Working from home with your research

Ashley Westmacott
Student Representative

Large plain worksurface with laptop, notebook and coffee cup

I should start off by saying that I work from home 90% of the time Covid-19 or not, primarily because I live a fair distance away from my university, but also I do my best work at home. At university, I get distracted with people I have not seen for a while, finding lunch and exploring the library under the guise of expanding my research base. These things are a refreshing break from the daily grind of writing, however, I know if I was in university all of the time this would be my standard #ProcrastinationQueen. Here is some of my advice for successfully working from home. 

Decide where you will work

Resist the urge to work on the sofa for many reasons, it is so bad for your posture and will eventually lead to multiple aches and pains, and no matter how much you convince yourself you can watch Noughts and Crosses and read that paper it’s not going to work. Be honest, you won’t take either one in. Find a well-lit area, with a desk and a supportive chair, I like to work in my kitchen, we have a big window and a huge table that I can spread out on.  

Make a schedule and stick to it

You may know when you are most productive, I know I won’t really get anything meaningful done before 11.30am I’m not lazy, my brain takes a long time to gear up, I work best between 12 and 8pm. You may find that you work best at 9am – 1pm and then another few hours in the afternoon. Great! Work it out and then work in those hours, stick to it, be strict with yourself and get it done. I find using my calendar app on my phone a great help, google calendars will also schedule your time for you! 

Take regular breaks

Get up and move around, it’s unhealthy to stay in one position for too long, this goes for working in your university or library as well. There are some simple stretches you can do at your desk, but even better is to get up and go for a short walk. Many of my best ideas come to me when I am taking a break. 

https://www.verywellfit.com/best-stretches-for-office-workers-1231153

Step Away From Your Keyboard! Top 3 ‘Take a Break’ Reminder Tools

Stay in touch

A PhD can be a lonely experience, although many institutions are working hard to change this, a PhD at home can be even more isolated. However, stay in touch with people in your field and cohort, set up a group chat on WhatsApp, engage with people on twitter and other social media, schedule calls or video chats with supervisors, and colleagues. Humans are social creatures and being in isolation for too long can have damaging effects on your wellbeing. 

At the end of your workday, switch off

The temptation when working from home can be to sit there all day and work through, there will be times when this is necessary to meet a deadline, or you have a stream of ideas that you need to get down on paper, perfect you steer into that creative and productive curve. The rest of the time, make sure you take time out from your research and do something else. Cook a healthy meal, practice some meditation, yoga, watch a film, learn a new skill, indoor exercise (if you have space) or anything else you can think of. The most important thing is that you are getting some time away from work and getting some much-needed downtime. 

Sleep

In today’s society, many people pride themselves on not getting enough sleep. This is detrimental to your health, our bodies need time to rest and completely switch off from the world, 8 hours is the recommended amount; however, you might find you need slightly more or slightly less. Create a healthy sleep routine of going to bed and getting up at the same time. Switch off from devices with blue light screens 30-60 minutes before sleep – they stimulate the brain, instead take a warm bath, read a book, meditate.

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