Expert-approved ways to love WFH again

    Woman WFH with her child hugging her
    Published: 26 January 2022. Written by: Rebecca Denne.

    While we might be officially back in the office, a lasting effect of the pandemic is that hybrid working is here to stay – even if it’s not quite as exciting as it once was. So, from ‘communal work Zooms’ (really!) to interval yoga, these are the expert-approved tips you need this year to perk up proceedings again when WFH.

    ‘Work from home, if you can.’ The words many of us rejoiced on hearing back in March 2020 as our 9 to 5s changed seemingly forever. From long commutes to even longer office hours, the idea of being paid to work in our pyjama bottoms as our pets looked on (slightly baffled) was a welcome one as the WFH force nearly doubled from the previous year.

    Now, as we accept that hybrid working may be here to stay (in fact, 85% of those who are currently working from their spare rooms, kitchen tables or local Caffé Nero say they want it to stay), how do we refresh what has, for many of us, become a bit mundane? 

    We spoke to five experts to give us their hacks for force-quitting our current WFH strategies and pressing reboot for the year ahead. 

    It helps to start the day on your terms when so much of the day can be dictated by other people,’ says Louise Goss, Founder of The Homeworker magazine

    I founded The Homeworker magazine as I felt there was no real support for regular homeworkers. Working from home successfully involves a lot more than pulling up a chair at the kitchen table and hoping for the best. Long-term, it’s about the habits you create, the mindset you adopt, and the work environment you set up for yourself. 

    ‘One of the most important things is a good level of self-awareness so that you can embrace home working and tailor your day to suit you. So, for instance, know when you are most energised, when you tend to procrastinate and when you are most likely to be interrupted. Being aware of this will help you establish a structure to your day that means you do your best work, but also make time for yourself. You don’t necessarily have to be up at 5am drinking green juice, but I like to make sure I have time for myself before I start work. It helps you start the day on your terms when so much of the day can be dictated by other people. 

    ‘Finally, move more. We have less reason to get up and walk around at home. Try pairing up activities such as a work call with a walk outside, to get in exercise and fresh air while still doing something productive.’

    Did you know… You can earn Vitality points by tracking your daily steps

    Each day, week, or month, identify a “big rock task” and get it done,’ says Marilyn Devonish, The NeuroSuccess Coach & Remote Working Implementation Consultant

    Person ticking to do list when working from home

    It can be challenging to keep focused when you’re working from home, so to help you stay on track, set a timer. Decide beforehand what you will achieve during this time and have everything you need to hand. Psychologically and neurologically, once you’ve set a clear goal and intention, your mind is pre-dispositioned to want to achieve it. Add into the mix being against the clock and there is a powerful dynamic that comes into play. 

    ‘If you’re a procrastinator, there’s an idea I learned many years ago from one of my mentors. He talked about “big rock tasks”. The big rocks are things which are important, yet often bumped off the list when we procrastinate. Each day, week, or month, identify a big rock task and get it done. No working up to it or working around it, just spend a few minutes doing a mental walk through its completion. A few minutes doesn’t sound like much – however, it lays down neurological pathways and ideas formulate about how to approach it. 

    ‘And remember, the mind, brain and physical body work best when you take breaks, so allow for what I call “incubation time”. During those breaks, I recommend building in rewards – not food or alcohol, I hasten to add. One of my breaktime treats for when I’ve completed a big piece of work is catching an episode of Star Trek. It gives my brain a chance to rest and process.’

    Did you know… You could be eligible for a 12-month subscription to the Headspace app – perfect for some 9 to 5 me-time. 

    ‘Be mindful of what you’re doing each day and reflect on your habits,’ says Jan De Jonge, Business Psychologist and Founder of People Business Psychology 

    ‘Try to reflect on why you feel the way you do. Be mindful of what you are doing during your day and reflect on your habits. Try to work out – possibly with some help from others – what it is that may make you feel less energetic. If you conclude that you miss companionship, try to create opportunities to have more social contact during your day, and don’t feel ashamed about it, either. Share your thoughts and feelings with others. Be honest and open about it. And reach out! Others may feel like you do, too. If WFH has been bugging you for a longer time, perhaps it’s time to reconsider your work choices. Maybe there are alternative ways of securing an income. Even if it means retraining or changing the direction of your career. Much like WFH… it can be done.’
    Read more… 7 ways to make your job happier

    ‘It’s important to set boundaries and to create an environment that benefits your wellbeing,’ says Libby Stevenson, Therapeutic Wellbeing Practitioner and Yoga Instructor

    Woman taking yoga break from WFH

    ‘When WFH, it’s easy to blur the lines between work and home life, so it’s important to set boundaries and to create an environment that benefits your wellbeing. If you’re feeling like you need a refresh, now’s a good time to give your space a mini renovation by creating an area in the home that promotes mind, body and emotional health by being welcoming and conducive to working. Make the space your own by adding items to your desk such as photos, nice accessories or a scented candle to lift your mood. Scents such as lavender are calming while citrus-based ones such as bergamot or sweet orange are energising – perfect if you need a lift. 

    ‘If you need to energise yourself further, try punctuating your day with some simple yoga poses and stretches. The Tree Pose is a balancing pose where you stand on one leg, and in order to do this we need to focus. It’s this focus in balancing that helps to clear the mind and makes us feel refreshed. For a zap of energy, the Goddess Pose opens the hips to counteract the effects of sitting. To uncurl the shoulders from being hunched over a laptop, take your arms behind the back and interlace the fingers. Bring the shoulders back and down and pull your hands towards the seat of the chair or floor. For more of a stretch, lift your arms behind you.’

    Did you know… Yin yoga could be the perfect antidote to working from home 

    ‘I have WhatsApp chats where it’s accepted that we can ping each other work-related messages all day,’ says Jo Usmar, Author and Editor

    ‘The stereotypical image of a writer working with only a cat and glass of whisky for company is spot on. OK, so while I don’t have a cat and I hate whisky, I have worked from home, solo, for over 10 years. This meant that lockdown didn’t really affect my day-to-day life. Universal acceptance of WFH actually made things a bit easier, with contributors more willing to conduct interviews remotely and people recognising that a traditional 9-5pm isn’t productive for everyone. It’s still sometimes lonely though. 

    ‘I’m an extrovert and strongly believe the best ideas are usually found at the end of a joke or ridiculous chat. To that end, I used to spend a week a month in a co-working space. With Covid having kiboshed that option, I’ve enjoyed “communal work Zooms” instead. A group of us log on and work as normal, Zoom humming along in the background, enabling those off-the-cuff jokes, comments and questions that make offices fun. And “seeing” other people is motivational – a reason to brush your hair. I also have WhatsApp chats where it’s accepted that we can ping each other work-related messages all day, which isn’t only helpful but has strengthened friendships.’ 

    Did you know… You can earn Vitality rewards when you track your activity 

    Vitality offers mental health support with private health insurance. If you’re a Vitality health insurance member, log into Member Zone to access the mental health hub.