With tighter restrictions meaning many people won't be going into the office, the home environment may not be suited to long periods of work. Here's what you'll need over the coming days and weeks:
The next 48 hours
In the last lockdown, Britons experienced a “posture pandemic” caused by working on makeshift office equipment. So this time around, focus on designing a workspace that is ergonomically perfect.
“Before you leave the office, ask your HR team what’s needed to create the right set-up: your laptop should be elevated, you should have an external keyboard, and a chair that improves your seated posture,” says Sadie Restorick, a specialist in workplace wellbeing. She adds that, for optimum productivity in winter, the desk should be positioned by a window to get the most natural light possible. For the long evenings, consider buying a SAD lamp for your desk to help maintain your energy levels. Even a simple pot plant can have a mood-boosting effect.
With schools remaining open, home-workers won’t have the additional strain of childcare. However, to combat the pressure of appearing “always on”, Restorick says it’s a good idea to have an honest conversation with your manager about your family’s schedule over the next month. “Be upfront about what you can’t do, and the times you will be unavailable, such as during the school run,” she says.
The next four weeks
We tend to feel more lethargic in winter months, which could increase our risk of developing burnout. According to Restorick, shifting your exercise routine to the morning will improve your energy levels. To avoid overworking, workplace wellbeing expert Anji McGrandles says we should log off at the same time each day, and reserve the dark evenings for mood-boosting activities. “Batch-cook healthy meals, sign up to an online course, or start to plan your Christmas gifts,” she says.
Heating bills may be a cause for concern this year, too. According to a study by Energy Helpline, the average household energy bill could climb by £107 this winter for those working from home five days a week. Under existing Government rules, workers are guaranteed compensation for remote working costs via tax relief from HMRC; between £1.20 to £2.40 a week, depending on the rate of tax you pay. “Your company might support you when it comes to covering some of the cost of utility bills, so it’s always worth asking,” says McGrandles. Alternatively, buy a small electric heater to go under your desk, or some draught excluders for your doorways.
Dreading Zoom fatigue already? There might be new rules for that. According to Imogen Dall, author of The Burnout Survival Kit, some companies have introduced “think-time” since the last lockdown, where Zoom calls are banned during certain times in the day. If this option isn’t available, be clear about your boundaries and don’t get drawn into office politics. “This time around, we know that not every meeting has to be a video chat; send emails where you can, and don’t be afraid to say no to co-workers if you’ve got too much on,” says McGrandles.
And, finally, get a virtual Christmas party with your colleagues in the diary. “Having something to look forward to in these times is an important way of boosting team morale,” says Restorick.
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