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Coronavirus: How to set yourself a routine when working from home

Lydia Smith
Writer, Yahoo Finance UK
It’s important to have a change of scenery once in a while even when working from home. (Getty)

In the last few weeks, many employees have had to become accustomed to working from home for the first time to curb the spread of coronavirus. For some, the opportunity to avoid commuting and work within reach of the sofa is a welcome change – despite the current circumstances.

For others, though, working from home is a challenge. According to a recent survey of 1,500 people, nearly a third said the lack of interaction with fellow co-workers is causing them stress. Unsurprisingly, more than a quarter are struggling to juggle work and childcare.

Trying to get used to a new routine is never easy, but it’s particularly difficult when you are stuck at home under lockdown. Without a daily routine, however, work can quickly consume your life when you are working remotely. Despite this, only one in seven UK workers are ‘keeping to a routine to help them get things done.

Work out how you work

Setting yourself a routine doesn’t mean starting work at 9am and finishing at 5pm. Everyone works differently and there’s no ‘right’ way of doing it – unless you have set hours, of course.

Depending on your working arrangement, your hours might already be set by your employer or client. If it’s not, however, make it a priority to do this yourself. If you’re a morning person, set your alarm early and get started when you are at your most productive.

Another idea is to split your working hours into two blocks, which can work well for parents who are working and caring for small children. This might mean you work for four hours in the morning, before taking a longer break and then putting in an additional few hours in the afternoon or evening.

Read more: Five apps to help you work from home during the coronavirus crisis

Take breaks when you usually would

If you are used to working in an office on a strict schedule, it might help to mimic that routine when you are working from home. If you usually start at 8am and take a coffee break at 10am, there’s no reason why you can’t do the same.

Even if you are stuck in your home under lockdown, it’s important to have a change of scenery once in a while. If you can, grab a flask and go for a short walk when you would normally take your coffee break, so you come back to work feeling refreshed. If you can’t go outside, step away from your screen for a few minutes and do something else. Speak to a friend, do some stretches – just something to distract yourself for a few minutes.

You can also try to recreate your favourite lunch break ritual when working from home. If you enjoyed going to the gym, do an online workout video or go for a jog. If you liked to chat with colleagues, give a friend or relative a ring.

Set aside time for personal tasks

When you first start working from home, it’s not uncommon to find yourself cleaning the house or doing dishes when you should be working. And when you’re finding it hard to focus on work, it’s easy to become distracted by the laundry you meant to do two days ago.

Instead of tackling these tasks during your working hours, set aside a specific time to get things done. It might be that you spend 20 minutes sorting the house out before you start work in the morning, or before you go to bed. 

Read more: Coronavirus: How to work from home when you live with housemates

Remember flexibility is OK

It may sound obvious, but life under quarantine is not easy and it is important to cut yourself some slack when you need it. We are living through a period of high anxiety which is taking its toll on everyone and sometimes, despite your best efforts, it can be impossible to be as productive as you usually are. 

Having a schedule is important, but there are times when your home-working routine will need to change too. If you are a parent and your child is unwell, or if there is an emergency at work or at home, you need to allow yourself flexibility to cope.