Wellbeing and motivation when working from home

Bored in the house and I’m in the house bored:

Being so deep into lockdown 2.0, working from home seems pretty normal now. It does have its perks; none of your co-workers can “accidentally” eat your lunch, you are already home to receive 100% essential online-shopping deliveries, and the hardest part of your daily commute is getting out of your warm bed.

As we push into what feels like the 24th straight month of isolation, working from home can take a toll on your wellbeing and overall work motivation. The days can blur into each other, as it seems like there is no such thing as a regular working hours anymore.

Since the recent “Road Map” announcement (with a lot of potholes and U-turns), it looks like we will be at home at little longer. Therefore it’s important to nail the aspects of your WFH routine now to stay on track and avoid burnout. In turn, you will be better prepared for working on-site again once restrictions start to ease.

Emails off, Netflix on:

Work is home and home is work. Home used to be a place where we could switch off from the office grind.

Since our work resources are now at our fingertips 24/7, it’s easy to fall into a habit of working after normal hours. I am guilty of replying to after-dinner emails or finishing off tasks I would usually leave for the next day because “I have nothing else to do during lockdown, so I might as well do it now” – but it’s a habit I quickly had to kick during 2020.

You find old-schoolers who think working more hours will automatically equate to more production and greater overall work completed. It’s a nice theory passed down from our dictator-like management predecessors, but more working hours (and often extra unnecessary hours) also leads to quicker burnout. Work smarter, not harder kids!

If you usually finish work at an office at 5:30pm, then tools down at 5:30pm at home too. Don’t be embarrassed to put on your favourite trashy TV series and unwind for the night (Tiger King, anyone?).

Stick to the plan:

If you have worked in an office for most of your working life like myself, working from home has been a strange adjustment.

One of the things I discovered was how quickly my routine changed. My usual routine involved waking up at a decent time to get ready, walking past my local café to pick up a coffee on the way to the station, ride the train and scroll through emails/social media, arrive at the office and crack open the laptop for the day. Suddenly my routine involved waking up later than usual (no commute anymore) and walking downstairs to start work.

The initial adjustment period was the hardest for me – I felt really out of whack, particularly in terms of my sleeping pattern . So, I decided to make my new routine as close as I could to my old one. This involved waking up at a regular hour, but instead of walking to the station I would take a walk around the block before work! Try to combine some of your old habits into your new routine.

Health and fitness also have a profound effect on performance and mental clarity. Take breaks at home the same way you would in the office, and try to keep up with some type of general exercise routine – stand up once and a while and go for a walk, even if it’s as simple as getting some fresh air in the yard. Keep your fluids up too: (9am – 5pm = water and 5pm onwards = pick your poison).

I like what you’ve done with the place, very feng shui:

I’m not going to be on The Block anytime soon, but as I am rapidly approaching my 30s (eek) and listening to my sore back and blurry eyes a lot more, I have realised the importance of a solid ergonomic home office.

Here are some pointers that should be included in any good workstation:

  • Adequate lighting: the more natural light the better, or even try being close to an outside window. Avoid too much glare from overhead lighting or downlights.
  • Comfortable temperature and airflow: it’s easy to blast the heater all day during winter, but the cosiness can also make you a little too relaxed!
  • Segregate your workstation from potential hazards: an example of this is keeping your workstation away from hot kitchen surfaces. Also, if you aren’t working in the kitchen it will stop you from checking if any new food has magically appeared in the kitchen for the 5th time that same morning.
  • Invest in a good chair: Any work-chair should have excellent lumbar support and adjusted to the correct height. If you don’t have an adequate chair, speak about it with your boss or even borrow one from the office (not like anyone is there to use it).
  • Computer screen: a good rule of thumb is the top of your screen should be at approximately eye-level. Keep your screen directly in front of you and about an arm’s length away.

Stay connected:

During this difficult time, remember to check in on your mates and loved ones. Don’t be afraid to reach out – someone is probably feeling the same way you do right now and would appreciate the contact.

Set up a work group chat and stay in touch with your colleagues during the working week – share some funny memes and jokes!

Everyone is missing their usual ‘Water Cooler’ conversations and spilling the tea with their favourite co-worker, but I have no doubt we will all come out of this stronger than ever before.

Remember to find that balance so work is not your home and home is not your work (read that again).

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