Have you had to adjust to working from home? You may be loving it, or you may be working longer hours and burning yourself out. Here’s how to strike a healthy work/life balance…

There’s no doubt the pandemic has changed the way we work. In April 2020, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released data showing that 49.2 per cent of employed adults were working from home due to lockdown. However, we were heading towards more people working remotely and in a more flexible way before the pandemic forced it to happen. Prior to lockdown, flexitime had risen in the UK by over 12 per cent, and further data from the ONS showed that the number of workers in the UK who had started working remotely had increased by nearly a quarter of a million in ten years.

So even before the pandemic, businesses were beginning to realise that their employees didn’t need to be in the office in order to be productive. The benefits of working from home for businesses include cheaper or minimal office costs, and according to the ONS, increased staff retention as many employees value the flexibility of home working.

Some 30 per cent of adults were working exclusively from home at the start of July. Despite Boris Johnson encouraging staff to return to work from 1 August, 91 per cent of Britain’s office workers would like to keep working from home – at least for part of the time.

Flexible schedule

If you’re working from home, you’ll no doubt appreciate the flexible schedule – the chance to plan your day and allocate your working hours around your other priorities such as family, childcare and exercise. Nothing beats the flexibility of being able to own your day.

Most of the MBA team had to work remotely during lockdown and some of them found it easier than anticipated. ‘I’ve found working from home much better than expected and nowhere near as disruptive as I initially feared,’ says MBA’s Sales Manager Phil Leivesley. ‘Video calls have been a great way to maintain face-to-face contact with clients and the fact that we’re all in this together has meant that everyone has been incredibly understanding.

Phil adds: ‘My days are longer, undoubtedly, but I’ve been able to take a break in the middle of the day for a walk. I’ve found it a very healthy way to work.’

In the mortgage business a flexible schedule has been beneficial for some of our clients. ‘Our customers are happy to talk in the evenings when their work day has finished or the kids are in bed,’ says MBA’s Senior Mortgage & Protection Adviser Leslie Morris. ‘Making my working hours flexible has meant that I can fit most things in that I want or need to do.’

It’s cheaper for many people too – no train fares or petrol to pay for and no trips to expensive coffee shops at lunchtime.

Blurred boundaries

However, you might have also found that the boundaries between work and home life have become blurred. You might be working constantly and be unable to switch off. For some, it could lead to being unable to separate work and personal life which could cause fatigue, burnout and relationship problems. Many people who work remotely end up doing longer hours. ‘I start work as soon as I wake up and can be at my desk at 7am, says MBA’s Senior Mortgage & Protection Adviser Neil Standring. ‘Then I can work out and have breakfast and still be back at my desk again for 9am.’

While you may enjoy the flexibility of home working, it’s important not to burn yourself out. Here’s eight ways to get the most out of working from home and also ensure you get some valuable downtime and a personal life worth living for…

1. Have a routine

Aim to get up and start work at the same time so that you get accustomed to a regular working schedule. This will enable you to work at your best as humans tend to thrive on routine.  

2. Get dressed for work

You don’t necessarily need to wear a suit but rather than working in your pyjamas, get up, have a shower and dress for work as if you were going to the office. At home, you can be a bit more casual but wearing clothes that you’d be happy to go out in rather than working in your dressing gown will mean that you will be psychologically prepared and mentally in ‘work mode’.

3. Have a professional workspace

While it’s been tempting to work in the garden using a laptop during the recent heatwave, it’s best to have a proper desk and a working area where everything is in its place and you can find what you need and work in comfort. This will boost productivity.

4. Try to minimise digital distractions

It’s easy to sit in front of your computer and make logging onto Facebook or other social media platforms the first thing you do in the morning. However, this can lead to all sorts of distractions and if you’re not careful, many hours lost. Try not to get distracted by social media and simply focus on key tasks that need to be done one at a time.

5. Take regular breaks to move around

When working from home, it’s highly likely that your activity levels could be lower than when you were commuting as you might have been walking to the station or getting up to walk around the office to talk to colleagues. Get up and move around every hour or so. Stretch if you can.

6. Invest in a good office chair

Make sure you’re not going to cause yourself back pain by using a chair or stool that’s not meant for long periods of sitting. Invest in an ergonomic office chair with proper lumbar support and make sure it’s at the right height – your legs should ideally be at a 90-degree angle and your wrists and forearms should be parallel to the floor when using your keyboard.

7. Set healthy boundaries

Make sure you get regular breaks to eat a healthy lunch or snack and go out for a walk or take a proper break in the middle of the day to give yourself a chance to recharge your batteries. This will make you more productive later in the day so don’t feel guilty about taking a break.

8. Know when to stop

Have a set time to stop work wherever possible and switch your computer or laptop off rather than leaving it on overnight, so that you make the mental distinction between finishing work and starting your evening.

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