Now, more than ever, we are choosing to work from home in lockdown, and are finding value in becoming our own bosses, being self-employed and working from anywhere, and everywhere. After all, there is nothing that is more freeing than setting our own working hours, and being a self-made entrepreneur. This is a trend that is only set to continue as more work and collaboration takes place online and the need for physical office space diminishes with the ubiquity of home computers and reliable internet connections.
As someone who has worked from home, both as a freelancer and working in a full time job, I can truly put my hand on my heart and say that I absolutely love to work from home in lockdown. Not only do you get a better work-life balance, and can work mindfully without getting caught up in work politics, but you have the freedom and creativity to work on your terms. It can provide you with increased job opportunities, as you will be able to manage more than one job, and allows you to be in a comfortable, working environment, where you can even have your own stylish home office.
However, working from home can be difficult for those who are new to remote working, and are trying to find their feet. You might find it difficult to be productive, because you are used to commuting to work, having set hours, and having a boss oversee your work in person. It can be easy to fall behind, because it’s up to you as a worker to structure your time, and priortize your work in a sustainable way. For example, ever heard the saying ‘work smarter’, ‘not harder’? Yep, you can work ‘too hard’, burn out, and not be able to carry out your work efficiently.
In my last job, I ended up working extremely long hours just to get the job done, and not only was I incredibly anxious, depressed and burnt out, but I also felt overwhelmed, because there was no balance between ‘work and play’. Add to the mix that we were still in a national lockdown and unable to see loved ones, go out or have social interaction, it left me feeling extremely blue, and affected my work. I had never met my colleagues in person, as we were all working remotely, and it felt like there was both a ‘workplace’ disconnect and ‘team disconnect’.
It just didn’t work out, and while I work ‘crazy hours’ on my own business, working in a role which felt like it was taking over my life, was too much, and I vowed to never let it happen again. You have to be mindful that whether you are working on your own business, have freelance clients, or are employed, but working from home, you need to be firm about the hours you work, and the work that you take on.
That’s why working smarter, as opposed to harder is so important, because it allows us to work at our pace and accept that not everything can be done in one day. It can be difficult when you are working torwards a tight deadline, but your health matters and so do you. Which is why I created this guide to working at home, because we need to embrace self-care, a positive mindset and nourishing habits. From establishing the importance of healthy boundaries, to monitoring your digital diet here are 5 ways to work from home in lockdown, without burning out.
The Importance Of Healthy Boundaries
One of the areas that cause people that trip up when they start working from home is the lack of routine and structure that are characteristic of the conventional workplace. Defining good boundaries such as having a set start and end to the day, as well as structured meal breaks, goes a long way in helping you transition between ‘work and play’. After all, learning to work from home in lockdown takes discipline and the ability to adopt an after-hours mindset. When you create ‘healthy boundaries’, you can enhance your mental and physical health.
One of the greatest benefits of working from home is that we get to create a routine that works best for us. For example, before I made changes to my lifestyle, diet and excercise routine, I was working 10-15 hour days, with little breaks and was eating bad (albeit vegetarian) ‘convenience’ meals that lacked the nutrients and vitamins that I needed to get through the day. I’d often work from 8 AM until 6 PM in my day job at the time, before working on my own blog and business until 11PM-12AM. My routine was stressing me out to the max.
Although I still work long hours, my working life is more balanced than ever before. I excercise regularly, doing workouts for my abs, chest, back and shoulders to feel healthier and stronger, and also dance Salsa, Hip Hop and House during the week, because I love to dance. Before, I would spend days without going outside, because I was obsessed with ‘working’, so I make sure that I get fresh air outside and walk for at least 30 minutes every day. I love being surrounded by nature, and greenery is so important for our physical and mental wellbeing.
What’s more, I ensure that I do 5 things that make me happy each day, whether that be watching my favourite TV show, taking a bubble bath or having a call with a friend. I believe that it is important to invest in our self-care, especially when we are working from home during the pandemic and you have blurred work-life boundaries. Because we are constantly using technology, social media and are always connected digitally, as remote workers we might feel like we are ‘clocking in more hours’ than we would in the office.
So how can we work from home in lockdown and set healthy habits? For a start priortize your ‘break’. Don’t use it to catch up on emails, blogging work, or aimlessly scroll through media. Instead take a ‘mindful break’ and have a mindful meal. Chew each morsel slowly, relishing the flavour and taste of your delicious lunch, and avoid looking at your phone, at least for 30 minutes. We all have different working styles, so it’s important to figure out how you can add structure to your day, without feeling overwhelmed.
You might find value in working in longer, concentrated blocks of time, or you might prefer to switch back and forth throughout the day between work and rest. Whatever you choose, just make sure that are taking a ‘proper’ break from work, and are able to focus on investing on your own personal self-development, without feeling guilty. After all, it is important that we priortize ourselves, isn’t it?
Sometimes, we can flit between ‘periods of productivity’ and ‘extreme working’ creating an unhealthy, unbalanced relationship with our mental health, our bodies, and our identity. For example, let’s say that one day you procrastinate, focus on the wrong tasks, and ultimately end up wasting time. The next day, because you feel guilty for the work you didn’t complete the day before, you are feeling frazzled and over-compensate to get the work done. You are cramming an insane amount of deadlines, and feel like there is no way out of the tunnel.
When you disregard the ‘value’ of structuring and planning your day efficiently, this becomes problematic, as you don’t know where you are coming and going, leading to a massive case of burn out. Your mental health will suffer, your physical health will take a knock, and ultimately your happiness will be depleted, because you are spreading yourself too thin. Having some structure and aiming to be disciplined with its implementation safeguards your energy and ensures you get the most out of your days, even when you aren’t working.
Look After Your Body And Invest In Self-Care
Making sure you’re taking regular breaks to move about regularly, stretch and get the blood flowing has a host of benefits for you and your ability to work productively. Whether you like to dance, swim, play tennis or try yoga, regular excercise will improve the quality of your life when spending extra time at home. If you love yoga like me, then you will adore this five-minute filler yoga especially devised by London-based Yoga teacher Lauren Gasser for Poker athletes who, due to the nature of their sport, spend long periods of time in sedentary positions.
I for one can relate, spending long hours in front of a computer, often working from my desk, and don’t have ergonomic seating that can support my back. Instead, I have an uncomfortable chair, that hurts my back, affects my posture and can sometimes affect my productivity, when I am not feeling comfortable. Which is why the ‘need’ to keep moving, and stay active is so important because I am well aware of how much time I spend sitting in the same position everyday. If you don’t have the funds to buy an ergonomic chair, then yoga will sort you out.
Regular yoga practice may reduce levels of stress and body-wide inflammation, contributing to healthier hearts. Several of the factors contributing to heart disease, including high blood pressure and excess weight, can also be addressed through yoga. Not only will your heart thank you, but yoga will also improve your strength, balance and flexibility. Whether you are doing downward dog or the ‘tree pose’ doing yoga everyday will help stretch out your back and improve mobility, especially if you are someone who suffers with lower back pain.
Want to pump up the jam? Zumba is a great aerobic dance workout, that will get you moving, in the most fun way possible. At university I did Zumba regularly and it was so much fun. It was a great way to de-stress after writing dissertations, tests, submitting assigments and allowed me to ‘cathartically’ reduce my stress, anxiety and tension, to manageable levels. Granted it’s a full body workout that is pretty intense, but it will help you improve your cardiovascular fitness and boost endurance. After all, a happier body equals a happier you!
Another way to take care of your body when you work from home in lockdown, is to explore whether a stand up desk could work for you. While the jury is out on some of the more extravagant claims behind this popular workplace trend, there is no doubt that stand-up desks are beneficial as they help you ‘move’ while you work and promote healthy posture. You don’t need to invest in a custom desk to get these benefits either, just mix it up with a high work surface for some added variation to your work-day and your body will thank you.
Not only does ‘standing’ burn more calories than sitting down, but it might also be beneficial after lunch to use a ‘standing desk’, because it helps your body digest food effectively. Meaning no more indigestion, which will help increase your mood, because you don’t have a sore tummy. While you shouldn’t overdo standing at a desk, it might be a great way to break up your day and keep your body moving. It will help alleviate shoulder and back pain, because you are not hunched over your computer, and may even boost your productivity as a result.
Manage Your Digital Diet And Unplug
Effective rest and recuperation should be a major focus of how you structure your day. It can be tempting to fall down a YouTube wormhole or catch up on your Instagram stories during your allotted break times, and of course with moderation there’s no harm in this. But often we forget to truly rest and switch off, instead favouring attention grabbing, energy-taxing news feeds. The average young person is now on their phones between 3 and 5 hours a day. Combine that with 8 hours of work in front of a computer and you’re looking at an enormous amount of screen time.
I mentioned earlier that I work long days, but because of what I do as a Blogger, Freelance Writer and Creative Copywriter, I am constantly ‘attached to technology’. Whether that be obsessing over my blog views, click throughs and referrals, checking Facebook groups for freelance work, or scrolling mindlessly through social media, when I should be relaxing, if anyone is in need of a ‘digital diet’ or detox, it is me.
Even when I am ‘playing’, some element of it is conditioned by technology, whether it’s watching a Youtube workout video, watching a TV show on Netflix or even practicing meditation via an app like Headspace. The things that we are trying to do ‘mindfully’ to invest in our self-care is having an impact on our inability to ‘switch off’. I said that having a ‘mindful break or lunch’ is important, but what about scheduling time out from technology completely? For example, have a bubble bath, and leave your phone in another room so that you can unwind.
Instead of watching your favourite TV show, aka RU Paul’s Drag Race, go one day without watching TV, and try reading a book before you go to bed to unwind and relax. I love historical fiction so I have a huge bookshelf filled with books from Anne O’Brien, Phillipa Greggory and Elizabeth Chadwick to name a few. Sometimes i’ll finish all my work for the day, and unwind with a good book, a bubble bath and a cheeky Pina Colada, because why not?
Take time to unplug and slow down wherever you can afford to in your day and this will recharge your batteries and improve your productivity. Whether that’s curling up with a good book on the sofa, or taking a gentle walk, it is up to you. When I want to relax, I love creating spa days at home, where I will create pampering evenings with bubbles, bath bombs and a glass of wine or two. I will turn my bathroom into a ‘jacuzzi’ and put relaxing music to help me get in the mood. Afterwards i’ll unwind, do some meditation and relax.
Even if you are unable to ‘disconnect’ from technology fully, it’s really important that you do try and minimize your exposure to blue light. Whether you watch a show before going to bed, grab your phone as soon as you wake up, or multi-task on all your digital devices, this is a bad habit that needs to be stopped. I have been trying to get into the habit of not looking at my phone when my alarm goes off (apart from to turn it off), and instead will spend a few minutes each morning getting ready for work, voicing positive affirmations and using essential oils.
This helps me to create a clear boundary between my digital and physical world, and allows me to work from home in lockdown feeling ready to kick ass. Don’t just take it from me. Minimising the blue light exposure from our screens has a host of benefits, not least giving ourselves a fighting chance at a good night’s sleep. I find that limiting my ‘phone use’ in the evenings helps me unwind quicker, than I would normally.
When you’re working, consider implementing the Pomodoro method. This technique structures your workflow for maximum efficiency by ensuring you take regular rests at allotted intervals that our brain’s concentration cycles. There’s plenty of apps that can set this up for you, like the minimalist pomodoro timer Goodtime, in both the App Store and Play Store. Because you are taking regular rests, this will help you transition into your after-work mindset, allowing you to switch off, relax, and have a better night’s sleep in lockdown.
Stay Connected With Your Loved Ones
When you work from home in lockdown, it can be all too easy to slip into the habit of not ‘communicating’ and connecting with others. Not only is this incredibly isolating, but you are ignoring social connections that are important to your happiness and wellbeing. Take it from me, I can go through periods where I don’t want to talk to anyone because I feel out of control, am overwhelmed, and can feel like scheduling time out to socialize is another chore to add to my list. Yet ironically, I don’t feel the same about meeting up with friends in person.
So why is this? Well put simply, the boundaries between work and play are blurred at home, and during lockdown we haven’t been able to connect with loved ones, which has been incredibly difficult. Although we can chat virtually on Skype, Zoom, Teams or have a phone call, it’s not the same as making time to hang out with friends outside of work, in person, and be able to truly disconnect from your ‘home life’.
Nevertheless, these are the times that we live in and now more than ever is our chance to connect with friends, family, and our partner, to show how much we care. Social isolation is crippling, and can lead to feelings of loneliness, negative self-esteem, and can impact the way that we perceive ourselves and others. Although the restrictions are easing soon, still take the opportunity to call someone everyday, so that you don’t feel like you are on your own. It will improve your communication skills, reduce social anxiety and even boost your self-confidence and esteem.
Switch it up between texting, video calls, and phone calls when you work from home in lockdown, so that you don’t feel like your routine is monotonous. It can be as simple as having a 5 minute phone call, or an elaborate 5 hour Skype where you play games and share exciting gossip. As long as you are finding a small amount of time in your day, to connect with loved ones, you can feel like you are taking proactive measures to counteract those isolating feelings that you have been having. It’s important to balance your ‘alone’ and ‘social time’ even if its virtual.
Research shows that having a strong network of support or strong community bonds fosters both emotional and physical health and is an important component of adult life. Even when we can’t hug our loved ones, or see our partners, the dark days are nearly over and a new dawn is beginning. But we have to hold on before that and make a visible effort to show our loved ones how much they mean to us. In turn, our friends value us for checking in, which strengthens trust, our personal relationship and likelihood to confide in said individual.
Building relationships doesen’t just improve our confidence, self-esteem and communication skills, but it also has health benefits too. Did you know that feeling lonely can raise the risk of cognitive decline? Making sure that we stay social and connected can not only extend the length of our lives but the quality of them as well. It can also reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease, proving that socialization is the ultimate antidote to loneliness.
Practice Mindful Working And Be Kinder To Yourself
Working mindfully at home, might be easier said than done. After all, if you have distractions all around you, find it hard to focus or are burnt out by how large your workload is, it might be difficult to understand what being a mindful worker involves. Put simply, mindful working means applying focus and awareness to everything you do from the moment you start work. So let’s say you have a big copywriting project on promoting mental health and wellbeing in the office. You would need to focus your full attention on that one large task.
Working mindfully involves recognizing and releasing internal and external distractions as they arise. For example, you are trying to focus on the mental health project but your emails keep buzzing with notifications, you have multiple tabs open at once, and people won’t stop messaging you. You become overwhelmed with all the stimuli that your brain is receiving and feel stressed beyond belief.
When you recognize these distractions, and how they are affecting you, you can figure out how to block out time to focus on your big project. This could mean putting your phone on silent, and putting it away from your desk (unless you are expecting urgent calls), having only 1-3 tabs open at a time, and putting an out of office on your emails, so that people know you are busy, and cannot respond. In this way mindfulness can help increase effectiveness, decrease mistakes and even enhance your creativity, as you are so hyper-focused.
Another way to work mindfully, is to sit silently, without listening to music, videos or podcasts and paying attention to thoughts, sounds, the sensations of hearing, or parts of the body, bringing your attention back when your mind starts to wonder. You can allocate this as a ‘mindful’ 5-10 minute break, every hour, so that you can bring the best version of you to your work from home office.
When we take a step back and allow ourselves some time to soak up our surroundings in a meaningful way, we are able to control our feelings, so that they don’t take over our lives. For example, as someone who has high levels of anxiety, I regularly have anxiety attacks, which can affect my working day. Instead of trying to ‘block out’ the anxiety like I once would, I acknowlege it, accept the way I feel and think about ways that I can help the way I am feeling. For example, if I am feeling tense, I will realize that I need to take a break, and have some time out.
What Are Your Tips For Working At Home During Lockdown?
P.S: Whether you work from home in lockdown as your own boss, are contracted as a freelancer or are employed by a company, remember to value yourself, and your health. Your wellbeing is so important, and without regular rest, you will feel extremely tired and unmotivated.