Brits struggling to separate work from play as lockdown causes home misery

Almost six in 10 office workers are struggling to separate their work and home life in lockdown after ditching the commute, research has revealed.

A survey of 2,000 UK WFH adults found the average person is saving 60 minutes-a-day due to the lack of travel to and from work.

However, the much-maligned commute acted as a buffer between work and home life, leaving 59% struggling to switch off after their working day now.

And 42% of those surveyed by insurer Vitality went as far as to say the lack of commute is having a negative effect on their physical health and wellbeing.

As a result, 58% are even missing certain aspects of their trip to and from work, with being able to separate home and work the top reason.

Others miss the journey because it gave them time to drive in the car alone (25%), take a break from friends, family and housemates (22%), and exercise by walking and cycling to the station (19%).

Vitality is encouraging Brits to have a "fake commute", to spend at least 20 minutes in the morning before work or 20 minutes afterwards doing exercise, taking time to meditate or taking up a hobby to improve physical and mental health.

Neville Koopowitz, CEO of Vitality, said: "This year has been exceptional and changed our lives in many ways.

"In the first lockdown many of us found we had extra time in our day, taken back from the commute to work, which we were able to use constructively in some way.

"However, our research shows that more recently, likely affected by winter and the longer nights, that many of us have slipped into unhealthy habits, using this time to sleep in or work more, resulting in a struggle to keep boundaries between our working and home lives – which can lead to stress and poor mental health.

"That's why we at Vitality are urging everyone to set aside some of the time they would previously have used getting to or from work, to prioritise their own health.

"By taking just 20 minutes each day to introduce a habit, or one that may have previously been part of our commute, such as a walk, moment of meditation or even just getting outside to grab a coffee, we can all improve our physical and mental wellbeing during a time when it's crucial we look after ourselves."

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The study also found that while 29% have replaced their commute with a walk, 69% admitted they aren't doing much with the extra time they now have.

Almost four in 10 (37%) admitted they simply spend more time in bed.

And 40% are now working longer hours, leaving 45% feeling less happy due to increased stress.

As a result, the research, conducted by OnePoll for Vitality, found 67% feel they need to improve their mental health and wellbeing this winter.

Just under three quarters (72%) also want to boost their physical health.

When it comes to exercise, 36% have been doing more since working from home, but 32% admitted they are doing less than they used to.

A third (33%) said they need more motivation or the offer of incentives to make use of their commute time.

Another 27% felt they needed a plan to follow and 20% could do with a fitness device to monitor their activity.

Alongside the 'fake commute', Vitality's Winter Pack programme offers its insurance members incentives and rewards to stay healthy in mind and in body at home.

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Rewards include access to home workouts on Peloton, fitness device discounts and a coffee at home benefit with free guides and tips available for everyone to access on Vitality's social channels.

It comes after the insurer saw an 8% decrease in activity levels within its members during the first week of October, compared to the average weekly level for September.

Claire O'Neill, head of clinician management at Vitality, has highlighted the top five things to do with the fake commute.

Meditate: Switch off for 20 minutes each morning or evening by doing a guided meditation with an app like Headspace – not only will this help you feel set up and ready for the day or able to unwind after work, it'll help dispel any feelings of anxiety and stress that so many of us are feeling at the moment.

Coffee and chill: Are you missing that treat each working day? Go for a walk while it's still light and pick yourself up a coffee or hot drink. Treat yourself – try a new route near your home and time it so it's the same distance as your real commute.

Whip up a storm in the kitchen: Cook a fancy breakfast – nutritionally, breakfast is one of the most important meals of the day and can be key to helping you keep your energy and mood upbeat over winter.

Or, make a nice dinner with the time you have after work and replicate your favourite restaurant dish. Go all out and try something new – after all, you have more time and don't have to grab a slice of toast before running out of the door or quickly put something in the microwave when you get home – make the most of it and try a new recipe today.

Dancing queen: It can be easy to lose motivation to exercise when gyms are closed and it's dark outside, but this could be your chance to try something new that you'd never normally dream of taking up. Why not mix it up and do a dance class or try tai chi? You could find a whole new way of staying fit – and having fun.

Show your creative side: Pursue a hobby – why not try making your own Christmas cards for 20-30 minutes each morning or evening, or you could learn that language you always wanted to pick up for your next holiday. Having interests and a sense of achievement outside of work can help you de-stress and re-focus on something positive that you enjoy.

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