How a set routine is crucial when it comes to avoiding Work From Home anxiety

We've been here before. Kitchens have become the new boardroom, living areas have converted into call centres and laptops can be found sprawled across dining room tables.

But while the acronym working from home, WFH, has weaved its way into our everyday vocabulary, many are still unsure over how to establish a healthy routine in order to prevent burnout and reduce the feeling of living in the office.

The order to work from home came into force on Monday 13 December in England after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that 'Plan B' would be implemented in order to stop the spread of the omicron coronavirus variant.

Here, executive careers coach Ruth Richards, 41, who lives in London with her partner and sons, aged two and five, exclusively shared her insight with OK! into how to successfully establish a healthy working from home pattern over the festive period…

Establishing routine

For many, the commute is not something that is missed. Hours spent squashed on tubes and waiting for trains as the temperature plummets, is what most office workers would happily forget.

However, Ruth explained how mimicking the routine can often help with creating a sense of work-life balance.

She revealed: "I would really recommend marking the start and end of your working day as much as possible. Some people find it quite useful to add a commute.

"Even if it is just a 10-minute walk around the block to say: 'This is when I am starting work and this is when I am ending work.'"

Ruth continued: "If it is possible to put away your laptop or work folders so if you have a drawer or a box you can just put them away in that can help you stop looking at them all evening and thinking: 'Oh I will just jump on and check another email!'"

Taking breaks

Munching on a sandwich at the dining room table while tapping away to finish an email can be very familiar while working from home.

Meanwhile the cold and grey weather can often mean staying inside all day. However Ruth revealed that taking a short walk in the middle of the day is especially important during the winter months.

She said: "Yes, especially at this time of year, if you can get a little bit of daylight in your lunch hour that can massively help with mental health."

Creating boundaries

A desk in a bedroom is what most people would associate with students, however many office workers have found themselves working their nine til five within inches of their bed.

But, how can it be possible to establish boundaries within such close proximities?

Ruth added: "That is really difficult and that is where trying to put equipment away at the end of the day can help. I have a box that I can just put my laptop in and then I can put that under the bed at night."

"It is really hard because there is a productivity element to it. Research shows that if you are working on something then if you go away and come back to it – it takes you time to refocus."

The expert added: "In terms of work-life balance, being able to build resilience is all about having time to switch off so you need to give yourself time to chill out so you have that topped-up battery of resilience to make sure you are able to be able to cope with whatever life throws at your next."

Working alongside partners

Asked about how to work effectively alongside partners, flatmates or family, Ruth explained: "It puts a whole new spin on the relationship because we don't normally see our partners in that light.

"It is just about having conversations before things become difficult so, again, setting boundaries and a routine about how to manage working in a shared space.

"Try and have those conversations at the outset about understanding what people need."

She added: "I think whatever works for the individual but my feeling is that people need separate spaces because calls can be quite distracting with someone else in the room and then there is a confidentiality aspect.

Top three tips to nail WFH

'Manage your energy rather than your time'

"Over a couple of days take some time to map your energy levels at different times on the day so see how you are ebbing and flowing throughout the day and the as much as possible try and build your routine around that," Ruth explained.

"If you are someone who has loads of energy first thing in the morning – that might be the time to do some really focused work.

"If you are better in the evening, working from home can be an opportunity to work to your energy flow a bit more effectively than you might in the office."

The Pomodoro Technique

Ruth revealed: "The technique can be really helpful to not get distracted by the other stuff going on in the house. Set a timer for 25 minutes and you just have to work on that one task for 25 minutes.

"Then when the timer goes off you have a three-minute break and then go into another Pomodoro. Then after four you give yourself a 15-minute break.

"It kind of forces you to sit down and do one thing for 25 minutes which is kind of the natural attention span for a human being."

Mark a beginning and an end to your working day

Ruth ended: "If you are not getting on a bus or a tube then take the time to walk around the block for 10 minutes at the beginning and the end of the day to make that your commute."

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