3 Ways to Regain Autonomy At Work During the Pandemic

As Covid-19 restrictions are being tightened again across the world, it’s easy to feel like we’ve gone backwards rather than forwards. Once again we’re faced with limited socialising and enforced home-working, continued social distancing and face mask-wearing, as well as new restrictions like restaurant curfews. Add to that the anxiety of seeing coronavirus cases rise on a daily basis, it’s likely that many people will again feel a loss of control and autonomy that will impact their work and leisure time.

Autonomy has long been shown to contribute to enhanced mental health and motivation. Conversely, a lack of autonomy is detrimental to wellbeing and motivation levels. In circumstances like these – when so much is out of our hands- focussing on what you can control, rather than ruminating on what you can’t, is key to maintaining a sense of autonomy. Here are some suggestions to help you reclaim some control:

Choose how to use your commuting time

One of the biggest perks of working from home is no commute – unless you count the journey from your bed to the kitchen table!

Now that we’re being encouraged to work from home again – which is likely to remain the case for the foreseeable future – embrace the benefits that come from having no commute. Pre-Covid-19, the commute was getting longer every year – a recent study found that the average UK commute passed the one hour mark last year at 65 minutes long. That’s potentially over an hour a day that you get back thanks to working from home.

Whether you spend that time sleeping in, getting outside for a morning stroll, or having a leisurely breakfast with your family, that time is now yours to do as you wish. Using your commuting time to build your own pre- and post-work routine will help you regain a sense of control over your day.

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Focus on professional and personal development

You can’t predict the future. But you can invest your time in enhancing your personal and professional development, something that will continue to benefit you for years to come. Traditional classroom training may be out of the question right now, but online courses have grown in popularity since the beginning of the pandemic, highlighting people’s appetite for improving their skills and knowledge.

Improve any gaps in your skill set or learn something entirely new by regularly spending an hour or two on your company’s e-learning software. These online learning systems usually include gamification elements like digital rewards, certificates, and progress bars, making the experience engaging and improving knowledge retention.

Spending time on expanding your knowledge is a good way of reclaiming control of your career progression. Even if you can’t utilise something you’ve learned right away, you’ll be setting yourself up for an exciting future further down the line when normality starts to return.

Be kind to yourself and your co-workers


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Whilst it may seem that a lot of things are out of our control right now, displaying kindness and empathy to yourself and your coworkers is something that’s very much still in our hands. Indeed, during the early days of lockdown, kindness and community spirit rose, helping us all feel like we were working through the challenges together. Six months on, and a renewed set of restrictions upon us, now’s the time to renew that commitment to being kind and supportive.

Be kind to yourself and invest in self-care by ensuring you remember to take regular breaks from work, including a full lunch hour. Use this time to prepare a proper and healthy meal – a feat that may not have been possible when working from the office and limited by the corner shop’s sandwich selection. If something in your home-working environment is lacking, such as your workstation equipment, look for ways to make improvements and seek help from your line manager.

Don’t forget to check in with your co-workers or staff too, especially those who find remote working particularly difficult or are feeling anxious about the ongoing pandemic. A quick video call or internal intranet message to show your support will be invaluable.

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