How to work from home and find balance

Working from home during lockdown certainly has its benefits, but improved mental health is generally not considered to be one of them! When you work in the same environment you spend your day-to-day in days begin to bleed into one another. Social contact starts to become a distant memory, and the urge to spend all day in your PJs is strong.

This is not only bad for your health, but also productivity.

Of course, this is drastically exaggerated during lockdown seeing as you also now lack the option of going out in the evening!

Also read: Working from home with kids: Work-life balance for WFHers

This is not only bad for your health but also productivity. Without proper balance, it can be extremely difficult to stay focussed and productive.

Fortunately, as someone who has been working from home for the past 10 years, I’ve developed some tricks to find balance. Hopefully, these can help you learn how to work from home during lockdown and how to generally survive being stuck at home for most of the day. Every day. 

Get social contact elsewhere

I’m something of an introvert, which has led me to enjoy working from home all this time. But even I quickly learned that I needed some social stimulus if I was going to figure out how to work from home and stay… well, normal.

The solution for me was to meet with friends and family during lunch breaks. As I was free to travel while working, I’d work in a coffee shop near one of those friends, and then we’d get lunch when they were on their break.

Also read: How to video chat with family and friends on your smartphone

I needed some social stimulus if I was going to figure out how to work from home and stay… well, normal.

That’s not going to happen during lockdown, but you can call your friends and relatives. That small bit of social contact is better than nothing, and what better time to do it?

Likewise, you can and should take the time to meet friends online for get-togethers. Playing a few rounds of Drawful 2 over Skype with glass of wine is nearly as good as actually having a board game evening with those friends at your place.

This little bit of stimulation will make sitting in front of a computer all day seem a lot less repetitious, and will help you to stay focused. If you want to know how to work from home, you need to know how to unwind first.

Take time off

This might seem like a strange time to take a vacation, but it can actually be a very useful option for keeping you and your family sane during lockdown. A staycation could provide you with the perfect time to work on home projects, to spend time with family, or just to relax.

If you’re struggling working from home, then this will reduce the amount of time you need to spend doing that, while also breaking up those long stretches of monotony.

Also read: Top 12 online tools for home office workers

And if your family is struggling with the lockdown, then they will benefit from having you around. You may well find that your partner could use some help looking after the kids, or that your housemate who isn’t able to work from home could use a little distraction!

Make plans

One of the things that bites most about lockdown in general, is having to cancel all of your plans. Holidays, weekend breaks, and time visiting friends are now all things of the past. Again, this impacts on your ability to work from home as you lose that “light at the end of the tunnel” to work toward.

Thus it falls to us to be more creative when it comes to plans. This is also another great way to we can keep our loved ones sane.

Some examples of “things to look forward to” that you can plan around the home, include:

  • Board game nights
  • Meals outside by candlelight
  • Themed meals
  • Sleeping in a tent in the garden
  • Movie nights
  • Purchases that provide activities (e.g. a telescope that you can then use for star-gazing, a VR headset, or a trampoline)
  • Long (socially distant) walks

Get out your diary and book in some fun days to try new things, get moving, and spend time with your family.

Start a side project

If you’re learning how to work from home for the first time, you should find you actually have a little more time to be productive. This is because you’ll have lost your commute, and you’ll have fewer distractions around the office (no more water-cooler gossip sessions).

Start a side project working from home

Once you become self-disciplined enough to stay on-task, this can provide you with ample opportunity to do more than is required of you. That’s where you’ll then gain the freedom to start developing yourself to further your career.

Also read: Home office setup: How to separate your work space so you stay productive

This may mean gaining additional skills by taking a course, or it might mean working on some kind of side project. A side project can provide you with a focus and a sense of progression when everything else seems to have ground to a halt. As an example, I’m currently working on a book with a publisher. This is extremely rewarding and helps me to feel like I’m making meaningful progress, despite being trapped in the house.

Exercise

Chances are you’ve heard just how bad sitting for long periods can be for you: your heart weakens from lack of exercise, your shoulders round, your hip flexors become tight, and your general mobility and energy levels plummet.

That’s all true if you work a normal office job. Now imagine how much worse that must be once you lose the commute as well! If you’re spending all day stuck at home in front of the computer, then you absolutely cannot simply spend your evenings in front of the television!

How to work from home stay fit

Fresh air and sunlight are extremely good for you – in fact vitamin D is thought to be significantly better for your immune system as compared with vitamin C. Moreover, exercise has numerous profound benefits for your mental prowess, providing immediate improvements in focus, creativity, and problem solving.

My advice is to go for one walk to get the fresh air, but also try to get in a workout session from home. This way, you maximize the amount of activity and movement you get throughout the day and avoid the numerous deleterious effects of staying stationary all day.

Also read: How to work with a partner at home and not kill each other

Learning how to balance activity with productivity is key to learning how to work from home.

Vary your surroundings

I mentioned earlier that I used to work in coffee shops near my friends’ offices so that we could hang out at lunch. This not only kept me social, but also ensured that I wasn’t constantly stuck in the same four walls.

Also read: How to stay sane working from home

This option may no longer be available to you at home during lockdown. But that’s not to say you can’t move around a bit! While you might predominantly work from your desk, there is nothing to stop you from taking your laptop to a sofa when answering emails. You can even do a little work outdoors!

And you’d be surprised just how much you can get done on a tablet these days. By moving around, you will keep the blood flowing, avoid boredom, and even prevent some postural issues that come from being fixed to the spot.

Working From Home With Kids

Discipline

But none of this is going to work unless you can also develop the kind of discipline that working from home requires. In order to find balance, you need to ensure that you are working set hours, but also getting time off to relax and unwind. That means you can’t spend half your day procrastinating, and it means you mustn’t end up working into the small hours of the morning.

This is a skill in itself, but you can find some tips and advice in a previous post, so read that one next:

How to focus on work when you’re working from home

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