According to a new survey from workplace consultants, Peldon Rose, winter has a significant impact on the mental health and wellbeing of British workers. The survey found that over two-fifths (44%) of respondents say winter has a negative effect on their mental wellbeing, half (51%) believe it adversely affects their mood and 30% state winter affects their productivity.
Shorter days, dark mornings, cold weather and the Winter Blues can all contribute to a lack-lustre mood, with productivity suffering as a result.
Dr M M Qadri, a consultant in forensic psychiatry and medical psychotherapy, states that practicing self-care is an important first step to increasing motivation during the winter months ‘At certain times of the year, your mood will dip, but that's OK. Accepting this can be empowering, as it removes the guilt and shame of not achieving your ordinary levels of activity.’
The flexibility of working from home can be a great thing, but without a good routine and effective time management, you can quickly find that you are not working to the best of your ability.
We believe that the secret to a great day all starts with the first choices we make as soon as we wake up - a morning routine can give you a giant edge toward approaching your work day with a proactive mindset. Here are our best tips for cultivating your own work-from-home morning routine:
Consider your working environment
You might be surprised how your mood and productivity levels can fluctuate by where in your home you choose to work. Here are some ideas that can help you to optimise your working area to make sure you’re getting the very best out of yourself and your workspace.
- Light up your life - Researchers at Cornell University found that working in a day lit environment ‘reduces workers’ eyestrain, blurred vision, and headaches by up to 84 %’ – this study shows that a simple change of environment, such as sitting next to a window, can remove factors which detract from productivity
- Surround yourself with colour - The colours you are surrounded by have an impact on your productivity- natural colours are good for creating a calming and positive environment which ultimately boosts productivity
- Add a plant to your workspace - bring nature into your work environment in the form of a houseplant- Researchers from the University of Cardiff found that ‘simply enriching a previously Spartan space with plants served to increase productivity by 15%’
- Regularly declutter your space - working from home means that your work and home life spill into the same spaces, and your possessions can soon take over the space you’re working in. A quick clean-up of your desk before the working week begins can help to give you an energy and mood boost, preventing distractions and ensure everything you need is easily within reach.
Wake up at the same time every morning and fight the temptation to snooze
Studies show that the benefits of a Fixed Wake Time include less morning sleep inertia, decreased insomnia and reduced sleep deprivation.
- The ‘body clock’ is a real thing – our bodies thrive when in a schedule and sticking to the same wake up time will actually make you healthier — think stronger immunity and better digestion — not to mention improved concentration and productivity.
- Light up your life! - If you’re struggling to wake up when your alarm goes, try getting out of bed, going straight to a window, opening up your curtains/blinds and getting a blast of sunlight. The light signals your brain’s “master clock” that it’s time to be alert. If it’s still dark, be brave, turning your lights on will have a similar effect!
Set yourself up for the day, the right way
Another great hack is to optimise your alertness in your morning routine. Small and simple steps after you wake up can help to get you in the mood for a productive work day.
- Energise early - A simple face wash, hair brush and getting out of your pyjamas will set you up for the day and change your mindset from ‘sleep’ to ‘awake’. Stepping straight into the shower can also be a nice pick-me-up. Whichever way you approach it, this invigorating transition from bed to desk will help to get your productivity moving in the right direction.
- Get some air - If you can, try to head outside for a few minutes for a walk or some fresh air. Even if it’s freezing in the dead of winter, a quick step outside will get your heart pumping and your blood moving, which will work wonders for waking you up and get you feeling alert.
Make the most of the first precious hours
It’s time to start work! Sometimes it can be tempting to make a brew and spend the first hour reading emails/browsing news channels but it is important to utilise this time to set ourselves up correctly for the day ahead.
- Checklists will keep you focussed - Create a to-do list (ideally the day before) so you don’t have to think about what you need to do first thing. Having a plan to refer to allows you to save more energy and time to work on the tasks themselves rather than making decisions
- Make the most of an early start - Make calls and send urgent messages to try and catch clients/colleagues before they get busy or start 9am meetings
- Stay away from your smartphone – Time is precious in the morning and mindless scrolling will not help you to focus. Leave your phone in a drawer for the morning, and see what happens.
- Prioritise time-sensitive tasks - If your to-do lists involves asking other people for help or to come back to you, getting in touch first thing allows them plenty of time to follow-up rather than asking them at 2pm for things you may need at 3pm
- Treat yourself – Hold off making your morning cuppa or snack until after your to-do list is done to incentivise yourself to get things completed faster
Keep up the good work throughout your day
In terms of starting your day correctly, the first hours are very important but that doesn't mean we need to stop there! There are lots of things you can do throughout your day which will help to boost your mood and help you to work efficiently.
- Get moving – Exercise is a great addition to your working from home routine. That could mean a brisk walk or run outside, a ride on your bike, an online class, lifting some weights, or whatever you love to do that gets your body moving. Exercise is a natural anti-depressant, too. Studies have shown it helps you sleep better at night, guards against all kinds of diseases, and even helps improve the function of your brain.
- Hydrate yourself - Adequate hydration can stave off so many problems that can plague your mornings, particularly fatigue, poor concentration, and headaches. Drinking water throughout the day is important. Research has shown that even mild dehydration (a body water loss of between 1%- 2%) impairs cognitive performance
- Boost your motivation through nutrition - A 2022 eLife study found that the levels of antioxidant glutathione in your brain play a key role in motivation levels. Providing yourself with the nutrients your body needs to function effectively (sulphur-rich foods such as meat, eggs, and grains) is a great way to start your day well, and gives you a head start on the days you’re lacking motivation, especially in the dull winter months
Reflect on your achievements and work on your goals
Self-reflection is a great way to release residual stress or concern from the previous workday, and allows some space in your mind for positive and productive thinking.
Whether it’s evaluating yesterday’s workday over breakfast or keeping an end-of-day log of your achieved goals, taking the time to pause and reflect can help you to identify ways in which you can grow as an individual. This can become a powerful tool to optimise your approach to your work.
A good way to incorporate self-reflection into your routine is taking 10 minutes to write down your thoughts/ feelings/goals. You can also try writing yourself some daily prompts to target the areas you would like to work on, and write a sentence for each.
Win tomorrow by preparing today
If you’re not a morning person, preparing the night before is your ticket to an easier start when you wake up. These tasks are simple, but can be a big help getting you through your morning with less friction.
- Set a sleep routine on your smartphone which will wake you up at the same time each day
- Make a to-do list ready for the next morning and leave it on your desk
- Lay out the clothes you’ll wear when you wake up
- Pre-make your breakfast (overnight oats are easy to make and delicious… healthy too)
- Set out what you’ll need for your workout or exercise
- Fill up a bottle of water and put it on your desk
- Program your coffee maker to automatically make a pot or a cup the next morning at a specific time
- Set your heating to come on an hour before your wake up time so your house isn’t freezing cold and it is a little easier to escape the confines of your duvet!
We hope these tips help you to improve your working from home morning routine and boost your productivity through the winter months and beyond! If you’d like to find out more about anything we’ve discussed, more information can be found in our references below.