Tuesday | 14 April | 2020
By Dr. Eugene Brink
The lockdown due to Covid-19 is an unprecedented move for all of us. Most office workers have been forced to alter their lives and work according to new protocols and schedules.
Although some of it – such as not having to deal with traffic – is assuredly positive and convenient, it could be a battle to avoid disruption and stay productive and positive during these times. One could easily foster the wrong habits that lead to distorted results during a time that many of us are still required to deliver on deadlines and results.
Here are some easy-to-follow hints and tips to make the most of this time and ensure that you don’t arrive back at the office with a pile of unfinished work:
- Set up a dedicated workspace
“While it may be tempting to spend the workday in bed or on the couch with your laptop resting on a pillow, this can prove to be an unproductive way of working. If you don’t have a home office already, it’s now essential that you turn a dedicated room or nook into one,” advises tech company PayFast in a blog post.
They further recommend converting a desk or table into a workstation by decorating it with all of your essentials such as stationary, a power supply for your computer and an always-full cup of hot coffee. “Add a comfortable chair that offers support and you’re good to go. Ideally, your workstation should be situated in a quiet room like a spare bedroom to avoid distraction from young children or playful pets. This will also ensure uninterrupted conference calls with your remote teammates.”
Furthermore, remember to sit near a window to allow for natural light.
Except if you live alone, you will have to work and get things done with children, relatives or partners around you. “This means that you need to clearly communicate that you are not on holiday and that you have a to-do list to get through. It’s also wise to let them know you are not ignoring them on purpose and that there will be time to spend quality time together,” says legal firm LAW FOR ALL.
- Structure your day like normal
Caper Business News (CBN) reports that routine and structure are crucial to making the quarantine period tolerable, and that starts with your sleep. “Research shows that keeping routines, but with some variation – having different exercises and tasks at different times – is really important,” says Jo Daniels, a clinical psychologist at the University of Bath.
Also, try spending the time you saved from your commute on something positive, such as cooking a healthy lunch or going for a jog (outside, around the house, of course).
Use your circadian rhythms. “Structure your workload depending on whether you’re an owl or a lark,” says Professor Cary Cooper, an occupational psychologist at Manchester Business School. “Do the most important work when you feel most energised, unless it has to be done before. If you’re a slow starter, doing menial tasks first and important tasks later is maybe the way to go.”
- Take breaks, exercise and bolster your mental health
This is exceedingly important and it is now that people can make time to exercise, but often don’t. “Whether it’s a quick morning stretching session or a full-on at home workout, make sure to schedule some sort of exercise on a daily basis. There is also an abundance of YouTube videos that can guide you through different exercise and yoga routines, and even some more fun activities that can involve your kids,” says PayFast.
Working from home will cause your personal and professional life blurring into one and work never really ceasing. It is thus essential take you still take a 15 minute break for every 45 minutes worked.
This ties in with protecting your mental health pro-actively during this time. A 2017 UN report found that remote workers probably experience higher stress levels than office workers due to remote workers clocking more hours as well as a lack of getting interpersonal contact and the misinterpretations that could result from it. “As well as switching off the laptop at the end of the day, make sure you do pleasurable activities for mood elevation. If you feel yourself becoming anxious, switch to exercise, reading, listening to podcasts, creative and intellectual pursuits,” says Jo Daniels.
Cape Business Network, 30 March 2020, “How to work from home successfully during lockdown”, https://www.cbn.co.za/featured/how-to-work-from-home-successfully-during-lockdown/.
LAW FOR ALL, March 2020, “Working from home: Tips on how to be productive during the COVID-19 lockdown”, https://www.lawforall.co.za/work/how-to-be-productive-during-the-covid-19-lockdown/.
PayFast, 30 March 2020, “How to stay productive during COVID-19 lockdown”, https://www.payfast.co.za/blog/how-to-stay-productive-during-covid-19-lockdown/.
* All information was correct at the time of publication.