12 months ago, the idea of most people working from home indefinitely was a long-term forecast along with driverless cars and a cashless society. Yet working remotely has been adopted without issue by a huge portion of professionals across the UK, while some spend a few days a week in their offices on a rotation. But as winter approaches, the way we work from home means we must adapt again, like it or not these are different circumstances to long summer days, and we don’t just mean putting the heating on.
We thought we may be back to our offices by the time the colder months set in. While commuting in the dark is no fun; working from home during the winter provides its own set of challenges. We hope you enjoy our guide to prepare for work from home over winter. Or as we like to call it how to make the most of the cosy season.
What Challenges Do You Face While Working At Home?
Working From Home affected people very differently. Let’s briefly reflect on some of the challenges.
How can I be more productive with a remote team?
We hope the forced WFH has been largely positive for you as it has been for the KNOMO team. In retrospect, meetings took up a large part of our days – especially travelling to and from other businesses.
We’ve found that clear structure and sign-off processes have never been more important, now that we are not able to huddle around a single screen. This is widely positive, though. While we miss the personal connection to colleagues, producing work together should technically be more streamlined than ever with shared access to documents, timelines and the ability to speak to anyone regardless of location.
How can I stay focussed when I get distracted easily?
Working at home is not ideal for blocking out distractions. Endless washing up, deliveries to sign for, noisy children and/or flatmates – this is before the temptation to find just the right podcast or to quickly check the news is thrown into the mix.
Having a designated work area at home helps to build the feeling of ‘being at work’ as close to being in the workplace can; as long it’s not the sofa. If you have trouble getting distracted online consider getting installing an app to block out distractions (Zapier have set out 7 great choices here).
How do I maintain a good work/life balance?
In the good ol’ days, it was easier to move into the ‘other’ parts of our lives when we left the office each evening. Our advice is to reclaim other parts of our day: use the time in the morning that would otherwise be spent commuting, or the lunch slot. Use that extra hour to focus on a personal project or development that requires you to focus on something away from the day job. In 2019, the average person in the UK spent around 200 hours commuting each year – that’s an awful lot of time to put to good use.
At the end of each day it’s important to keep your work stuff packed and out of the way during weekends and in the evening to ensure your work time & down time are separated. Keeping your workspace as tidy, comfortable and organised as possible is important if you plan to be working from home this winter. Having a tool like a Knomad Organiser is perfect for this, as it allows you to pack away your desk and open it back up at a moment’s notice. With room for your devices, chargers, pens, notebook and more, helping you stay productive during the winter months.
Will My Bills Get More Expensive Working From Home Over Winter?
With half the UK’s workforce still working from home, Energy Helpline’s survey suggests that energy bills could rise by a fifth as radiators and boilers are kept running through the day.
Make sure you’re not continually eating during the day and night
According to health insurance experts Vitality “cold weather stimulates our survival impulse” to eat as much as possible to build up calorie reserves, as well as a bodily reaction to the ‘winter blues’, commonly known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (more on that later).
Grazing on snacks or over-eating comfort food has clear long-term consequences, but short-term this hits our bank accounts the hardest – especially in a household with many people. Without going full cold-turkey (no pun intended) putting a routine in place will help limit and clarify our food consumption.
How can I stay warm at home without putting the heating on?
Remember shedding layers for the summer heatwave? Now it’s time to adapt to the cold in order to avoid booming heating bills or shivering all day. Looking out the window to see shorter, darker, wetter days naturally makes us want to cosy up with all the heating and lights on.
Our advice is in-fact an outfit re-vamp. Take all your jumpers out your cupboards to see them in one place and remind yourself what you’re working with, then think about what can be layered as the temperatures plummet. If you’re sitting still for hours at a time, you’ll want to be comfortably warm. We challenge you to get ‘cosy-chic’ and show off on your next Zoom call – but save the woolly hat for going outside.
I’m Worried About My Mental Health This Winter
Unfortunately, the winter blues are said to affect up to 20% of people, with Seasonal Affective Disorder causing depression particularly for women and young adults. So what steps can we take to beat back the blues particularly as Covid restrictions continue to threaten ‘normality’.
Make sure you leave the house every day
Come rain or shine, getting outside every day is essential for our mental health. Without a clear purpose to get outside our own four-walls each day it’s easy for one day to blur into the next, made worse by the shortened winter days.
While we’ll cover all forms of cold-weather exercise in another post, we advise planning a weekly calendar with tasks that at least require walking out and about. Write a note for your grand-parents and head to the post office, plan a meal around a specific ingredient that means you have to go to an unusual shop – or simply head to your nearest green space.
It is extremely common for people to suffer from anxiety and lower moods throughout the colder months and soaking up some Vitamin D and breathing in fresh air is an excellent antidote. If you’re heading for a once round the block, sling on a KNOMO cross-body bag for a cute way to carry your phone, purse, travel card and keys.
Schedule time for seeing friends and family (even if it's online)
It’s hard to find the motivation to plan social events with darker evenings and rainy days. But – regional restrictions permitting – a dopamine burst from seeing friends or family goes a long way.
You may recall from ‘proper lockdown’ that even seeing loved ones virtually can leave you feeling fulfilled. Again, science is at play here with good endorphins released as we see familiar faces. Meanwhile, going out of our way to spend time with friends and family physically – particularly doing an activity rather than simply sitting and talking (or drinking…) is a clear winner. At the very least, call someone you haven’t spoken to in a while – you’ll both feel better for it.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our guide to preparing to work from home this winter. We’ll be providing new articles every week to help you navigate working from home across the seasons.