How to make working from home sustainable

Zone delivery director Zara Powell hears some valuable advice on how to avoid burnout in the ‘new normal’

As part of the OneTechWorld virtual conference I joined a talk by Harriet Minter called ‘How to ace your career, working from home’. Having now worked from home for almost 18 months I thought this would be an interesting talk — partly because I feel like we have got into the groove of it now, but also because there’s the fear of burnout as we continue in this new normal.

Harriet argued that having set working hours — and therefore boundaries — are hugely important. She raised some really interesting points about maximising productivity, saying that if you exceed 45 hours per week (which is easily done starting earlier and finishing work later), it can take months for productivity to recover if you are feeling overworked or burned out — not to mention the risks to your health.

This raised the question: how can you modify your working patterns to best suit you, and then in turn benefit your company? The main takeaways I took from this were:

  • Design your working patterns to work for you and work with your natural energy patterns
  • Map out what works best for you so you can apply it no matter where you are working
  • Consider what lifts your energy and what brings it down
  • Have regular check-ins with your line manager to share what you are doing
  • Factor in how to build your network and keep in contact remotely

Harriet shared some practical tips to make working from home more sustainable that I am going to take back into my teams and apply myself. For example, people find meetings quite tiring — particularly back-to-back meetings — so try to book your meetings later in the day to give you some focused allow you time in the mornings to have focused work time.

In reality, that’s not always possible and so Harriet suggests doing something to help with your energy ahead of a call to help you be on top form. This could be going for a short walk before the call or even, my favourite tip, to have a dance around the living room to help lift some energy!

Another tip is to schedule some working time after your meetings. This helps to avoid Zoom fatigue, and gives you the time you need afterwards for thinking and doing.

Finally, something to leave you with is the importance of rest, and understanding when you should, and shouldn’t. The reality is, eight hours from home is equivalent to two days in the office, which is simply exhausting. In the office there are distractions: people stop by your desk, you go out and grab coffee, you catch up with colleagues, you might even squeeze in some life admin — these are all things that disappear when you are at home.

Building breaks into your working day at home will help prevent exhaustion and allow you to start improving your work/life balance. While that might feel tricky in the short term, as there is always so much work to do (the thought of it makes me feel uncomfortable), it goes back to the title of this article ­– how we can make this new normal sustainable.

If having a few short breaks to reflect your old normal working day supports you in not burning out — well, in that case, I think I might go and put the kettle on now.

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