Ditching the office and making your home your workplace can give a real boost to your quality of life, especially if it means saying goodbye to a dreary commute.
But removing all the boundaries between work and the rest of your life can be a major source of stress too. Some home-workers find they feel like they’re always on call and they can never switch off.
You want to enjoy the benefits without feeling stressed or isolated, so we’ve hunted down some expert advice on how to take care of yourself while working from home.
Keep to a routine
The extra flexibility of working from home can be a major asset. But the NHS warns that “without steady schedules, the lines between work and personal time can get blurred and be stressful to get right”.
It advises: “Follow your normal sleep and work patterns if you can and stay consistent.” Keeping a regular bedtime is key for good sleep, which has a huge impact on concentration, stress levels and mood.
Give yourself breaks
If you’re a driven, motivated worker, you might be harder on yourself than any boss looking over your shoulder. But you’ll get more done if you build in breaks. Try the Pomodoro technique, alternating 25-minute periods of intense focus with short pauses to refresh your mind.
“Take a real lunch break and take it away from your computer,” business coach Lindsay Anvik advises in Business Insider. “It’ll be there when you get back. How are you going to take over the world if you don’t have any fuel?”
Managers may fear that their staff working from will secretly be watching Netflix or doing the laundry on company time. “In my experience and observation, the opposite is usually true – people tend to work more from home because it’s harder to ‘leave’ work,” says careers expert Lindsay Pollak.
She suggests protecting your time by setting in-office hours and communicating them with colleagues and family – to avoid distractions from home, or work taking over your life at all times of day.
Working from home can be isolating, especially for those of us who live alone. Garen Staglin, co-founder of mental health organisation One Mind at Work, says one study suggests that 19% of home workers suffer from loneliness, which can be worse for our health than obesity.
He says some companies have encouraged setting “virtual coffee breaks” during work hours to encourage casual conversation between remote workers, while others have created a “watercooler” channel in software such as Slack or Microsoft Teams, where breaktime chatter is encouraged.
With nothing to force us out of the house, and work pressures mounting, 46% of us have been getting less exercise while working from home, according to a survey for the Royal Society of Public Health. That’s bad news for mental and physical wellbeing.
So Mental Health First Aid England suggests finding time for a walk, cycle or run before work to mark the start of your day. “Try walking-and-talking meetings, using your phone if you spend a lot of time on a screen. Make the most of lunchtimes and the end of the day to get some fresh air and put a natural pause in your day,” it suggests.