Creating new habits in times of disruption

We are several weeks into the COVID-19 pandemic, and our professional and personal lives look very different to just a month ago, let alone the beginning of the year. Change has been rapid and relentless. Even though there are a number of restrictions in place at the moment, we still have the freedom to remain mindful and intentional about our actions to protect our health and wellbeing.

Now that most of us have probably started to settle a bit more into the new routine of working from home and connecting remotely with colleagues, clients, family and friends, this is a good time to review and adjust some of the new habits that have started to form.

Here are some ideas to “fine-tune” your new habits, including some lessons I have learned along the way:

  • Set yourself up for the day. The time that it used to take to commute to work is now available for things that matter to you – but you need to be intentional about it. If you don’t take control, time has a habit of filling itself, but not necessarily with the things that really add value to your day. Now is the time to experiment with a more positive morning routine to set you up for the day. Why not going for a run, meditate, use the time for journaling, or cook a nutritious breakfast for the family? The same applies to your evenings; how can you benefit from the time that used to be filled with your home commute?
  • Monitor your water intake. Drinking enough water in the office was never an issue for me; a large bottle on my desk used to be a constant reminder to keep sipping throughout the day. Now, at home, I use a water glass with a much smaller capacity, and I noticed that I drink less. After a few episodes of sudden thirst, I realised that I need to find a better way to nudge myself into drinking enough water on a regular basis; a big jug is now in easy reach or continue to use you water bottle from work.
  • Get up and stretch regularly. Working from home tends to be a lot more stationary than working in the office. If part of your commute included walking or cycling, this is now gone. Where a day in the office used to include many small opportunities to stretch your legs – eg walking to the meeting room, the printer and office supplies, the lunch room on a different floor or the bathroom across the hall – the reduced space at home limits such movement. This means we need to be more deliberate about movement to avoid stiff muscles, sore necks and headaches. Try to get up from your chair at least every hour, and set yourself reminders to stand up and stretch several times per day. You can also do these sitting stretches.
  • Go outside during your lunch break. I am lucky to have large windows to look out of every time I lift my eyes off the screen, but there can be whole days without any sunshine touching my skin. This is not a habit I am going to allow to take hold. If you are working from home, make sure you get outside at least once during the day, for example during your lunch break. Maybe support a local café in your neighbourhood at the same time and get some caffeinated fuel for your afternoon. 
  • Find new ways to exercise. Move your body and get your heart rate up, every day. For most people, pre-COVID-19 workout routines have been disrupted as our gyms, yoga and pilates studios have had to close their doors. However, many studios are now streaming their classes so you can work out from home. You may also want to check out one of the many fitness apps to help you achieve daily goals, and use local parks and beaches for runs and outdoor workouts.
  • Experiment with online socialising. If you used to have lunch with colleagues or friends to break up your work day, working from home doesn’t mean that you cannot have these opportunities to chat and connect over a meal. Why not have lunch together virtually through FaceTime, Zoom, WhatsApp or Skype? You don’t have to go without Friday afternoon socialising with your team, either – just move it online and say hello to everyone from your sofa. For a bit of fun, Zoom allows you to select different backgrounds, so you could ask everyone to choose a backdrop showing their favourite holiday destination, or a colour pattern to represent their current mood. 

If you would like to learn more, don’t hesitate to reach out to the QLS Solicitor Support service on or p. 3842 5843 to speak to someone in a judgement-free and supportive environment.

 Rebecca Niebler is QLS’s Organisational Culture and Support Officer, QLS Solicitor Support (QLS Ethics and Practice Centre)

7 April 2020

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