Five tips to keep motivated while working from home during the pandemic

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Angela is a sub-editor and writer based in Dublin, Ireland. She loves puns, poetry, travelling, petting strangers’ dogs, and comedy.

It was all such a novelty at the beginning. Giving up a crowded public transport commute, setting the snooze button on the morning alarm, swapping formal office wear for leggings and cosy jumpers – working from home seemed idyllic.

But as the Covid-19 pandemic stretched on – and on – and Ireland moved in and out of lockdown, my enthusiasm for the remote working lifestyle began to wane. The sameness of every day, the constant Zoom meetings and the lack of real-life human contact began to take its toll.

With a return to the office still a long way off, and bills to be paid, giving in to despair and setting up permanent residence under my duvet is not really an option. So, I’ve been implementing some strategies into my daily routine to keep my productivity – and sanity – in check. Perhaps they will help you rejuvenate your remote working routine.

Change the scenery

When the restrictions were a little looser, I broke up the day by passing a couple of pleasant hours working in a local coffee shop. But now that we are in Level 5, coffee shops are a no-go, so I have had to be a little more imaginative.

After binge-watching Netflix’s The Home Edit – a reality show where professional home organisers help celebrities revamp and declutter their homes – I was inspired to give my own little working space a makeover.

No matter what size your home is (I live in a small apartment), there is always room to shake things up. Move around the furniture in your workspace – you’ll be surprised how much this can breathe new energy into a room. Add a vase of fresh flowers to your desk, hang a bright painting on the wall, or add some colourful cushions to a favourite chair to cheer you up when the world outside seems bleak and dismal.

Adding a new smell – with scented candles or aromatherapy oils – can revive a tired brain. Peppermint and lemongrass are excellent choices for focus and concentration.

Stretch and move!

Sitting for prolonged periods of time is unhealthy both for mind and body. In a normal office environment, people are on the move constantly – attending meetings, making cups of tea, running up and down stairs – but at home it’s easy to get stuck in the one spot for hours on end.

Every 30 minutes or so, make sure you get up and move: stretch, do jumping jacks, or step outside to get some fresh air – anything that gets the circulation going. I have a FitBit that buzzes to remind me to move if I’ve been sitting too long. Try your best not to eat at your desk and go out for a brisk walk on your lunch break instead.

Tell yourself ‘I’ll just do ten minutes’

Some days, you really, REALLY can’t get started. On these days, you need to take baby steps. So, tell yourself you will work on a task for only ten minutes.

When I was training for a half marathon a few years ago, my running buddy said to me on those cold days when I couldn’t get off the couch: “Tell yourself: I’ll just do ten minutes”. Once the body is up and moving, and ten minutes have passed, you’ve already gathered the momentum to keep going.

If the thought of carrying out a mundane or frustrating work task for three hours is making you groan with misery, tell yourself: “I’ll just do ten minutes”. Chances are, when this time is up, you’ll have broken through the procrastination barrier and can keep going.

Add some white noise

While some people find their house is already too noisy, with family members coming and going, you may find it too quiet. I started to miss the sound of office chit-chat, the buzz of ringing phones and clinking of cups coming from the kitchen. I discovered an app called MyNoise, available for free on iOS. Its sound generator – ­ called Calm Office – lets you replicate typical office sounds like photocopy machines, printers, air conditioners and other humans – so you can get into that office ‘zone’ without leaving your home.

Mark the end of the working day

With no commute, it can be tempting to keep working late into the evening, but it’s important for your health to set a designated log-off time. Determine when you will finish your day and stick to it. I don’t have a separate work space, so I like to put my laptop and work materials out of sight for the evening to allow my brain to properly switch off. Out of sight – out of mind! Although it seems like the lines between and work and life are well and truly blurred at the moment, making an effort to keep some sort of boundaries will help you make the most of relaxation time.