How to stay productive when working from home this Christmas

If you’ve been working from home since March, you’ll no doubt have settled into the rhythms of your new working day. But how does that change as the festive period approaches?

Christmas 2020 might not have been cancelled, but it will look very different for many of us. After a difficult year – and with bans on large gatherings likely to remain in place – you might be feeling added pressure to make this year’s celebrations special.

But how do you balance a family Christmas and the demands of remote working? How do you remain effective and efficient despite the distractions? And how do you switch off when the big day arrives?

1. Maintain your routines

After the stresses of Lockdown 1.0, with the kids at school, and months of remote working to learn from, you should have built up some familiar – and hard-won – routines. Juggling family and work under the same roof can be difficult, but you’ve been here before.

You will have more distractions to contend with over the next couple of months but stay focused and try not to let your routines slip as Christmas nears.

If you’ve been waking up at 7.00 am, going for a walk before breakfast, and settling into your home office at 8.00 am sharp, keep it up. Your body clock has adjusted to that – and it’s already struggling to cope with Daylight Saving Time and shorter winter days. Make as few further changes as possible.

2. Don’t let home and work begin to blur

As well as a daily work routine, you’ll also have a set of rules in place to help you distinguish between home and work life.

Work might be busier than usual over the festive period but do all you can to keep your two lives separate. Work hard to maintain your ‘hard stop’.

At the end of the working day shut down your laptop, hide it, and turn off any work-based notifications on your phone. Whatever your routine for switching off after work is – to go for a walk, shower and get changed, or to vegetate on the sofa – do it.

Staying effective and efficient at work means knowing when to switch off and giving yourself some much-needed time to relax.

3. Make the most of your lunchtimes

A productive lunchtime will look different for everyone and will probably change for you on a daily basis too.

After a productive and energised morning, you might want to push on and complete some of those festive chores you have been putting off. Christmas shopping will be largely online this year and that means the sooner you get started the better. Be sure to get all those Christmas cards written too.

You might have chores to do around the house. An active lunchtime could make you more productive in the afternoon but even better than chores would be to get some outdoor exercise and enjoy some fresh air too.

If you have the working day to yourself, your lunchtime might be your only time to relax. If so, make the most of it without feeling guilty. Catch up on a Netflix box set or read a bit. Just make sure it takes your mind off work and you’ll feel re-energised for the afternoon.

Finally, remember it’s lunchtime. Be sure to set enough time aside to prepare and eat a healthy lunch.

4. Work in short bursts (and be realistic)

Both office work and remote working have their challenges. Try to take the best bits from both.

In the office, you’ll be talking to workmates and catching up on gossip at the water cooler, as well as attending regular meetings. This has the effect of breaking your day up into small chunks.

According to a 2017 Independent report, the average UK worker has an attention span of just 14 minutes. Smaller chunks give you time to refocus and make you more effective over the course of a day.

Give your eyes a break, stretch your legs, and make a cup of tea, or talk to a colleague on Teams or Slack.

Be realistic too. There will be times when working from home is more challenging. Set yourself realistic targets and work on those. Ticking off smaller jobs will give you a sense of achievement, making it easier to finish on time and switch off for the evening.

5. Manage distractions

Working from home means juggling and managing constant distractions. There are household chores to do, TV to watch, and home office playlists to pore over. Over the next couple of months, you’ll be adding ‘planning a Covid-secure Christmas’ to that list.

But remember your hard-won routines and carefully planned schedules.

Save chores and Christmas shopping for lunchtimes and evenings. Maintain focus throughout the day and concentrate on being as effective and efficient as you can. That will put you in the best position to reach five o’clock and switch off happily, content that you’ve done a good day’s work.

When your Christmas break arrives, hide the laptop, lock the home office door, and switch off. Enjoy the festive period and you’ll be re-energised come 2021, ready to tackle whatever challenges the new year brings.

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