The latest government restrictions mean that you might currently be working from home, and possibly even until the spring. With the weather getting colder and gloomier, and the nights drawing in, maintaining a good work-life balance will be more important than ever.
Morning and evening routines can help but what about the middle of the day?
Here are five ways to make the most of your lunch break when working from home.
1. Make the most of the limited daylight
You won’t be getting much Vitamin D from the sun at this time of year but according to Sleep Health, daylight is important for a good night’s sleep.
They looked at the light in office buildings to study the effects of a lack of daylight on circadian rhythms. They concluded that generally, higher exposure to daylight, especially in the mornings, can help you sleep better and more easily at night.
Make sure your home office is well lit, preferably with non-artificial light, and be sure to get outside, either as a midmorning break or a midday lunch.
2. Get back to nature
Fresh air is vitally important. It can leave us reenergised, aid good sleep, and even improve our mood.
The International Journal of Environmental Health Research recently experimented with the effects of nature on our mood and wellbeing.
Specifically, they looked at visits to urban parks and found that even 20 minutes in nature can improve your mental wellbeing. You don’t even need to exercise while you’re there!
Taking just 20 minutes out of your lunch break to sit and relax – in a park, by a river, even in your garden if you can switch-off at such close proximity to your open laptop – improved wellbeing in 60% of those studied.
NHS Shetland went one step further in 2018.
Working in partnership with RSPB Scotland – and following a successful pilot scheme – GPs are now able to write nature prescriptions.
The prescriptions recommend outdoor activity as a form of patient care, recognising ‘the benefits of nature on reducing blood pressure, reducing anxiety and increasing happiness as well as the growing disconnection with nature throughout society.’
Use your lunch break to get back to nature and you might return to your home office reinvigorated, refocussed, and get a better night’s sleep too.
3. Get moving
For those winter days when the clouds roll in and an outdoor lunchtime walk feels more like a full-scale expedition, be sure to stay active at home.
The NHS confirms that there’s ‘strong scientific evidence’ that physical activity can help you lead a happier life.
As well as decreasing your risk of long-term medical conditions such as heart disease or Type 2 diabetes, it can also boost self-esteem, mood, sleep quality, and energy while reducing your risk of stress, depression, and dementia.
Internet workouts or yoga videos are great for getting active without the fuss. They can slot easily into your lunch break too.
Joe Wicks became the nation’s fitness instructor during lockdown, so dig out those online videos or try POPSUGAR Fitness. These offer a wide range of different video workouts from yoga to High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and Tabata classes for all ability and fitness levels.
4. Connect with friends and family
Whatever you do with your lunch hour you must switch off from work. Close the laptop and step away from the home office, whether that’s the spare room or your kitchen table.
If half an hour with a good book will relax you, do that. Maybe you’d rather catch up on the latest episode of your favourite Netflix series? You might even consider a power nap?
The important thing is to switch off from work and relax your brain for an hour. A great way to do that might be to connect with friends and family, even if it has to be done virtually.
With local lockdowns in place and restrictions on the hospitality industry set to continue, meeting up online for a virtual lunch break might be the easiest way to stay in contact with friends. And making a family check-in part of your daily routine could make a real difference to family members who live alone or are struggling through the pandemic.
The only rule? No talking about work.
5. Tick off some chores
If you’ve had a productive morning you might feel the urge to take a working lunch. A better plan might be to channel that momentum into something non-work related.
With the evenings shortening, why not use your lunch break to get up to date with the household chores or even those odd jobs you haven’t got around to doing?
Use the time to make yourself a healthy lunch and even make a start on prepping dinner, stretching out the evening by leaving it free for relaxation.
And once you’ve made your healthy lunch, be sure to leave yourself time to eat it. It is your lunch break after all and keeping energised with food will give you the best chance of an effective and efficient afternoon. Close the laptop at five o’clock and be sure to leave it closed until morning.