As a seasoned working-from-homer, Stretching the City founder, Sally Lovett shares her tips for keeping well whilst working from home.
Like the rest of the world, here in London we’re in the grip of the Corona virus crisis and all adapting to a ‘new normal’ way of working. For many of our clients, a significant change has been working from home (WFH). What may be at first be a novelty of comfy lounge-wear, home-cooked lunches and a tidy home can fast become a challenge in motivation, procrastination and social exclusion. For many of us, the routine and interaction of going to the office is a much-needed ritual of our working week and without it, our mental, physical and emotional health can suffer.
As a freelancer and business owner, the past 10 years of my working life have been spent with at least 2 days a week working by myself, from home. Here are some tips, tricks and my typical routine for happy home working that I’ve learnt along the way…. (Editor’s note: The below was written last week, before nurseries closed and I lost my 3 days a week childcare. I’ll write an updated version on juggling running a business with an energetic two year old in tow!)
8AM: Wake up & Work out
We’ve all got a preferred time of day to exercise, so you may wish to schedule in some time to sweat at lunchtime, or the end of your working day. Personally, I’ve found through trial and error, that a work-out first thing in the morning sets me up for a far more productive day and once it’s done, it’s out the way for the rest of the day. I’ll usually drop my son at nursery at 8am (wearing my gym gear), do a class on my @FIIT app (ideally outside if the weather allows), jump in the shower and be at my desk for 9am. For online workouts, I also love Movement for Modern Life for yoga, or Youtube for a work-out.
Oh, and you don’t need to dress smart, but you do need to get dressed. Working in your PJs and dressing gown is no-no when it comes to productivity (and conference calls)
Hit your hard tasks first
I’m most productive in the morning, so I try to tackle my most demanding tasks early on, saving the simpler tasks for the afternoon. Don’t feel like you need to launch in to your emails straight away. In fact, you could easily spend all day responding to emails. I switch off the email notifications from my inbox, checking and responding to emails throughout the day as it suits me. I also find putting my phone out of sight reduces the likelihood of mindless Instagram strolling during work.
Mid-Morning: Get social
Working from home can get very solitary, which can lead to loneliness…which can really compromise our mental health. If you’re working with a team virtually, or self-isolating, schedule in some Facetime, Skype or Zoom video calls. Seeing someone else’s face on screen is the next best thing to ‘real life’ interaction. If your colleagues aren’t free to chat, have a Facetime with a friend instead. You need a break, so make it a social one. Today, mine was a 11am coffee + Facetime chat with my friend, Ollie in Singapore.
Break up your day
Speaking of breaks, remember to take enough. It’s unrealistic and unfeasible to maintain a high level of productivity and standard of work without regular breaks. I work by the Pomodoro method– Your work for 25 minute, takes a 5 minute break. Then after 4 rounds of x25 min work / 5 min break, you take longer break eg. 30-45 minutes.
During your breaks, actually get away from your desk to give your eyes a break and body some movement.
Let’s do Lunch
One of (plentiful) benefits of working from home is access to your fridge and fully-functioning kitchen. You don’t need to spend hours marinating a Masterchef creation, but you can definitely make yourself a healthy lunch rich in protein, healthy fats and carbs to fuel a productive afternoon ahead. Even on the busiest days, everyone’s got time to smash some avocado and poach a couple of eggs.
And remember to snack savvy too. My go-to snack is dark chocolate + brazil nuts. 3 brazil nuts a day are your RDA for selenium, which is important for good brain health. I also make this tahini fudgeto nibble on.
What’s your Work Station like?
With many home workers working from the kitchen table, home desk or even the sofa, they’ll be even more susceptible to sore backs, tight shoulders and stiff necks. Try to have your work set-up as ergonomically safe as possible. You may wish to raise your laptop on some big books, or buy a separate mouse and keyboard.
Shut up shop at the end of the day
At Stretching the City, we promote flexible working and fitting your work around your lifestyle. So, it’s not unusual for us to log on and respond to some emails once the kids are in bed and we’re happy to do this if it allows us more family time. When we’re not working, we either close the door on our office space, or completely clear and put away all traces of work until we log on again.
To help employees navigate the ‘new normal’ of working from home, we’ve launched a new range of ‘Wellbeing for Working from Home’ webinars. Available for exclusive corporate delivery by our team of psychologists and coaches, these webinars can be streamed to up to 100 people. Find out more here: