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By Alex Hattingh, Chief People Officer, Employment Hero.

We’ve all been impacted by the ‘Great Lockdown’, being away from our offices since early March. After over nine months of remote working, we are all missing that vital connection to work, our colleagues and now the annual office festivities. With parties and team drinks around the UK being cancelled or moved online, it is important we keep spirits and productivity high as we approach the final weeks of a tumultuous 2020.

From adding a little sparkle to your ‘home office’ to throwing on some East17 to get you through that final weekly report, Alex Hattingh, Chief People Officer from Employment Hero is here to save you and your team from remote working woes.

Get started early

Start your day right. The first hour of your day often determines your productivity levels. Start by getting dressed – a festive Christmas jumper can help lift spirits and add a little more excitement to that daily zoom call. Then, make your bed. There’s a reason your mother used to nag you about making your bed. According to productivity expert Charles Duhigg, making your bed is a ‘keystone skill’ of successful people. Why? Because it’s one small accomplishment right at the beginning of your day. This habit tells your brain, “Right, today is going to be productive. We’re going to get stuff done”. So, when the alarm goes off and your work from home day begins, make your day. There are other ways to inject productivity into your morning – and your day. Exercise is key. If you’re stuck inside, find a workout video on YouTube and throw on some Christmas tunes. Get the whole household in on the action. Quarantine might keep you out of the gym, but it doesn’t mean you have to neglect your workout routine! It’s a well-established fact that exercise improves productivity. 

However, you start your day, do it thoughtfully. Rolling out of bed and straight onto social media isn’t likely to boost your ability to work well from home. A healthy routine is essential.

Pretend like you are going into the office

While commuting to the office may be dull, it’s a consistent ritual that puts you in the mindset to work. Recreate that working mindset while working remotely by spending some time at the start of the day clearing anything unnecessary from your work area. Dedicate some time to have a good setup in your home, that way you’re in good stead to be as productive as possible. Maybe even throw on some tinsel, Christmas lights, or a mini desk Christmas tree to feel like you are back in the office.

Check your posture

Remember to always be conscious of your posture. Expert advice from Physiotherapist Caitlyn Reid (Aprive Wellness) suggests that exercise ball chairs are a good tool for back support. These slightly work your muscles just by repositioning on the ball over the course of the day. Reid does however specify that exercise ball chairs should only be used for short amounts of time in tandem with a desk chair, and only if it is the correct size.

Despite what Boris says, don’t stay at home

Ironically, you should leave your Christmas desk space at least once a day. Stretching your legs and getting some natural light (and enjoying Christmas lights) can help decrease fatigue and distraction. This also helps simultaneously improve your mood and physical wellbeing. Grab lunch down the road, do yoga in the living room, water the plants or walk the dog around the block. Whatever it is, a little cardio exercise and fresh air will stop you from getting bogged down while working.  Another simple productivity hack is simply:  move around. Spend an hour at your kitchen table and then half an hour on your sofa. Move to your desk for a few hours. If you’ve got phone calls to take, stand up and walk around your home to clock up some steps. Sometimes, a change of environment keeps our brain alert and boosts productivity. Give it a try.

Know your limits

We’ve all been there, stuffing our faces with mince pies after dinner and putting a stop to it before we’re full. You can also apply this to your social media usage. Unless important, it’s always best to go cold turkey and keep your phone out of sight to avoid doom scrolling.

If you still can’t resist the urge to check social media on your phone or computer, there is a saving grace. App blockers such as Stay Focused and Cold Turkey will ensure you no longer need to tire yourself out using self-control.

Commit to doing more

Remote work has now become the new norm, and just like keeping on top of Christmas wish lists for family and friends, make sure you have a thought-out work schedule. Don’t just do the bare minimum. Accountability accelerates productivity. We all work harder when we know someone is checking in. That’s why people pay for personal trainers! The watchful eye of someone we respect is often excellent motivation for working hard. In the office, there is natural accountability. Your colleagues will notice if you’re scrolling through Instagram instead of your inbox. Your boss will notice if you take a three-hour lunch break. That’s not the case when you work from home. That can impact our productivity.

Work when you’re at your most productive

It’s natural that your energy and motivation levels might dip and rise during the day. No one is expecting you to charge through your data entry job from 9-5. That would be ridiculous. It depends on the flexibility of your regular office work hours, but you might find it fits your WFH schedule to do the bulk of your work in the morning and evening, leaving the middle of the day for catching up on other tasks. The important thing is to acknowledge when you work best are most motivated, and do you work then. It’s not easy to stay motivated especially during the pandemic and now Christmas, and the team at Employment Hero has been frank about that.

Save calls for the afternoon

Further to this, lots of people aren’t “morning people” especially this time of year as we enter the final few weeks of 2020, and that’s okay. One thing that works really well for those still yawning at 10 am is to schedule your calls for the afternoon when you’ve really woken up. This way you can focus on your individual tasks in the morning and work better with others later in the day. You don’t want to be yawning on that call with a team member or client, do you?

Use technology to stay connected

That little wi-fi symbol isn’t there for you to stare at while you ponder life. It means you have a connection to the world through the internet. When you work from home it can sometimes be harder to get into work mode. But once you’re there don’t forget to socialise a little too! It’s important to not be isolated and flex those communication skills every now and again. There are heaps of ways to stay connected with your co-workers while you work at home, you might schedule daily google hangouts or skype calls to check-in socially with your team at the end of the day, maybe even have a festive mulled wine to top off the day. Use all the affordances tech provides you these days. Normally speak with your team over conference calls? Try video conferencing instead, see other people’s faces, encourage people to wear some festive accessories! You’ll feel better for it.

Music and motivation

During this festive season, music might just be the key to keep spirits high. Depending on the individual, listening to music while you work can help with productivity and focus. It can even have an effect on your memory. Who knew? On the other hand some studies have shown that music can also be distracting. Listening to music without lyrics like classical baroque might be just what you’re looking for to help you get super-focused.

Use laundry as a work timer

This one sounds odd but hear us out. You work at home so why not involve your home jobs in helping make you more productive? While you run a load of washing, find something on your task list that you can get done before the washing is ready to dry or hang on the line. If you’re using a dryer, that’s another revolution in which to complete another task. Hanging it on the line? That’s a few minutes to go outside and get some fresh air. It’s the perfect way to bring some balance between work and life.

Interact with other humans

We said it before, we’ll say it again. When you work from home it doesn’t mean you should shun contact with other humans. Take some time across the day to speak with your family or housemates – we need this more than ever during this festive season when we might not be able to see our loved ones. Go for that walk and grab a coffee and say hi to your local barista. Remember you might work remotely but you don’t have to live remotely.

Shut down, switch off and say goodbye to 2020

At the end of the day, routine is key. You want to make sure you don’t spend your whole day working for your company. It’s important to switch off at the end of the day and more importantly, at the end of 2020. This could include the sweet satisfaction of closing all of your internet tabs and clearing your work area. Or even just going for a walk around to enjoy the Christmas markets, baking some mince pies, attempting a gingerbread house (best of luck with that!) or just getting some face-to-face time with family or friends IRL. Whatever it may be, having a small symbolic activity to do after you “leave” the home office lets you switch off from work and alleviate stress.  This is significant in reducing emotional exhaustion according to the University of Konstanz and Bowling Green University, something we will all need at the end of this year.


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