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Top tips for working from home over winter

Top tips for working from home over winter
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Updated 20th November 2020 - We recommend the coronavirus page on the NHS website for more up to date information.

COVID-19 restrictions are in effect across the UK, meaning millions of Brits are now working from home again. It’s not the winter we hoped for, and for many of us going into a working-from-home situation for the second time this year, it feels exhausting.

If you’re struggling to stay motivated, we’ve got some simple working from home tips that will improve your set-up this winter.

Create a dedicated, comfy workspace

If you didn’t get around to it the first time, make sure you have your own workspace this winter. If you’ve got an office or spare room already set aside, try to maintain it as a work-only zone.

Can’t work in a separate room? No problem. Just create a designated working zone within a shared area. Sit with your head turned away from distractions (e.g. the TV) and if you can, make a partition between your workspace and the rest of the room. Even a line of masking tape along the floor can help!

When you’re working, sit in a comfy chair with lumbar support, and keep your feet flat on the floor. Your screen should be at eye level, and you shouldn’t have to hunch or crane your neck. The NHS has more helpful tips about working safely here. Remember: your employers should be able to help you kit out your space with proper office equipment.

Lastly, try to block out distractions. A sign at your door or on your desk will signal to others that your space is out-of-bounds while you’re working. You can also get into work mode by using noise-cancelling headphones.

Make sure you get outside every day

Getting plenty of fresh air, exercise and natural light is really important during the winter. The weather might not always be perfect, but if you can get away from your desk and take a stroll at lunch or after work you’ll feel the benefit.

When done outside, exercise is a great way to get a vital hit of vitamin D and help with the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

Bring greenery into your workspace

Being outside in nature isn’t always possible. The good news is, science shows that simply bringing greenery into your home can help boost your mood.

Mind recommends buying potted plants and flowers, sitting by a window with a view of greenery, listening to nature sounds, and using photos of green spaces for screensavers and desktop backgrounds.

You can also introduce a SAD lamp to your workspace if your mood is affected by the lack of sunlight. Sitting next to a SAD lamp for about 30 minutes or one hour each morning can help to boost your mood.

Exercise throughout the week

Regular exercise will help you sleep better, give you energy, and improve your mood. If you can, get up from your desk every hour during the working day to take a short walk around your home. If you can’t, try doing some gentle stretching at your desk – the NHS has a guide here.

Beyond that, try to stay active in your free time. If your main activity is a daily stroll, make sure you also carve out time for strength-training activities like yoga or lifting weights. Once or twice a week, you could try doing an online exercise class or going for a jog or cycle.

An activity tracker could help you to stay motivated. Set a personal goal for your daily steps and see if a fitness band is the nudge you need to leave your desk and stretch your legs.

Remember, there are lots of free resources available that can help you exercise safely at home.

Separate home life from work life

When your bedroom has become your office, it’s not always easy to separate work life and home life! The problem is, blurring this line can be a recipe for stress and low mood.

To separate the two, try the following:

  • Avoid your workspace outside of working hours
  • Dress for work, and change into comfy clothes when the working day has finished
  • Turn off your computer and leave your desk during lunch
  • Avoid watching TV in the middle of the day

Tell your employers if you’re struggling

No one’s pretending that living through lockdown is easy. If you’re struggling with your mental health, and this is impacting your work, let your employers know. They have a duty to support staff with mental health issues, so they should be able to help, whether it’s offering time off for stress, or a change to your work schedule.

It’s also a good idea to speak to a doctor. They can refer you for counselling or CBT, or prescribe medications to help with the symptoms of stress, anxiety, depression and insomnia.

References

www.nhs.uk/conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder-sad/
www.mind.org.uk/information-support/tips-for-everyday-living/nature-and-mental-health/how-nature-benefits-mental-health/
www.nhs.uk/conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder-sad/treatment/
www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/exercise-health-benefits/
www.cipd.co.uk/knowledge/culture/well-being/supporting-mental-health-workplace-return