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Woman working at home on laptop

With the majority of us spending a lot more time at home than we are used to, our normal routines look almost unrecognisable to what they were just a few weeks ago.

In these changing times, it’s important to have a routine to keep your spirits up and look after your mental and physical health.

Having a healthy routine (and sticking to it) can also help you feel like you have control on your day during these uncertain times.

1. Wake up at your normal time each day

Just because you might be working from home doesn’t mean you should wake up at 8.59 am and roll over to your desk in your pyjamas at 9 am. Waking up early and at the same time each day will allow you to fully wake up and do some activities to help you feel refreshed and productive for your day ahead, like having a nutritious breakfast and doing some exercise.

Waking up at the same time each day can also help you stay on schedule and give you a definitive start and end time to your workday.  Waking up at the same time every day can also help maintain your normal sleep routine, which is as important as a healthy diet and exercise.

2. Do some exercise to get your body moving

This could be going for a jog around your block, doing some stretches in your living room (or garden) or taking the dog for a walk.

Australia’s national exercise guidelines recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity every week (this could things like a brisk walk, cycling at a moderate speed, or dancing), or at least 75 minutes of high-intensity physical activity (this may include activities that make you breathe harder such as cycling fast, jogging and interval training), or a combination of both.

The guidelines also recommend being active as many days of the week as you can. Try to build 30 minutes at least five days of the week with a routine that works for you.

3. Shower and get dressed (don’t stay in your pyjamas)

While it can be very tempting to stay in your pyjamas all day (and often one of the perks of working from home), having a shower and getting dressed will not only improve your state of mind, it will also help you mentally prepare for the day ahead.

It doesn’t necessarily mean you need to get dressed into your work clothes, although it definitely helps to get into some comfortable clothes, even if it’s just jeans and a T-shirt, so you can hit the ground running.

At the end of your day, changing out of your work clothes into more relaxing clothing helps to break up the day into clear phases and gives you a definitive end to your workday, helping you mentally switch off.

4. Stick to your work hours

When you are working from home it’s easy for work hours to blend into the rest of the day. Try and stick to your normal work hours, just as if you were at the office, with a similar start and finish time. This will give you clear boundaries between your work and personal time, which may help you stay on task and switch off at the end of the day. It could also help you stick to any promises you might have made to yourself, such as finishing at 5 pm to go for a run.

5. Set up a dedicated workspace

For those who have the space, try to set up a separate dedicated work area with everything you need, including a properly adjusted chair and desk. That way, at the end of the day you can simply close the door and ‘leave work at work’ so to speak and it will also help you avoid unnecessary distractions. If this isn’t possible and you are working from your kitchen bench or living room, it’s always good practice to switch off your computer and put away any work material, such as files or notepads, to help you feel like you have finished your workday.

6. Eat well

Stick to your meals like you normally would and avoid the temptation to snack all day (which can leave you feeling full without giving you right nutrition). Having three nutritious meals a day will help you fuel your body and mind and keep you focused on the day ahead.

A simple meal plan can help you plan for the days, week or fortnight ahead and encourage you to have a clear idea about what you’re going to eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks.

7. Take breaks

While it can be tempting to lock yourself away in your home office all day, it’s important to take regular breaks and time away from your desk to stand up and move around a bit, just like you would at the office. If you stay stuck to your screen all day, you might find your productivity levels start to drop.

A break might be making a cup of tea, doing some simple stretches or sitting in the garden or on the balcony to get some fresh air, which will give you some screen-free time as well as an opportunity to rest your brain for a moment, which might give you a fresh perspective for any tasks you might be stuck on.

Worksafe Queensland recommends taking a short break every 15 to 20 minutes to refresh the mind and body, and to take a proper lunch break (rather than eating lunch at your desk).

8. Keep talking

Social connections at work are very important, and while working from home can mean fewer distractions, it can also mean you can go a whole day without speaking to someone, which can get very lonely.

Email and instant messaging are useful but try and keep in touch with colleagues on the phone and have a real conversation can be useful. This can be much more stimulating and even more productive than mountains of email traffic. You might even set up a daily short conference call with your team so you can all touch base and see one another, just like if you were at the office, such as a daily team meeting, video lunch dates, virtual meeting over coffee or well-being chats to check in on each other.

9. Look after your mental well being

This time of uncertainty can lead to higher levels of stress and anxiety. It’s important that we also look after our minds (as well as our bodies).

  • Take time out of your day to practise some mindfulness. This can help you stay in the moment and experience the world around you.
  • Start the day by thinking of one thing that you are grateful for.
  • Stay in touch with friends and family – while we are limited to the activities we can do outside, this is a great time to stay in touch (or even reconnect) with your friends and family either locally or in a different time zone, over Facetime, WhatsApp and zoom offering endless possibilities to share coffee dates with our nearest and dearest.
  • Schedule in dedicated times to check the news, so you are not feeling overwhelmed. This could be once in the morning and once in the afternoon.

For more mental health tips visit the Dear Mind website.