Somehow, the home office has become part of our lives faster than some of us would have liked. As attractive as working from home might sound, it also has its drawbacks.
Many of us struggle more and more to focus, being exposed to a colourful array of distractions, and life can seem dull when we are so busy that we can barely make it out of the house.
The good news: There are tricks we can implement to get used to the new way of working and at the same time maintain a healthy balance for body and mind.
Because let’s face it: it will probably be quite a while before we can run around the office like we used to, surrounded by our colleagues. Until then, it will take discipline and mindfulness to cope with the new circumstances and lead a healthy lifestyle.
To brighten up your home office and get you on your first Zoom call with a smile on your face in the morning, the Humanoo team has been working around the clock.
1. A little boogie in the morning chases away sorrow and worries
Yes – we can well imagine what you are thinking right now: “Dancing? Sorry, what?” The truth is: movement and dance are invaluable – especially in difficult times. Music invites us to be attentive.
Dancing helps us to embody emotions in movements and thereby lend them expression. This way we don’t just swallow them, but give them space. This releases endorphins and even stimulates serotonin production – a natural, light drug rush, so to speak.
Music cognition researcher Gunter Kreutz studies dance and health at the University of Oldenburg. According to him, when we dance, we create new synapses in the brain and can think in a wider range (who would have thought – it will even help with your upcoming meeting!). It is said to reduce the risk of dementia by as much as 76% and to have a positive effect on our cognitive performance.
Remember, it doesn’t have to flow right away – you’re allowed to feel weird and draw the curtains the first few times. However, you will notice that you can let yourself go more each time and so start the day on a good note. This playlist will help you do that.
2. Get out of your pyjamas and sweatpants
We’ve all done it at one time or another: “All dressed up, but nothing below”. After all, your colleagues usually only see your upper body and face in the video call. Who cares if you’re still secretly wearing your pyjama bottoms and favourite slippers? Your subconscious mind!
A headline in the Berliner Morgenpost reads “Study: Poor performance due to sweatpants in the home office.” It’s less about the sweatpants as such, and more about what we subconsciously associate with our work clothes.
Anyone who goes to work in jeans and a shirt for years associates productivity and concentration with this outfit. So, when you’re sitting on the couch in your pyjamas, your mind gets precisely that signal: “It’s bedtime!” This can make it difficult for you to get going and stay focused.
So, it helps to dress up as if you’re going to work in the morning, even for you home office – including a good shower and getting ready (whatever that means for you personally!).
3. Fight your weaker self
Lack of exercise in the home office is the number one risk factor for your health. Can you imagine that we sit at our desks for about 7.5 hours per working day and, at worst, only use our hands to type during this time? Then when we look at our step counter in the evening, we are horrified to find a number between 300 and 1000.
A group of US researchers looked at the health effects of our daily steps. It was found that a higher number of steps is associated with a significantly lower risk of death. In addition, they found that study participants who managed to double their initial number of 4,000 steps had a 50% lower risk of dying. Those who reached 12,000 steps were even 65% less at risk.
Need some motivation? That’s exactly why we have created the Step Challenge at Humanoo. Here, you can register and join many others in beating the home office blues. You can win high-quality designer furniture, delicious snack boxes, beautiful plants, or the popular 6-minute diary.
4. Create a sense of stability and safety with routines
The main reason why working from home can throw us off balance is the blurring of the boundaries between private life and work.Back in the day, we used to get ready, get dressed, and walk out the house; but nowadays, many of us roll out of bed onto the couch, open our laptops, and get straight to work.
What sounds tempting also has a negative effect on your mental health and physical well-being. A lack of spatial separation between work and home can lead to needless overtime and a dreary atmosphere in one’s own four walls.
What will help you here are routines and rituals that draw clear boundaries. You have to find out for yourself exactly what that means to you. Here are a few inspirations:
- Go for a walk every morning, noon, or evening to mark the beginning of a new part of the day.
- Establish a morning routine with consistent activities such as exercise, a cup of tea or coffee, meditation, breathing exercises, or journaling.
- Write a to-do list in the morning with the important upcoming tasks (Note: 3 items are better than 30!).
- Take a real break from the screen during your lunch.
- Keep strict end-of-day times and finish the working day with a ritual (e.g. change of clothes).
In this way, we do both our employer and ourselves a big favour if we follow fixed routines and set clear boundaries – especially when working at home. This is how to prevent burnout and take care of our productivity.
5. Catch up with colleagues and friends for in-depth discussions
Social contacts are essential for survival, and isolation makes us ill – this has been proven by numerous studies. Humans need interaction.
But nowadays, it’s easy to get sucked into the home office hole and days go by without really having a deep conversation with a confidant. Yet there are lots of ways to find human connection – even if only virtually for the time being. Just allow yourself to embrace your need for closeness.
Finding time for it in advance will help you establish a routine here as well. Here, too, there are numerous ideas:
- Walk by the waterfront
- Games evening via Zoom
- Skype coffee & cake
- Play a virtual game of ‘categories’ with family or friends
6. Make sure you get a restful and balanced sleep
In a study conducted by the health insurance company, mhplus, “Sleeping in the time of Corona”, researchers found that 64% of Germans have changed their sleeping pattern because of the pandemic. Lack of exercise, the double burden of homeschooling and increased media consumption upset many people’s circadian rhythm, and that has a toll on their sleep.
More than half of us struggle to fall asleep at night and don’t feel rested in the morning. 54% of the participants responded that they would rather stay in bed in the mornings. 53% say they sleep restlessly at night and wake up several times.
There is nothing to sugarcoat – these are worrying figures that we have to take seriously. Disturbed sleep patterns are a fertile ground for psychological disparities.
This is a wake-up call for all of us, as with mindfulness and a greater awareness of our needs, we can sustainably influence our sleep behaviour. A few tips to get you started:
- Avoid going to bed with a full stomach.
- Stay away from alcohol.
- Stick to regular sleeping times.
- Put your smartphone away at least two hours before going to bed.
- Make sure the room is dark.
- Don’t sleep in a room that’s too warm – 18 degrees maximum.
- Sleep rituals using meditation or breathing exercises do wonders!
Home office is no one-way street: Both sides bear the responsibility
Many companies are beginning to realise that this new way of working will probably last longer than we first imagined. In this context, both employees and managers are responsible.
In the future, companies should provide employees with everything they need so that they can go about their daily work without stress. This includes the right office furniture and also a laptop, the right software programs, etc.
Companies are also responsible for creating an infrastructure where employees can exchange ideas and experience closeness – something like a virtual coffee kitchen where they used to socialise before the pandemic.
However, employees also have their own share of responsibility in this. And that is to treat your own body and mind with care, so that both can adapt to the new challenge in the best possible way.
So, how are you going to look after yourself in your home office set-up in future?
We hope that this article has motivated you to bring more structure and well-being into your home, so that you can be even more productive in your home office in the future.
Don’t forget: A home office set-up is a special experience that we can all learn from. If we create the right environment, we can build a workspace in our own homes that will support us in our daily tasks without overwhelming us.
Yes, and the bosses? They should continue to practise letting go and trusting that employees can do their jobs and concentrate in the comfort of their own homes without the need for control. This creates a fantastic basis for a working relationship between equals.
In any case, we at Humanoo will do our best to support both sides in the most efficient way.
Your Humanoo Team