The pressure to be productive during the coronavirus lockdown is real.
With many people finding their holidays have been cancelled, birthdays put on hold and gatherings restricted, it’s understandable that we’re choosing to work more as a way to gain back a bit of structure in our lives.
The Institute for Employment Studies (IES) recently found that half of British people currently working at home were “unhappy” with their current work situation. They claimed they were having to work “longer and more irregular hours than they would under normal circumstances”.
This might be for a number of reasons - juggling childcare or dealing with an employer who isn’t used to the work from home set-up. Many of us simply feel a pressure to do something productive given the lack of other options.
As the world adjusts to the temporary normal that COVID-19 has thrust upon us, experts warn that it’s important for us to take time out - and use up our annual leave days - during the lockdown.
TV therapist, Sally Barker, explains: “I believe it’s important that employers and their staff both acknowledge that WFH is not an easy option. Depending on an individual’s home circumstances it can be even more stressful for some people than getting up in time for the early morning commute to work.
“These uncomfortable ‘out of place’ feelings are made worst by blurred boundaries. The rhythm of our days at work vs days on holiday and the time to start work vs the end of working day have never been vaguer.
“It’s crucial to value annual leave and statutory days off while in lockdown as much as you would have in the pre-virus days. I’d go further and say it’s also vital people log in and more importantly log off as close to their paid working hours as possible.
“It’s easy, especially when working internationally for the working day to be open-ended and never more so when there’s no urgency to tie things up and dash off home or to meet friends after work.”
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Given the current situation, many people are craving routine, though. The idea of taking time off - other than the weekend - might easily fill people with dread. What would we do, for one?
DIY is at the top of many people’s lists.
The weekend presents itself with a good opportunity to get home refurbishments started, but after a week of work, it’s easy to feel a little sluggish as Friday night rolls around.
“I took a Monday and Tuesday off last week. I spent the weekend chilling out and then felt refreshed when it came to tackling a bit of a re-design of the garden.
“I wasn’t expecting to find any of it exciting, but I must admit, only having to go back to work for three days afterwards did fill me with a bit of joy,” a marketing manager who is currently working full-time from home explained.
Baking and batch cooking are very popular pastimes at the moment (getting flour is the new getting a Glastonbury ticket) and setting aside time to really enjoy a day off just to cook is a luxury many of us haven’t experienced before.
“I spent four hours making dinner. I’ve never spent four hours making dinner,” a personal trainer explained.
He has been working all week in a bid to keep his business afloat with numerous scheduled at home workouts planned each day.
“It felt really nice. I also batch cooked a few different options for the week ahead, so I didn’t feel pressured to make different meals every night.
“I didn’t realise how much I needed a day off until I had it.”
So many of us have cancelled holidays and with it not yet clear when we might be able to travel again, our annual leave days may easily stack up towards the end of the year.
With that in mind, many people have used this rare occasion to spend a couple of days focussing on their self-care.
“I was meant to be going away for a long weekend and it got cancelled. I came very close to telling work to cancel my annual leave, but I felt like I still wanted something to look forward to.
“I spent the time organising my life, taking long baths, sitting on the sofa and watching guilt free Netflix and I even read a book,” one radio producer admitted.
One small joy in an otherwise difficult time is the slower pace of life we’re able to have. Usually, weekends are filled with plans; friends to see, parents to visit, children’s birthday parties to attend.
This experience has helped many of us go back to basics in a way we certainly didn’t expect when 2020 rolled around.
Baker adds: “Those who are coping better with lockdown are those with clear boundaries in place. They know when they are on the clock and when they are not. They also know the difference between a working day and a holiday and do their best to delineate between the two.
“It’s vital for mental health and wellbeing. It’s helpful during working hours to be able as much as possible to focus on work. When work is over it is helpful as much as possible to put aside or put away the trappings of WFH and focus instead on rest and recuperation.”