7 months ago - 8 minute read
Working from home brings a mixed bag of emotions. Those that can’t do it often want it. Those that can either love it or hate it – sometimes simultaneously!
The pandemic threw a ton of people across the UK – renters included – into full-time remote working. It had its benefits for some but presented huge challenges for others, particularly those living in small apartments or rentals with decorating restrictions.
Settling into working from home when you rent can be harder than if you’re a homeowner. Landlords don’t often let you create an ideal living (and working) space, which can be tough for tenants.
If you’re struggling to be productive while working from home in your rental, we’ll explore our top reasons why motivation takes a hit when working remotely in this article – and share our advice on how to fix it.
Having an “unsuitable” living space can be one of the biggest challenges of working from home for renters.
Most rental apartments don’t have a spare room that can be used as a home office. In fact, in London, a mere 24% of rental properties available to let were listed as having any kind of “suitable working space” (source).
Plus, landlords aren’t always keen on tenants making adjustments to a rental property – even in houses.
Research suggests that 9 out of 10 landlords would object to tenants installing an outbuilding in the garden to use as a home office (source). Few would allow other concessions, too, like for a loft to be converted.
A suitable working space isn’t easy to find. Living in a small rental apartment can be even more difficult. If working from home was thrown upon you during the pandemic, you (and your landlord) probably didn’t think about where a desk could go either.
While working from your bed or sofa sounds like a dream, it’s less than ideal. Experts say that sitting slumped for hours every day is bad for your body, mind and sleep hygiene (source). It can strain your back, neck, and hips and make it harder for you to switch off when work finishes.
Your home is usually a place for rest, relaxation and socialising. Making it a workplace, too, tends to blur the lines between “personal” and “professional” time.
Working in your living space means you need to be productive and “switched on” for long periods of the day in a place usually associated with relaxing.
Turning that “work mode” off and on isn’t as easy as it sounds. Some people find it difficult to “turn it on” and lack motivation during the workday. Others find it easy to switch on but harder to switch off and relax when work finishes.
Finding the right balance is a challenge – and your living space plays a big part in helping you separate “work time” from “home time”, both physically and mentally.
Working by yourself indoors all day, every day can feel lonely and isolating. Even if you have frequent Zoom calls with colleagues, they often don’t provide the same kind of social inclusion that face-to-face meetings do.
If you used to work in an office full-time, surrounded by chatter and other background noise, working in silence every day can feel even more isolating.
Your employer should take steps to help you feel more connected with your colleagues, but that doesn’t always happen, particularly if remote working is still in its infancy at your company.
Work (and work stress) can feel intensified when you’re on your own.
It’s easier to misinterpret instant messages or emails when you can’t see someone’s facial expressions or hear their tone. Misunderstandings can run high and cause you to feel more stressed or beaten down by issues than you might if you were in an office.
Being surrounded by others who aren’t as stressed or in the same boat as you can feel comforting. But when working remotely, the stresses of work can feel all-consuming – even after the workday ends.
Another challenge of working from home is its effect on your body.
Living a sedentary life has always been a health concern for office workers. Sitting down for long periods puts you at risk of serious health issues, like heart disease, diabetes, some types of cancers, and obesity (source).
Before remote working was a “thing”, office workers spent around 75% of their day sitting down, which was bad enough as it was (source).
But most people still got up to walk around every hour or so. Visiting the kitchen, going to the toilet, speaking to a colleague, attending a meeting, visiting the printer, or leaving the building for lunch were all ways to gain valuable steps and exercise.
But working from home has significantly increased the time office workers spend sitting every day (source). If you live in a rental apartment (and not a house), the impact can worsen.
The walk to the kitchen and bathroom is probably a lot shorter than when you were in the office. Not using the stairs every day like you may have done in an office or if you lived in a house won’t be as good for your muscles and joints. And no commute means less time standing and walking.
All of which can make remote working lead to a more sedentary lifestyle.
The impact of working from home on productivity levels is a mixed bag. Some reports say productivity soars when employees work remotely. Others say it worsens – big time.
Isolation, lack of motivation, poorer diet and exercise routines, and a lack of boundaries can severely impact how well some people perform day-to-day at home (source).
But having fewer distractions, more time for sleep, shorter commutes, and more freedom in how the workday is spent can be liberating for others – and make their motivation levels hit record highs (source).
Unfortunately, there isn’t a definitive answer about whether working from home makes us all more or less productive.
But there is much evidence suggesting that how productive you are and how positively you view remote work depends on your working environment (source).
Feeling productive when working from home isn’t just about shifting your mindset. Our surroundings, daily routine, and even our clothes can make a huge difference in how motivated you feel.
A benefit of working from home is that you can work in your pyjamas (or, at least, partial pyjamas if you have video calls). But a negative of working from home is that you don’t need to get out of your pyjamas!
Working in your jim-jams sounds like an ideal way to spend the day. But experts say it can be detrimental to your mindset and, therefore, your productivity. It can make you feel relaxed, demotivated, and even lazy. It can also make it harder to switch off after work (source).
If you want to feel more productive when working from home, ditch the pyjamas and invest in more suitable clothing to work in.
If you prefer comfortable clothing (not the suits you used to wear to the office), invest in something cosy yet professional. Try to avoid hoodies or tracksuit bottoms if you can since these are also considered loungewear.
Instead, find comfortable blouses, t-shirts, jeans, leggings, or cardigans that make you feel like you’re dressed and ready to work comfortably, not lazily.
Influencers and entrepreneurs often brag about how their daily routines have been the foundation of their success – and for a good reason!
It’s long since been known that having a good routine can help you stay on track and get things done. Working from home is no different.
If you want to maintain a healthy body and mind, you need to set up a strong working from home routine. It doesn’t have to be as strict as if you were leaving the house every day, but having some structure can help shift your mindset from flat to motivated.
Remember, your routine needs to be beneficial if you want to be more productive. For example, rolling out of bed 5 minutes before the workday starts and turning your laptop on is a routine, but it’s not good.
A good routine could be getting dressed first thing in the morning, making your bed, and going for a quick walk before the workday starts. After work, a good way to “shut down” could be to pack up your desk, get changed, call a friend, or leave the house for another walk to simulate a commute home.
Frequent exercise is important for almost every human (particularly office workers) to prevent a sedentary lifestyle. As mentioned, working from home can make it even easier to live a sedentary life compared with working in an office.
To help you feel more productive when working from home, find ways to incorporate more movement into your day.
If your workday is busy and full of meetings, set yourself reminders to get up and move every 30-40 minutes – even if it’s just standing up and sitting down again.
Or, when the kettle’s boiling, walk around the flat or house a couple of times. If you’ve got stairs, go up and down twice after visiting the bathroom. Or, instead of using a water bottle for your drink, use a small cup, so you have to get up more often to refill it.
To get fresh air while you exercise, try simulating a commute by going for a quick walk around the block before and after work. Or hold yourself accountable by joining a local gym or running club that gets you moving and socialising.
Try different things and make the stuff that works for you part of your daily routine.
Employers should help you feel more connected to your colleagues while working from home. But if their strategies aren’t working for you, it’s important to take matters into your own hands where you can.
If feeling isolated is a daily challenge for you, try building a network outside of work. Reach out to family and friends often, via text or on the phone. Find time to visit friends at lunchtime or after work, if you can.
Or find ways to connect with new people. If none of your friends work remotely, or they don’t live nearby, consider joining a social group to find people with similar working arrangements in your neighbourhood.
Even if the workday is isolating and involves minimal socialising, having things to do and people to connect with outside of work can make the 8 hours at your desk less painful.
Our working environment can have the biggest impact on how productive we feel, so it’s important that we get it right.
Having a dedicated workspace can create fewer distractions, more separation between “work” and “home” life, and make us feel generally more productive.
But, when you rent, making adjustments to your living space isn’t quite as straightforward as it is for most homeowners.
To convert a space to a home office or install an outbuilding in the garden, you’ll need permission. You’ll also need to accept that you won’t see any financial return from investing in the conversions.
Even simple things like putting up shelves or installing a wall-mounted folding desk can be a breach of the lease.
But since the environment you work in is so important for inspiring productivity, you need to find ways to make adjustments where you can.
Ask your landlord for permission to decorate if it’ll make your working environment more conducive. If they say no, find other ways to create a better work environment.
For example, put up a screen in your living room to separate your desk from your sofa. Or get a freestanding desk that folds away. You could even ditch one of your cabinets for a home office cupboard, so it feels like a separate room.
If your rental really isn’t working for you, see whether you can afford to move somewhere bigger with a dedicated workspace when your lease is up.
Moving isn’t always an option, but the renting community has seen a dramatic shift in demand. Priorities have significantly changed, and fewer people are searching for one-bed flats to let.
Instead, the top searches are for two-bed houses and bungalows, preferably outside the big cities where rent is cheaper (source).
If you’re preparing to move to a new rental, have you already started saving to pay for your tenancy deposit? At Fronted, we know that making an upfront cash payment can be tricky – especially if you have to pay your new deposit upfront before getting any of your old ones back.
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