how to productively work from home (while looking after your health)


By: Jess Shanahan

With coronavirus (COVID-19) relegating many of us to our homes, it can be tempting to just sit and watch television when you're supposed to be getting work done. But even in self-isolation, it's important to think about how you can be productive at home while looking after your health.

Here are tips to keep you on track.

1. Background Music? Okay. TV? Not Okay.

Switching on the television for background noise can be tempting, but plot lines tend to distract and reduce productivity. Instead, opt for movie soundtracks or classical music—no lyrics!—and save the latest episode of your favorite show for your lunch break.

2. Set Boundaries With family

If everyone's stuck in the same house, there are going to be plenty of distractions, especially if you have younger children. It's worth sitting down with your family and explaining that you still have a job to do, even if you're away from the office. Let them know your "office hours" and when you cannot be disturbed; if you have the space, consider setting up shop and then closing the door. Of course, you can always take quick breaks to say hi to loved ones throughout the day.

3. Nourish Yourself and Drink Water

The excitement of working from home can lead to poor eating habits and drinking nothing but coffee in an effort to focus and get work done. But too much caffeine can be counterproductive and cause dehydration. After your allotted mug-full of Joe, switch to water and healthy meals (sorry, chips and candy!).

4. Take Proper Breaks

Make sure you take a five-minute break every hour, with longer breaks of 15 minutes a few times a day, plus a more substantial lunch break. Get up and walk around, stand by the window to ponder a problem and shine light on your face; go and play with a pet if you have one. If you're craving TV, opt for a book instead.

Moreover, take this time to listen to your body. If you feel like you're getting sick, it might be best to call it a day and get some proper rest.

5. Speak to Colleagues

Thanks to the magic of video conferencing, you can speak to and see your colleagues. Not only is this good for your productivity but if you're home alone, a little bit of human contact helps to replicate a traditional work environment.

Try to connect with someone via video call at least once a day. Start with a team meeting a couple of times a week to check in with everyone and catch up on how work is progressing from home. Or, if you're working with clients, make an effort to speak to them on a video call as this will help to strengthen your relationships while also motivating you to get on with your work.

Don't forget to call friends, too! Virtual happy hour, anyone?

6. Try to Replicate Office Routines

Ask yourself: Do you have a coffee at 10am? Do you spend your lunch break reading? Do you phone your mom on the way home from work each day? Try to replicate these routines—it'll trick your brain into thinking you're at work rather than at home.

Jess Shanahan is a freelance journalist specializing in business, tech and motoring features. Jess has written for Metro, The Guardian, British Airways’ The Club, Jaguar Land Rover’s InMotion, North Norfolk Living, Business Review Europe, Construction Global, and