OFF
I have saved the best for last. It is vitally important that you create that imaginary barrier between your work and personal life as a remote worker. You need to be able to “switch off” and allow your brain and body to rest, so you can be at your most productive tomorrow. According to the experts, it can take between 30 and 90 mins to unwind once you stop work.
The danger for a home worker is that they never truly switch off as they tend to leave their notifications for their work applications on. Whether it is an email from your boss, or a ping from a colleague on Microsoft Teams, these are damaging distractions to your personal time.
You must turn these off. Microsoft Teams has a “Quiet Days” feature that stops notification popups during specific times and mobile phones generally have a similar feature to turn certain application notifications off at set times.
There are many other tips and tricks that I can share and will in my next article, but please feel free to share your own remote working tips in the comments and I may include them in my next article.
Stay healthy everyone.