- Major tech companies have announced they’re allowing employees to work from home permanently.
- More than two-thirds of the United States’ economic activity was produced by people working from home in May.
- Here are eight ways to make working from home more effective without it impacting your mental well-being.
Working from home every day may have felt like a novelty six months ago, but for many of us, we’re in it for the long-haul now.
In May, 42% of Americans aged 20-64 earning more than $20,000 were working from home full-time, according to a Stanford University survey – which equates to more than two-thirds of US economic activity. That’s compared to just 2% working full-time from home before the pandemic.
While offices around the world have started to reopen with COVID-secure measures in place, Stanford’s Prof Nicholas Bloom says we’re likely to carry on working from home in some capacity until 2022.
Which means, once the novelty wears off, we need healthy habits in place to ensure we’re focused and productive during working hours – avoiding the “temptation” to do another load of laundry – and we can switch off at the end of the day.
Even Microsoft Chief Executive Satya Nadella admits the boundaries have been blurred so much between our personal and work lives, "it sometimes feels like you are sleeping at work".
What is the World Economic Forum’s Jobs Reset Summit?
The World Economic Forum’s Jobs Reset Summit brings together leaders from business, government, civil society, media and the broader public to shape a new agenda for growth, jobs, skills and equity.
The four-day virtual event, being held on 20-23 October 2020, comes as the world seeks a way out of the COVID-19 pandemic. The coronavirus crisis has further disrupted the world of work after years of growing income inequality, concerns about tech-driven job displacement, and rising societal discord.
The Summit will develop new frameworks, shape innovative solutions and accelerate action on four thematic pillars: Economic Growth, Revival and Transformation; Work, Wages and Job Creation; Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning; and Equity, Inclusion and Social Justice.
The UK’s NHS has tips for working from home and good time-management as part of its mental health advice service Every Mind Matters.
1. Set a routine and stick to it
It can be stressful walking the line between work and personal time, so schedules are a must. Get up and have breakfast at the same time each day, and stick to an alternative “commute” time, in which you exercise, read or listen to music, before starting work. “Most importantly, when your work day stops, stop working,” says the NHS. “Shut down, stop checking emails and focus on home life.”
2. Make a dedicated work space
If you haven’t got round to it yet, perhaps because the children have been off school, now’s the time to find a quiet space away from other people and distractions. Try to designate an area as your work space, make it as comfortable as possible – see advice for sitting correctly at your desk – and ensure you have everything you need in one place.
3. Take a break
It can feel like we need to be “on” all the time – and available to colleagues now they can’t see us in person. But as the NHS says, this working from home presenteeism is no good if it’s affecting your mental health. So take regular screen breaks and a lunch break to manage your stress levels. Taking time to focus on something else, whether that’s a walk or a coffee, will boost your productivity. If you’re feeling tense and stiff because you’re moving around less, try a 10-minute workout.
4. Stay connected
Although working from home does have benefits, “you may also feel more isolated,” says the NHS. Human interaction is important for our mental well-being, so set up video calls or pick up the phone. Speak to colleagues or your manager if you’re struggling and ask others how they’re doing. “Make time to socialise virtually – schedule in a digital coffee break or Friday online get-together. Or meet in person for a coffee or lunch if you can, following the latest social distancing guidelines.”
5. Set boundaries
“Setting boundaries with other members of your household is key to mental well-being while working at home,” says the NHS. Yes, there’s more flexibility, but you might also have to deal with children who think you’re just there for them. Speak to your family or those you live with about your needs and share your schedule – and do the same with colleagues and managers, so you can just enjoy being with family, your partner or housemates at the end of the day.
6. Brush up on time management
Chartered occupational psychologist Emma Donaldson-Feilder has shared her tips for better time management, to help you feel more in control, more focused and less stressed. She suggests setting goals and writing to-do lists that both prioritize and set out timings for tasks. And practising the “4Ds” can help manage email stress:
- Delete: this applies to around half the emails you get.
- Do: if it’s urgent or can be completed quickly.
- Delegate: if someone else can deal with it better.
- Defer: set aside time later to spend on emails that will take longer to deal with.
7. Think long term
We might be working from home for some time to come, so it’s worth exploring different software and ways of working to boost collaboration with others – as well as thinking about your home working set-up.
8. Be kind to yourself
“Remember this is an unusual situation, so be kind to yourself and acknowledge you might not be as productive as you usually would be. Be realistic about what you can achieve given the circumstances – and relax when your work is done.”