How to stay sane as we go back to full-time working from home

Many of us have had a rollercoaster relationship with working from home over the last 18 months.

At first, it was novel and pretty great. No commuting, lunchbreak showers, putting a wash on during the day, saving money on lunches.

Then we started to see some of the downsides. The confinement within our own homes got a bit much, we missed human contact, wearing real clothes, having a reason to leave the house.

Whether you loved or loathed working from home during the pandemic – the unavoidable reality is that it’s back.

For those of us fortunate enough to have jobs that allow us to stay at home, the advise is now to do so – and the eerily quiet train and tube stations suggests that employers are listening to that guidance.

But, as most of us have not got used to some form of hybrid working – a few days in the office per week, or more flexibility over where we are working from – a return to the intensity of full-time WFH might feel a little daunting.

Studies have shown that working from home eroded our boundaries and, for some, had a negative impact on work-life balance. Without the distinction between office and home, we worked longer hours, took fewer breaks, and experienced burnout.

This time – we know what to expect. So, it’s time to get proactive and think about how you’re going to stay sane, healthy, happy and productive during this period of heightened restrictions:

Prioritise your time

‘If you have lots of different tasks and deadlines to manage, it can easily become overwhelming and lead you to end up taking on more than you can handle,’ says Sam O’Brien, chief marketing officer at Affise.

‘That’s why it’s essential to prioritise your tasks based on importance and urgency, to help you decide where best to allocate your time.’

If possible, Sam says you should try to delegate work to another member of your team.

‘Be honest with others about how long a task is likely to take instead of overpromising and under-delivering.’ 

Take your allocated breaks

It can be tempting to work through your lunch break just to finish off that one task, but Sam warns that skipping your lunch each day can quickly lead to burnout. 

‘Allowing yourself to take your well-deserved lunch hour to relax or even get away from your desk and stretch your legs will make you much more productive and focused for the rest of your day,’ says Sam.

Charlotte Davies, careers expert at LinkedIn says you should also make use of the time you normally spend commuting.

‘One of the best things about working from home is not having to travel and gaining that extra time before and after work,’ Charlotte tells Metro.co.uk.

‘Use this time to do something for you. Take a walk in the morning while listening to your favourite album, do a virtual yoga session or read your book whilst having your morning coffee.

‘If you prioritise yourself in the morning, it’ll make you feel ready and productive for your work day.’

Set yourself a working hour limit

Sam says it’s really important to stick to your set working hours – especially if you start and finish times become more flexible when you’re at home. 

‘Working an extra hour or two most nights, or getting into the unhealthy habit of replying to emails before bed, can blur the boundaries between your work and your home life,’ she says. ‘It could lead to you resenting or even hating your job.’

Make time for your personal life

‘When you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed with work, it’s tempting to continue working into your free time to complete tasks, but making time for a fulfilled personal life with your family and friends is important for your overall well being,’ says Sam.

‘So switch off from work, do something you enjoy to relax and dedicate time to your personal relationships.’

Charlotte says there is also an opportunity for personal and professional development during this time – and it can help you to feel reinvigorated.

‘We know from recent research that one of the things people most worry about with remote working is the impact it will have on their career growth, with 35% of respondents saying they believe their professional learning has been impacted by the pandemic,’ she explains.

‘One of the most valuable things you can do for your career – particularly when trying to boost motivation and productivity – is to continually improve your skills. An online learning course can help bridge the gap when learning new things or when brushing up on existing skills and can help you feel more confident in your abilities.’

Allocate a designated workspace 

Separating your workspace from the areas of the home you relax in is crucial to keeping a good work/life balance. 

‘If you’ve been working on your laptop from the sofa all day, when it comes to your downtime, you might not feel relaxed in the space you’ve spent the day taking calls and responding to emails from,’ says Sam.

‘Try to work at a desk in a spare room if you have one, and keep your bedroom and living room as areas to relax in.’

Charlotte adds: ‘Working from home can be challenging when trying to balance our professional and personal lives, especially with many of us juggling family commitments. Therefore, it’s important to set clear boundaries that will help you stay positive while working from home.

‘Think about what work boundaries you could set that would help you feel more upbeat and have less distractions – whether that’s having less screen-time or blocking out an hour in your calendar at lunchtime.’  

Take your holidays 

With deadlines and responsibilities spread across the year, it can sometimes feel like there’s never a good time to take your holiday days – but it’s important to take the time, even if you don’t have anything specific planned.

‘It’s essential that you make time to enjoy yourself,’ says Sam. 6’Remember, your business isn’t going to fall apart without you for a week or two.

‘Booking a proper break from work where you can relax and recharge is vital for preventing burnout and having something to look forward to and focus on.’

Don’t have work emails or messenger on your phone

We know this is a tough one. We live in a work culture that encourages always being ‘on’ and available – but it isn’t sustainable.

‘Having your work email or messenger set up on your phone makes it impossible to shut off from work,’ Sam tells us.

‘If it’s your day off or you’re relaxing at night and a notification appears on your phone it’s tempting to take a quick look, but if the content is something problematic, it can cause you unnecessary stress outside of working hours.’ 

Stay connected with colleagues

Missing your work besties? It’s really important that you make the effort to maintain those connections.

Charlotte says: ‘Many of us might miss our regular in-person catch-ups and lunches with colleagues and friends at work.

‘During the pandemic we’ve seen so many people take to the LinkedIn platform to check in with their online network and share advice on how to stay connected – such as having a virtual coffee a day to meet new people and exchange thoughts and ideas.

‘Make sure that you’re taking the time to reach out to people in your communities to talk about your work or how you’re feeling.’

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