As far back as 2019 BC (Before Covid) working from home was a fantasy for many of us. The daydream of tapping away at your laptop in loungewear with the Hob Nobs close to hand, seemed a Nirvana that only trendy freelance types could enjoy.
Record-scratch and zip forward to mid 2020, is the startling reality of working from not quite as you imagined?
There are certain skills to working from home productively and happily – it’s time to turn off Deal or No Deal and get dressed.
We’re not all lucky enough to have a home office, but although that dent in your sofa cushion is calling you, it really isn’t the place to work from.
The dining table can be a great desk, just make sure you clear away debris before and after work. You could sit at the kitchen counter or even bring in some garden furniture if you have it. All you need is an upright, comfortable chair; room for paperwork and laptop; decent lighting and no distractions.
If you share the workspace with your children, encourage them to see it as a quiet place for concentration. When they need to let off steam, allow them a break elsewhere in the house or garden.
Aim to continue a morning routine as if you’re going into the office. Set your alarm, wear clothes that you would wear outside (not pyjamas), eat breakfast and clean up before you start work. If you would usually exercise before work, find the time to fit that in and get a good endorphin boost before you log in.
Shuffling from bed to laptop in a dressing gown every day will quickly make you feel despondent, unenergized and unmotivated, plus if you have a Zoom meeting, you need to look like you at least brushed your teeth.
Keep a Schedule
Planning what you need to achieve during the workday can help keep you on track when you feel distracted or bored. Before you log off at the end of the day jot down what you need to achieve the following day whilst tasks and deadlines are fresh in your mind.
Having a list or schedule of jobs can help chunk your day down; ticking off a couple of jobs before a coffee break or home schooling with the children boosts your sense of achievement and confidence.
Take set breaks
Too much screen time will have you staring into space like a stunned fish, so it is important to get up and move around often. Keep your breaks short – perhaps set a timer – it’s easy to get carried away with cleaning or laundry without realising.
Eat well at lunchtime and get fresh air if you can, a quick walk is a great energy-booster. If you have children at home it will give them a welcome change of environment.
Try not to run on caffeine. It is tempting to have strong coffee to hand when you’re feeling tired, but your mind and body probably need a break, a breath of fresh air or water.
If your Partner is at home
It’s easy for tensions to run high when you’re both working from home, especially if you also have children at home. Communication is key and talking about sharing the load can help avoid misunderstandings and arguments.
Sit together and plan certain times for each of you to have peace and quiet, or online meetings while the other watches the children or works in another room.
Likewise, enjoy a lunch break together whether to eat and chat or go for a walk. It will take you both out of your work bubbles and help with communication. Send each other funny memes during the day that you can laugh about at lunch, imitating the water cooler banter that you both have in the office.
Living alone and working from home can be a blessing or a curse. Loneliness has been at the forefront of many mental health campaigns during Covid and if you’re used to a busy work and social life, being alone 24/7 can take its toll.
Until you can enjoy face to face interaction again, it’s vital to communicate frequently throughout the day with your colleagues and friends. You may have Zoom meetings and work-related calls, but also schedule social time to chat with work friends. Have a virtual lunch together or a catch up after work or during a coffee break. Take time to talk about topics other than work, sharing how you feel and how life has been.
Define your working hours and stick to them
Put your laptop away if possible, tidy away paperwork and even get changed into more comfortable clothes. Don’t allow the workday and personal time blur into one.
Replace the Commute
Many people use their commute to get into and out of the work headspace. If you miss this, take a walk round the block before and after work to clear your head. Wear headphones if you would normally and try to mimic the feeling of gearing up to and winding down from your workday.
Ask for what you need
Not everyone has the tools available to work from home and it’s important to ask your boss for these. If you need technical equipment or an office chair, you must ask for it. Your employer has an obligation to ensure that staff are properly equipped to work. If you have children, talk to your boss about flexible hours when needed.
Enjoy the Perks
Working from home may not be as idyllic as you hoped but there are benefits that you couldn’t enjoy in the office. This could be sitting in your garden or partaking in a hobby during your lunch break, maybe eating something nicer than a soggy sandwich, or taking the dog for a walk.
Limit what you look at online
It’s tempting to surf the news or scroll through Pinterest for dinner recipes but try to save this for your breaks.
Don’t compare yourself to others on social media, what you see on Instagram is rarely a true depiction of the reality. That freelance dude drinking Macha tea next to his Ficus plant might have two screaming kids and an angry wife in the next room. There really is no such thing as perfect.