Many of us already work from home, or at least have some experience of doing so, but some have never done this before. So suddenly being forced to do so can be a huge shock to the system.
Here are some tips for working productively from home during the coronavirus pandemic:
1. Create a schedule
You don’t have to get up at your usual time, because there is no longer a commute. However, make sure that you are at your laptop at the same time you would usually be at your office.
Make sure that you get dressed and ready in the morning as you usually would. Nothing kills productivity more than sitting in your pyjamas!
Make sure that you take regular breaks, including a lunch break, and make sure that you finish work at your usual time. Without the commute to separate work life from home life, it can be very easy to slip in and out of work mode throughout the day and evening.
Of course, there might be some extra work to do at the moment, as moving a whole business online is a large task, but ensure that you stick to some sort of sensible routine.
If you are sleeping in much later, going to bed in the early hours, working through lunch, or taking a three-hour lunch, your routine is likely to be impacted, and not only could this negatively impact your mental health but, your boss may notice.
2. Create work zones
As already mentioned, not having the commute to separate home from the office, it can be difficult to separate out work from home life. For this reason, it is so important to mark out different zones in your home.
Many of us know that we shouldn’t work from our beds, and The Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard backs this up, saying that “Keeping computers, TVs, and work materials out of the room will strengthen the mental association between your bedroom and sleep.”
However, it is important to keep work away from where you relax as well. If you spend your evenings relaxing in front of the TV, then try not to set your work station up on that sofa. If you have a separate room that you can use as a home office, then use that room exclusively for work. If not, then perhaps use a kitchen table or dining room.
I mentioned taking regular breaks above. Make sure that when you take your breaks, especially your lunch break, you move into a different zone in your home. Perhaps sit on the sofa instead of at the table, or move into the living room rather than the home office.
All of this gives your brain the message that ‘right here, this is the place for work and, right there, that is the place to relax’ making the transition between work and home a bit easier.
If you aren’t able to separate out your work zones quite so much then make sure that you tidy away all of your work things before you settle down to relax in the evening, and then set it up again ready for the morning.
3. Set your tasks in advance
Working from home takes some self-motivation and discipline.
At the beginning of the day, or at the end of the night before, set out the tasks that you want to achieve or work on that day.
Working from home can sometimes end up feeling a little reactive – just responding to whatever emails or phone calls coming in. If you are able to, set a list of projects or tasks for the day or week ahead and steadily work through them. Of course, there may be interruptions and emails to answer while you do so, but it will be a much more productive use of your time.
4. Virtual Meetings
Make use of digital technology to stay connected to your colleagues. You can use software such as Skype, Zoom, and Google Hangout to have group meetings. Not only will these be helpful in terms of making sure you are on the same page, but it can ease the sense of isolation that working remotely can bring.
Emails are great, but face-to-face communication – even if over video conferencing software – is even better. Emails get the information across but can feel impersonal, whereas virtual meetings can boost morale, but just remember to write down anything important!
We are now faced with not only working from home but having kids home from school. This mix can be challenging. Depending on the age of your children and the level of support (i.e. partners who might not be working or who you might be able to take turns with), this can be managed in different ways.
If your kids are slightly older and more able to understand then you can set them up with their own area in the house, and set times when you aren’t to be disturbed – except in an emergency (and outline what constitutes an emergency). In these cases, set your work breaks slightly closer together, and spend some quality time with the kids during these breaks, rather than catching up on social media.
If you have a partner or other adult in the house that can support with childcare, or that you can take turns with childcare, then this is ideal. One of you can work for an hour while the other is with the kids and then swap. If your kids are younger or need more supervision for any reason, then it might be worth discussing this with your boss and seeing if your work schedule can be more flexible. These are unprecedented times, and so they call for unprecedented ways of working.
6. Be compassionate
Show yourself some compassion. If you don’t manage to get all of your work done because your kids are around, or because you had to queue at the supermarket for over an hour, or you had technical difficulties, don’t beat yourself up. This is a learning process and an unusual situation that we are in.
Remember that when you are working in an office, there are times that you aren’t sitting at your desk furiously working. You probably chat with colleagues, make yourself some coffee, sit in meetings that you don’t really need to be in, and so on. Don’t beat yourself up if you spend a bit of time getting your home office set up, or if you spend some time making coffee in the kitchen or putting the laundry on.
Of course, it is best to stick to work tasks during working hours and leave other things for the evenings and weekends, but at the moment this might not be practical. Remember that “there are bright places, even in dark times. And if there isn’t you can be that bright place.” (Jennifer Niven).
Do reach out for support rather than hold on to all your worries. Call 020 8673 4545 to speak to one of our friendly Front of House team who can answer your questions and help find you the right therapist for you. Or email [email protected] to book your phone or online counselling session. We offer sessions seven days a week, with low-cost options available too.