Does working from home in the heat drive you to distraction? Here’s how to stay productive and beat the summer slump.
Working from home over the last year has at times been a challenge. After all, it’s much harder to stay on task and avoid distraction when there isn’t an office, or looming boss, to keep you in check, especially when we’re still working in our loungewear from the sofa.
But now that summer is well and truly here, it’s only going to get more difficult to stay productive in the heat.
The heat doesn’t just make us uncomfortable and sweaty; when our bodies feel sluggish, our minds lag too. A number of studies have shown that hot weather affects cognition and brain function, and that humans perform more slowly and more inaccurately because of it.
This is because when it’s warmer, less blood finds it’s way to the active muscles like the brain and other internal organs. Because of this, our strength declines and we feel more fatigued and less alert.
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Because let’s be honest here, when it comes to being out in a pub garden vs. inside chained to Slack, there’s no competition.
However, if you do find yourself working from home in a heatwave, here are some ways you can help beat the summer work from home slump.
Plan your day
“When working inside when it’s nice outside it can be easy to get distracted,” says Rebecca Lockwood, a Neuro-Linguistic Programming coach. “Start by writing yourself a list of what really needs to be done before you can take a break. Get the kettle on, make a brew and knuckle down and get on with as much as you can in the time you have. If you work for yourself this can be easy, you can get really productive and get into a flow state where time will fly by.”
Lockwood also suggests making some plans for what you are going to do once you’ve finished work to make the most of the sun. “While you’re working, you’ll know you have something coming up to be excited about,” she says.
Keep cool and hydrated
This might go without saying and be generally a good practice for every day life, but the NHS stresses that hydration is especially important in hot weather. Their advice for dealing with heatwaves includes drinking plenty of fluids and closing the curtains in rooms that face the sun to keep indoor spaces cooler.
There’s bad news for your afternoon caffeine kick though. Healthline advises avoiding coffee “as much as possible” on hot days, so you’ll have other ways to replenish your energy levels, such as these high protein lunches.
Make the most of the mornings and evenings
If your working situation allows it, why not sign up for some early starts that allow you to still have your fun in the sun? An earlier wake up time means that you’ll definitely be free for a 4pm garden glass of wine, but it will also be cooler during the earlier hours of the day, making it easier to work.
It’s also a good idea to tackle the most challenging or strenous tasks first thing, as you’ll have more energy and better concentration to help complete them.
“When working in the hot weather it is really helpful to keep your mindset fresh, sharp and focussed. Keep yourself occupied with being intentional on what you need to get done and then you know what you need to focus on,” advises Lockwood.
Do your best to take care of yourself and establish boundaries between work time and living time, though. A heatwave should mean you take it easier, not work longer.
Schedule plenty of breaks
Rest isn’t a reward remember, it’s essential for wellbeing – so you should be taking plenty of breaks throughout the work day regardless of the weather.
However, hot weather is also a cognitive attention grabber: when we start to think or talk about how warm it is, we disconnect from our task and then have to reattach again. If we do this multiple times in a working session, it can seriously affect our motivation and productivity.
“It is inevitable that when the weather is nice you may get distracted whilst working so expect it,” says Lockwood. “Don’t beat yourself up if you feel unfocussed or you are daydreaming about what you could be doing. Ensure you look after yourself and be kind to yourself.”
By allowing yourself to step away from your desk and get outside in the sun every hour, you’ll save the time you would spend thinking about or wishing you could.
If working from home is taking its toll on your mental health, you’re not alone. From the isolation of being separated from colleagues and the stress of communicating via technology to the threat of redundancy and the anxiety of applying for a new job, there are a number of reasons why you might find this time particularly challenging.
So, what can we do about it? We’ve got a plan.
Our new Work It Out campaign, supported by Mind, aims to give you the tools and resources you need to take care of your mental health while you’re stuck at home. From completing your Work 5 A Day to dealing with issues including anxiety, loneliness and stress, we’ll be exploring all aspects of wellbeing during this strange time.
For more information, including how to complete your Work 5 A Day, you can check out our guide to getting started.