Though working from home offers several benefits, some are finding it difficult to draw the line between ‘work’ and ‘home’.
Productivity has taken a hit as people struggle to get through the same workload while juggling children and responsibilities at home. On top of that, we’ve picked up some bad habits, further impairing our productivity.
But according to Entity Health consulting dietitian Teri Lichtenstein, there are definitely things we can do to turn the situation around.
“Whether you are continuing to work from home or returning to the office, making positive changes to your personal habits and environment can help you achieve peak productivity and concentration, but it needs to start by identifying the bad habits and making changes to fix them,” she said.
Here are six bad habits that are killing your productivity, and how to break them:
1. Eating at your desk
You might be used to stepping away from your desk when you’re at work to catch up with colleagues or take a walk, but now that you’re working from home and the official advice has been to self-isolate, you might have grown accustomed to lingering at your desk during your lunch break.
“Even if you’re short on time, stepping away from your desk even for 10-15 minutes to eat and be void of work distractions, is better than eating at your desk and working, simultaneously. This will allow you to return to work with full focus and ultimately be more productive,” said Lichtenstein.
Also, you may think you’re multitasking but you’re simply not concentrating on anything very well. “Research shows that the more tasks you try to juggle, the higher the chances of inaccuracies.”
2. Too much screen time
Eating at your desk also means you’re spending even more time in front of your screen – but you’re at risk of a number of health issues, according to Safe Work, such as musculoskeletal disorders, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity.
Lichtenstein recommends doing a ‘deskercise’ every half-hour to stretch your neck and shoulders.
“Pain in these sections of the body are most common in sedentary jobs, so even a couple of seconds stretching each part can be beneficial,” she said.
“Additionally, get on your feet during your lunch break, try a workout video or go for a brisk walk. Getting the blood flowing is great for invigorating the mind and body to help focus once you’re back at the desk.”
3. Denying your cravings every time
Just like indulging in the urge to snack each and every time isn’t great, going cold-turkey on all your cravings isn’t optimal either, said the dietitian.
“While going overboard with treats should be avoided in a balanced diet, it is important to be kind to yourself during these stressful times,” she said.
In fact, giving in to your craving could even help you focus. “Having small amounts of your favourite ‘pleasure food’ can satisfy a craving, enabling you to get back to work with a little endorphin kick!”
To avoid going overboard, you could consider portion controlling your snacks, or buy mini- or snack-sized versions where possible.
4. Stressing too much
The coronavirus pandemic has been a stressful time for many people in one way or another – but very heightened stress levels can impact your decision-making, your physical health, your performance at work and your relationships.
“Stress and anxiety can disrupt sleep and make it difficult to concentrate during the day, leaving you feeling tired and unmotivated,” said Lichtenstein.
“To help combat this, try upping your Omega-3 fatty acid intake by eating fish, nuts and seeds for boosting mood, as research shows that low Omega-3 intake may make someone more susceptible to anxiety and depression.”
5. Napping on the clock
Now that you’re a literal stone’s throw away from your bed, you might be giving in to the temptation of having a quick nap during your lunch break.
“While power naps of 15-30 minutes can improve alertness and concentration, it is a habit that we can’t take back into the office,” Lichtenstein said.
When it comes to your sleep every night, it’s quality, not quantity, that matters, she added. “It’s important that people prioritise sleep; otherwise, energy levels, mood, and concentration can be affected throughout the day.”
But in other countries and cultures, such as China, napping during lunch is encouraged, productivity expert Donna McGeorge told Yahoo Finance.
“Whilst I don’t believe we should ... build a bed under our desks, it is one practice I would love to see return to the workplace as it will give you an afternoon boost of productivity in the afternoon,” she said.
You could even time your afternoon coffees and naps well to take a ‘nappucino’. “Because caffeine takes about 20 minutes to take effect, having a coffee, then a 15-20 min nap, means you can get the double whammy benefit.”
6. Getting food delivered
Working from home means you’ve won back a bit of time to prepare some meals – but if you’re in the habit of ordering take-out every lunch break, you might have brought that habit home.
“Takeaway meals can often be high in fats and sodium and low in essential nutrients, which can leave you feeling drained and lethargic,” said Lichtenstein.
But even if you don’t have time to or don’t want to cook at home, there are other healthier options you can explore.
“Consider signing up to food box subscription services that deliver fresh ingredients and provide simple nutritious recipes right to your front door. All the ingredients you need are pre-portioned, with step-by-step guides on how to prepare you meal,” she said.
“If you choose a plan that feeds one extra person than the number in your household, you could enjoy it as leftovers for a healthy lunch.”