It’s been 2 weeks since the UK Government announced a lockdown and nearly 3 weeks since I started working remotely. A lot of us are learning to work from home in the most bizarre of circumstances. It’s a whole new world, in more ways than one. Day by day, we are learning to cope with this changed world. Keeping motivated and – most importantly – staying sane is a bit of an uphill battle.
But, I’ve learned a lot in a short space of time about working from home that have helped me stay focused and balanced. For me, it’s been about setting up a work space, keeping a work/life balance, staying connected and staying healthy.
Set up your space
I worked for the first two weeks at my dining room table just because I didn’t have a desk. It was not easy or productive for so many reasons: I was distracted all the time, I had to clear away everything each evening and the space just didn’t work. I do have a spare room so I bought a desk (this one actually) and cleared some space in the room and set up an office.
Setting up a space to work is really important. If nothing else, it quite simply gives you a place to go to work. Where you don’t have a room you can use, find a corner of a room and section it off. If you have a family, try and keep them out of the space too. I can understand it must be hard if you are home schooling children but hopefully your employer is flexible and understanding of these kinds of circumstances.
It’s just a basic desk but it’s somewhere to work undisturbed and without distractions.
It’s so important to make sure you get the balance right between working and living. It really helps to stick to a schedule: get up at the same time, complete your morning routine, exercise; anything that you would normally do in a usual work day. My day follows a similar pattern to my usual office day most of the time.
5:45 – Wake up
6:00 – Breakfast
7:00 – Exercise or Walk
8:30 – Start work
12:30 – Lunch (1 hour)
17:30 – Finish work
18:00 – Make dinner
Setting a schedule helps massively when you’re trying to adjust to working from home. Keep setting your alarm. Get showered and fully dressed. Put make-up on if it helps. When you start work, make sure you get your tea breaks in too. I’m sure you get up to make tea or coffee every so often, get water, etc. Do that at home too.
Housework and chores can be a huge distraction. I definitely have been doing 10 minute jobs like laundry loads and cleaning the sink in my breaks. There’s nothing wrong with this. Try not to get so side-tracked that you end up cleaning the entire house. You are supposed to be working and you wouldn’t be doing these things if you were in the office.
Chances are, if you usually work in an office full of people, working from home on your own is going to be a huge change for you. To make sure you don’t go nuts, remember that you are not alone! When you are sat with just your laptop/cat/bottle of water for company, it can be so easy to forget this.
Stay connected with your colleagues as often as you can. This is especially important when you first start to work from home. Set up or join a WhatsApp group, have regular meetings via your favourite conference calling app. Do whatever you need to do to speak to an actual human being doing the same thing as you. If nothing else, it keeps you on the right track.
Be sure to bear in mind your employers rules around what you can and can’t talk about on social apps. For me, my job means dealing with financial matters for individuals so I need to be absolute clear on Data Protection breaches. I can only use company sanctioned conference calling apps accessed via company log ins (we use Office 365 so Microsoft Teams is our meeting app of choice). We do use WhatsApp as a more informal way of chatting to each other so it feels like we’re in the office. Make sure you follow your company guidelines on usage of external programs and apps.
Above all else, make sure you stay safe and healthy. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of working too many hours, chained to your desk. There isn’t the same natural separation of work and home so you have to create one.
Make sure you get in your exercise, especially if your usual routine includes that. There are so many resources online for at home workouts you can do. YouTube is great for this. Some gyms, like PureGym (my fave!) are offering some at home solutions to their members. FitBit too are offering a month free of their premium services if you have a device. Fitness equipment is getting very hard to some by but, to be honest, you can get a decent workout in using just your body weight. Try setting a goal to do so many push-ups or sit ups or to plank for 30 seconds. Take the opportunity to take up running. Anything to keep you motivated and on track.
Drink the Water!!
Most imporant tip alert! Try keeping a bottle of water on your desk and keep topping up your glass as you go.
It’s so important that we do all of this while following our Government’s guidelines around social distancing at this time too. As I type this, in the UK, we are allowed to go out for exercise (once a day if possible), shop for essentials and work, if home working is not an option. THis is in place to protect not only ourselves but others from catching COVID-19 and placing more burden on our healthcare services. Please make sure you are following whatever guidelines are in place whereever you are in the world.
I wish you all well and stay safe.