By Kevin Underdown, Head of HR at PPL PRS
Working from home is the ‘new normal’ for many of us. According to ONS, the first lockdown in April 2020 saw 46.6% of the UK tackle their to-do lists from the comfort of their own homes and it remains the working lifestyle here in 2021. In a Covid-19 world, we’ve had to adapt — fast.
That said, getting into the right mindset and maximising your productivity can be a challenge. You have all the distractions and creature comforts of your home all around you. Plus, with no direct supervision it can be tempting to get lost in other things (whether it’s life admin, little ones wanting to play or simply gazing out the window) —not to mention staying in your pyjamas all day. In fact, Google data reveals that ‘how to work from home’ is searched for by 1.6k Brits every month! Music licensing company PPL PRS has collated top tips to help you get in the zone when working from home so you can get the most out of your day.
Turn on the tunes
The benefits of music are endless when it comes to productivity; it could change the feel of your whole workspace. You can choose music to suit your mood, or even the type of work you are doing. If you have a task that requires high levels of focus, you might prefer to listen to instrumental music without lyrics to distractedly sing along to. Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute also discovered that tuning into the sounds of nature could also improve cognitive function by masking ambient noise, potentially allowing for greater concentration. That said, if you’re missing a bustling work environment then turn on the radio for some background buzz – the combination of music and conversation can mimic the feel of being in a lively office. Indeed, Mehta, Zhu and Cheema assert that a moderate level of ambient sound may improve creative thinking.
Another study by university professors from the USA, Switzerland and Germany found that music could reduce stress by lowering cortisol levels in the body. If you’re feeling calmer, you might find it’s easier to make decisions and solve problems. Then of course, playing songs you enjoy may boost your mood! According to Professor Lesiuk from the University of Windsor in Canada, good music can positively impact your work quality and will see you through your to-do list quicker.
According to clinical psychologist Dr. Emma Gray, the optimum tempo for concentration is between 50 and 80 beats per minute (BPM). This induces an ‘alpha state’ in your brain, leaving you feeling relaxed but focussed. In fact, ‘alpha waves’ have been associated with the famous ‘eureka’ moment of sparked creativity. There are tunes to this tempo across all genres; in fact, apps such as BPM Detector and Live BPM are available so you can calculate BPM and find your ideal soundtrack.
You may find that where repetitive work or administrative tasks are concerned, a more upbeat tempo will supercharge your efficiency. The beauty of being at home is that you make the rules, so create a playlist that works for you.
Create an inviting environment
Making sure you have a comfortable, well-lit place to work is very important. Your screen should be at eye level to help with your posture and prevent back pain. If you work on a laptop, consider getting a separate keyboard and mouse so you can elevate the screen to the right level. This doesn’t necessarily require a complicated set up – a pile of books can do if really necessary.
Sitting near a window means you can enjoy the warm sunshine and a scenic vista – whether it’s rolling countryside, the comforting bustle of a street or your garden. A good view will inspire creativity and feel less oppressive. Position the desk so your computer screen is not directly facing sunlight to avoid glare.
Keep to a routine
It’s important to resist slipping into weekend habits and have a clear routine when working from home so your day has structure. Instead of heading straight to your workspace in pyjamas a few minutes after getting out of bed, set your alarm a little earlier to get showered and dressed, so you feel more like you’re in work mode.
Try replicating the same morning routine you usually have, so you are getting up at a consistent time. Cutting out commuting means you’ll have more time to yourself, so consider getting some exercise or treating yourself to an indulgent breakfast. If you’re normally grabbing a cereal bar on the way out the door, it can be a real treat to sit down to scrambled eggs on toast in your cosy kitchen on a workday. When you do start work, you’ll feel refreshed and awake, ready for whatever the day brings.
Keep work and leisure separate
Try to have a designated workspace in your home, ideally in a place that you don’t tend to spend your relaxation and leisure time. Avoid the sofa or the bedroom, as working in these areas can make work life blend into your personal time and it becomes very difficult to switch off.
If you don’t have a room that can be your home office then try sitting at a kitchen table or turning a corner of the living room or your bedroom into a small desk area. The important thing is to resist the urge to turn your bed or sofa into your workspace – if you’re half watching TV, you’re not going to be as productive.
Don’t forget breaks
It can be tempting to work straight through the day when you’re working at home, as there are no colleagues to chat to or have a cup of tea with, but don’t forget to give yourself regular breaks. Taking some time away from your screen will reduce strain on your eyes which is important for your long-term health. Get up, walk around, make a cup of tea, stretch – take a lunch break and go for a walk to get your eyes used to long distance focusing again. You’ll get back to your desk feeling refreshed rather than burned out.
With working from home set to continue for the foreseeable, making these adjustments to your environment and routine may make a world of difference.