Many of us have had to get used to working from home full-time ever since COVID-19 reached the UK last year. Many home workers appreciate the freedom and improved work-life balance that this new mode of working affords them – and according to Direct Line, 31% particularly enjoy saving money on travel and other related costs. But working from home is not smooth sailing for everyone. It can be challenging to be as productive at home as you would be in an office environment, and the isolation and stress of dealing with COVID-19 at the same time certainly also takes its toll.

So how do home workers make the most of their time, and ensure that they’re productive, effective, and look after their mental health at the same time? 

  1. Separate home and work life

When you’re working from home it can be easy to let your work life permeate your home life – and vice versa, to the detriment of both. Instead of spending your day trying to juggle household chores and your work life at the same time, try to draw clear boundaries between both areas. Try to have a set work schedule, just as if you’re going to the office. 

This is easier said than done, of course, especially for working parents who have to homeschool their children at the same time. But although it may not be possible to entirely separate your home and work life, keeping this goal in mind may help you to carve more periods of productivity out of your hectic day. 

  1. Take breaks

Sometimes the best way to increase your productivity is to take a break. It may sound counter-intuitive, but sometimes you can get more work done in less time – if you’re well-rested in the time you do work. Even a short break will refresh your mind and allow you to return to work tasks with increased focus and efficiency. Rather than spending hours piling through work with no breaks, experiment with different lengths of break time throughout your day to find the right balance. 

  1. Get outside

The importance of getting outside cannot be understated. When you’re working – and living – in the same space, it can become quite depressing without a change of scene. We’ve already covered how taking a break gives your mind the space to relax and recharge, but a walk outside will help your body as well as your mind – stretching the legs, getting the blood pumping, and (if you’re lucky) giving you a much-needed dose of vitamin D. The health benefits of exercise are well established, and there’s reason to believe that healthy vitamin D levels play a role in our immune system’s defence against COVID-19. 

  1. Stay social

Zoom chats may be associated with long, boring work meetings, but they can be a fantastic tool for socialising too – either with your colleagues for a quick catch-up in the day, or with friends and family in the evenings. When working from home for extended periods of time we’re cut off from the small, everyday social interactions we might have had when working in an office – from so-called “water cooler” or kitchen chats with colleagues, to friendly interactions in the local cafe for lunch. When we’re tired, or too caught up with work, it can be easy to neglect this aspect of our day. Maintaining social interactions can certainly be a big positive for our mental health

  1. Be kind to yourself

Finally, it’s important to remember that we’re all living through an unprecedented and stressful pandemic. It’s only natural to feel less productive at times, or to experience poor mental health. But piling the pressure onto yourself will only make things worse. Take the pressure off, and treat yourself with the kindness and understanding that you (hopefully) already treat other people with. 

There are many more ways to make the most of your time when working from home, of course – this is only the tip of the iceberg. But hopefully these five aspects will prove useful as you continue your working from home journey. 

Geoff Aldis is a freelance writer