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Top ways to thrive while working from home

From reclaiming your space to setting your boundaries, we give you the lowdown on how to WFH, and be both productive and happy.

Last updated: 20 Oct 2021 6 min read

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With plans afoot for UK staff to be able to request flexible working from day one in a job, and others deciding to stick to working from their homes for the foreseeable future, we take a look at how you can thrive at home, especially when you’re on your own. 

With more opportunities than ever for remote working, our tips will ensure you stay connected, motivated and productive.

Set your boundaries

Are you working from home (WFH) or living at work? Having firm boundaries in place is essential to managing your energy and creating a balance.

Noam Sagi, psychotherapist and change facilitator, says: “Boundaries are incredibly important. We engage on a different wavelength when we engage with work versus household jobs. When working from home, we need to create the right environment for ourselves and check in with how we are working and where we are working. We need to establish an environment that fits the energetic vibration of work. This isn’t just about your physical space and maintaining physical well-being, but also about creating the right mindset.”

Having set work hours is essential to productivity. “It’s important to also add in the context of time and specify when you are doing home and work tasks,” he explains. “Time can serve as a boundary. If there are no time boundaries, you are at risk of falling short on your execution plan.”

Find meaning in your work

It is really important to find meaning in your work. Studies have consistently highlighted that employees who find a sense of purpose will be more engaged and this is critical to career progression and performance.

“Our brain rewards us when we connect and engage positively with others. Interacting with other human beings: laughing, sharing stories, getting support and advice, all result in a boost of the hormone oxytocin”Dr Sam Mather, neuro-practitioner and leadership consultant

Jessica Heagren, CEO and co-founder of That Works For Me, says: “How often does someone say they love their work? Not often – it’s the holy grail. Most people are satisfied with something that provides them with the right balance of challenge and interest with ability. Others are happy to go to work, do a job, and come home again. But most people want some sense of achievement in their work, whether extrinsic, such as teaching or working for the NHS, or intrinsic, where it’s more about personal accomplishment and satisfaction. Meaning gives us the impetus to get out of bed each day.”

Finding purpose in our work can also help us stay focused when times are tough.

Dr Sam Mather, who is a neuro-practitioner, leadership consultant, and author of Rise Together, says: “Finding meaning and purpose in what you do provides a stable horizon and direction, no matter what boat you are in or how choppy the waters are. Studies in Japan on longevity support this theory, demonstrating that it gives your life meaning to be clear on your purpose. This provided a sense of well-being, thereby reducing the body’s stress response.

“We spend a large portion of our lives at work. Having meaning at work improves our well-being, sense of purpose and can prove to be more rewarding than material rewards.”

Assess your workspace

If you have been WFH for some time, the chances are that you now have a dedicated workplace but could invest time thinking about how it could be improved.

“If your company has changed its policy on homeworking, ask about budget for workspace. Companies still have a duty of care to you so if you’re really struggling or find new neck and back pains emerging, speak to your manager or HR team to see what they can do to help. You should still be completing workspace assessments so if you are not, then find out why not,” explains Heagren.

There are many ways you can create a more pleasant working environment, with plenty of light and ventilation. If there is no natural light, consider a SAD lamp that mimics natural daylight to improve mood.

“We wouldn’t accept a basement office with no light so we shouldn’t do that at home either,” adds Heagren. “If no windows are available, look at natural light lamps, flowers and photos.”

It is really important to minimise any distractions. “Try to ensure that your environment is free from distractions, such as TV, other people chatting in the background,” says Sagi. “Clean up your environment as much as you can. Plants have been shown to increase well-being and productivity, too.”

Utilise tech to work for you

While tech has become commonplace for all remote working, take time to consider how you use it and how you can leverage it to your advantage.

Dr Mather adds: “We sometimes forget that we control technology, not the other way round. Take control and enable technology to fit around you. Rather than reactively responding to emails as they come in, schedule time in your day to address them. Use your diary to schedule prep time for meetings or presentations and block out downtime. Remember there is an off switch – use it.”

It is worth considering how apps and music could help. Sagi says: “There are some great apps that remind us to take breaks, change posture, and look away from the screen, eg Workrave, Big Stretch Reminder and EyeLeo. Music and different playlists for different work moods can also be extremely helpful; uplifting music for the afternoon, classical for concentration, or whatever works for you.”

Is it time for a tech upgrade? “Buy a decent camera for video calls. There’s nothing more depressing than a day of video calls spent where you feel you don’t look your best. A good camera can help make the world of difference to your confidence,” says Heagren.

Stay connected

Not being around colleagues or in an office environment can make you feel isolated and cause you to become demotivated, so engage with others as much as possible.

Dr Mather adds: “Our brain rewards us when we connect and engage positively with others. Interacting with other human beings: laughing, sharing stories, getting support and advice, all result in a boost of the hormone oxytocin (known as the love or cuddle hormone). It makes us feel good. So, maybe have some meetings over coffee if you can. Hold ‘meetings’ that have a loose, or no, agenda. Have a chat. Ask how people are. Identify the people who make you laugh and feel good about yourself and ensure that you see more of them – physically or virtually.”

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