How to keep up your productivity while working from home

Written by elénzia's Nutrition Manager, Christie Newman

Thinking back to those cold, frosty January mornings, having to work from home may have once sounded like a dream. For many that dream has become reality and the reality is, unless you plan, prepare and prioritise your workload strategically, you may struggle to keep up your productivity.
Another key factor to consider during these times is nutrition, and more specifically, how it can sustain brain energy. For example, avocados, bananas or salmon are all foods high in vitamin B6 which is vital for sustaining neuron transmission in the brain (1). This is key to sustaining brain energy which in turn boosts your levels of productivity for longer (2).

Now is a time more than ever where we all need to sustain a work-day structure, keep a work-life balance and maintain momentum without compromising our well-being. To help you adapt to this temporary way of living we share some work from home tips and look at how you can use nutrition to boost your productivity during the lockdown period.

Create a routine that works for you and stick to it

Get started early. For many the commute to work in the morning means leaving home early, ready to start at 9am. Now you can take this new spare time to wake up physically and intellectually by stimulating your most complex muscle. Your brain. So, if you didn’t already, wake up your muscles by doing a physical activity as science shows this boosts your executive function which is crucial to your decision-making process (3,4,5),  even if it’s just a brisk walk, it works (6). This is also a good time to start practising mindfulness to help boost your mental focus with research showing it too can improve your cognitive performance (7). Apps such as Headspace and Calm are the perfect aid to get you started.

Build a work space

Once you’re awake and ready to work, you need a place to work. A place you can think clearly, avoid distraction yet leave to switch off from work once the day is done. Emotionally we associate our home space with relaxation. Therefore, by creating an area specifically for work, you avoid disrupting that important emotional connection you have with your home.

Stay connected with your colleagues and maintain structure throughout your and their day

Humans are not designed to live in isolation and for some of us, at times like these, the ability to go out and socialise is not an option. For many there may be other people in the household but after a week or two you begin to miss interacting with different social circles, one being your work colleagues. This is when you realise just how much you share with your colleagues and how those mini catch ups’ you would have whilst waiting for the kettle to boil, really cheered you up. Try scheduling catch up calls with your colleagues and seeing if you can offer advice on what they’re working on. If you can, step outside and get some fresh air whilst you’re at it. Research shows breaks little and often and breaks outdoors are essential to maintaining your ability to focus and produce quality work (89).

Sustain your ability to focus by keeping a healthy work environment

We all know the saying, quality over quantity. Well quality work relies heavily on your ability to focus and this can be easily overlooked when working in a new environment. By this we mean your surroundings and trying to remove as many distractions as you can. Try to feng shui your work area to promote a good flow of energy and enhance the positive feelings, here’s a great article from The Spruce to get you started.

Also, keep your work area tidy because no one likes a messy desk and the science behind it suggests it makes it more difficult for us to focus (10).

Nutrition as a strategic priority

To function properly, your brain needs water, oxygen, nutrients and rest. Hopefully we’re all already aware of how important it is to stay hydrated. After all, the brain is around 2/3 water and science shows even mild levels of de-hydration can impact brain function (11).

We have mentioned the importance of a healthy environment and routine, another factor is what we consume. You wouldn’t start your workday without ensuring you had secure Wi-Fi and sufficient computer power, so why would you start work without knowing you had the right foods to fuel your mind and body. By this we mean: what you consume should be just as much a priority as your work.

The trending term #brainfood sounds gimmicky, however it is based on an extensive amount of research to suggest various nutrient compounds specifically support how well the brain functions (12, 13, 14). To detail the specifics would be spoiling our next blog post, however to summarise, a diet that is made up of fresh vegetables, fruits, fish, wholegrains, nuts and seeds, in other words what looks like the Mediterranean diet, is considered neuro-protective (15). With evidence suggesting the daily consumption of specific types - such as berries high in polyphenols - are good at targeting and strengthening specific neurological functions such as our executive function and memory and learning (16,17).  

Setting your menu the evening before helps. By doing this you have an idea of how you’re going to source the sufficient amount of macro and micronutrients you will need to support you and your very active brain through the next working day. You ensure your diet is varied like the Med and therefore contains and combines the nutritional compounds such as vitamin B’s, polyphenols, omega 3 fatty acids, choline and soluble fibres, which have all shown to target specific neurological functions, having more positive effects on productivity (18). Also, you avoid using the brain power that decision-making takes on deciding what to eat during the day, so you can use this power more efficiently to tackle your workload. Here BBC Bitesize tells us why our decision-making processes should be kept to a minimum.

As mentioned, there are of course specific nutrients that would be considered “brain foods”, so during this period of working from home it is important that we actively incorporate these foods into our daily diet in order help the way our brain deals with stress, keep up our concentration levels and increase our brain energy so that we can all stay productive. In our next blog post we will be focusing on what “brain food” is and will be providing a few recipes to help you include these important nutrients into your daily diet to make this difficult time a bit easier.

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