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By The Next Step

How to manage working from home

6 min
Woman working from home

With many universities changing their modes of study in the wake of COVID-19, you may find yourself studying from home more often than before. While this works well for some, it might be unfamiliar to others, so we’ve compiled some top tips to help get you through.

Starting your day off right

Keeping as much of your routine in tact as possible will help you adjust to studying from home, especially if you feel overwhelmed by your workload. Try to maintain some normality and continue your usual habits where possible, such as the times you wake, sleep, exercise and eat.

It can be tempting to slob around in your pyjamas when you don’t have to leave the house, but it’s tricky to get in the mindset of being productive if you do. So while it might seem obvious to some, having a shower and getting dressed as you would for a day of lectures can help you get in the zone.

The set up

One thing that you can benefit from is having a solid set up, by dedicating a working space at a desk or table. Get organised with all your necessities to hand, such as your laptop, notepad, pen and water bottle. This will help you to get into the right mindset to start work as soon as you sit down.

The idea of studying on your sofa or in bed may seem tempting, but it will soon become difficult to separate your working time from your leisure time when both are done it the same spot. Save the lounge for lounging!

While it may feel comfortable, slouching in your chair can cause increased tension and strain on your muscles. Make sure you have a supportive chair at your work station and try to get into the habit of sitting with your back at 90 degrees, your feet planted on the ground and your knees and elbows at 90 degrees.

Be careful not to hunch over your keyboard or poke out your chin by ensuring your screen is at the right height and angle. Exercises to strengthen you core and back muscles will give you additional support and can make for a nice break from sitting down.

Being productive

Planning your day or writing a to-do list is also a great tool for when you’re working from home. This way, you can manage your work and break time and keep track of your routine.

As for the workload, it’s easy to lose focus on what you need to prioritise and complete, so checking tasks off your list can alleviate some of that stress.

Try to track the work you’re doing so you can reflect on it later or the next day. This may be in the form of:

  • Using to-do lists
  • Goal-setting
  • Following a planner/calendar
  • Testing your knowledge

If you’re used to working or revising with friends - whether that be in lectures, seminars or getting together to swap notes - why not pick up the phone and speak to them throughout your day? That way, you’re staying focused on your work whilst also checking in on your friends.

Taking regular breaks

Breaks are really important when working from home. On a normal day in lectures and clinics, you’ll naturally earn regular breaks by moving between rooms, getting lunch and chatting to friends. But when it comes to working at home, it’s tempting to work right through.

Short breaks away from your work station mean you’ll get to stretch your legs and give your mind a rest, so you’ll come back to your work feeling refreshed and more productive.

Your eyes deserve a rest too, since the brightness and glare of a screen can leave them feeling tired, blurry or dry. Try the 20-20-20 rule, where you take a 20 second break from your screen every 20 minutes by looking 20 feet into the distance.

This is enough time for your eyes to relax and refocus before returning to work. You may find it helps to adjust the settings on your screen so that the blue light is reduced, the contrast isn’t too strong, and the brightness is similar to that of your screen’s surroundings.

When working from home and having your kitchen at your disposal, try to capitalise on the opportunity to prepare and eat something nourishing and enjoy it away from your desk. You might be more mindful of what and how you’re eating if you choose not to take a working lunch.

Remove distractions

During the time you have dedicated to work, it’s important that you resist the temptation to pick up your phone, perhaps to chat to friends and family or keep up to date on ever evolving news.

To stay focused, mute notifications and let your group chats know that you are having some tech-free time.  If it’s an emergency, they can always ring you.

If you share your home with others, it may be worth letting them know you would like some time undisturbed time in your room, or that you’ll come down to chat when you’re on your next break.

Enjoy your downtime

You’ll be used to the need to wind down after a long day of studying, but this can feel like more of a challenge if you’ve been in the same spot at home all day. Try to keep up your usual routine of downtime or find new ways to relax. 

Try to limit your exposure to the news and social media if current affairs are making you feel worried or anxious. Check in with loved ones when you can – sometimes a quick video call can really brighten your day.

While keeping in touch is important, remember to feel confident in setting boundaries on how much you want to talk about what’s going on in the outside world.

Reading, listening to a podcast or practicing meditation can help you to manage your thoughts. Remember there is lots of help available to you if you are feeling overwhelmed.

The NHS provides some great resources for managing stress, depression and anxiety. You can also contact the Samaritans hotline 24/7 on 116 123 if you would like to speak to someone confidentially.