When the UK went into lockdown back in March 2020, I considered myself in a privileged position. I’d been working from home for over a year already and was quick to pass out advice and share my working-from-home habits with friends. The nation were fast to discover the benefits of home working and crossed our fingers that we might be allowed to continue doing so after the lockdown was lifted. Especially since it would be far easier with the kids back at school, right?
As time went on though, the challenges of homeworking emerged. It can be isolating. You can spend far longer working at the computer screen without breaks and when your office is in the same place as your home, it can be difficult to separate these two parts of your life. Although there are many things to love about homeworking, I heavily rely on my ever-growing bag of tricks to keep me motivated, balanced and relatively sane. Here are some of the things I have learnt:
Plan Your Day
Try to establish a daily routine. Regular times for completing tasks will ensure they become habits. For instance, have a time that you sit down at your desk and regular times for breaks. If you get a lot of emails, perhaps decide to reply to them only at 9 am, 2 pm and 3 pm, to ensure you're not getting distracted in between. Also, if you’re having online video meetings with colleagues or clients, ensure you don’t over-run. Of course, this happens in the office all the time but the difference is, you’re not staring at a screen for all that time, only to return to continue doing so. In the office, a meeting usually takes us away from our computers and provides us with some proper interaction.
It’s also important to have a clocking-off time. Since there’s no commute home it can be easy to work late every night and not necessarily get more done. However, for roles where you can be flexible, you may find it beneficial to work later and take longer breaks. I tend to do this because I find I need longer breaks from the screen. It’s easy to underestimate how much time in the office you are not staring at your computer. Whether it’s a few 5-minute chats at your desk with colleagues. Coffee breaks, meetings or fielding phone calls. So, my advice is to set your hours around what works for you and allows you to optimise your most productive moments as being those spent at your desk. Although, the ability to set your own working hours can depend largely on your job role and employer.
Dress For Work
If there's one thing people always say they'd love about working from home, it's not having to get dressed in the mornings. Ironically, this is one of the worst traps to fall into. We all remember our schools telling us why uniform was enforced. One of the many reasons is that it created an association with learning. Likewise, our work clothes put us in the right state of mind to work. There is something pychological that connects certain clothing with certain activities and as tempting as it is to stay in them all day, we acossiate pajamas with sleeping and not active time. You'll also risk disturbing your sleep routine because you have reconditioned your mind to believe sleepwear is now workwear. If you're in the health and fitness industry then you’ll probably be most motivated in activewear. Ask yourself, if you were meeting clients, how would they expect you to be dressed. For instance, I wear half of what I might if I were in an office. So I'll pair a shirt or blouse with jeans or leggings. Feeling comfortable whilst semi-smart empowers me to go about my business day with a higher level of self-belief and purpose.
Get Some Fresh Air
With less interaction, we tend to feel more tired and sluggish. Therefore, it’s important to drink lots of water to keep yourself hydrated, and also to get some fresh air. As your grandparents may have said - a little fresh air will do you the world of good! On busy days a 20-minute walk may seem out of the question. I guarantee though, you’ll be so much more productive when you return to your desk, that it’ll more than make up for the break.
Fresh air and a gentle walk can boost your mood and prevent any aches that can come from sitting in the same position for too long. Mostly, getting fresh oxygen into your lungs will allow your body and brain to work better. You can’t drive a car without petrol, no matter how keen you are to reach your destination. So get yourself out of the house for at least 20-minutes per day.
Talk To Real People
This one depends largely on what working from home is like for you. For some people, the issue will be getting other members of the household to give you some peace and quiet.
However, if you live alone it can be difficult. Not going into an office environment can make it easy for you to go without speaking to another person in days. This can be very isolating and result in the stifling state of cabin fever. If you live alone, make sure you at least make a phone call a day. It’s wonderful at times to be alone with your thoughts but it’s not healthy for any of us to lose touch with the real world, which is something that can happen when you live alone and work from home.
If possible, try to work every now and again in a coffee shop so you feel that sense of hustle and bustle around you. Then, when the evening comes around you can enjoy your ‘me time’ without feeling like that’s all you've had all day.
When you work in an office something you may take for granted is how much you learn from one another. If only through those random problem sharing sessions at the coffee machine. Where someone might ask, ‘have you ever thought of doing it this way?’, or, ‘why don’t you try reaching out to your LinkedIn network?'
Maybe you’ll still have Zoom meetings and training sessions even, but it’s no substitute for those random things you learn from working alongside your colleagues on a daily basis.
So, I put half an hour aside each morning to do some research. Whether that’s reading up on industry news or watching YouTube how-to videos. Sometimes, these are immediately useful. Sometimes it might be advice or knowledge I’ll use later. Either way, it’s usually an inspiring start to the day because our jobs are generally more exciting when we’re reminded that there’s always more to learn and new avenues to explore.
Take A Proper Lunch Break
What is the point in being at home if you’re not going to enjoy a proper lunch? Especially since it’s likely to cost less and be fresher.
Personally, as winter sets in I’m married to my soup maker. In the mornings I spend five minutes chopping up some veg, plopping it in with some stock and herbs. Then I switch it on and forget all about it (except for the delicious smell that begins to filter through from the kitchen) until it’s lunchtime. Then, all I need to do is pour out my hearty soup and settle down to that lovely warm taste of goodness!
In summer, anyone can make a fresh salad in under five minutes. It’s so much better when it hasn’t sat in a communal fridge all morning. Plus, it’s another few minutes away from the computer screen.
Talking of which, here’s my other piece of advice - take the full lunch hour. No matter what you promise yourself, you won’t finish your workday earlier by skipping the break. Mostly because you’ll be flying at half-mast from not having given yourself a breather. Plus, if you know it’s coming you’ll work harder to meet your pre-lunch goals before you settle down to eat. It’s better for both your body and your mind.
In many ways, the working-from-home lifestyle seems to move us more towards the Mediterranean culture. Where it is ever more important to balance the joy we get from our work, with the simple pleasures of life and self-care. Perhaps we’ll steer toward shorter working days where we will work intensively without distractions and move to free time earlier. However, as winter approaches and the daylight gets shorter, we may serve our general wellbeing better by working over longer periods of time. During which we take more breaks to enjoy some daylight, nourishing food, exercise and all those things that actually aren’t distractions but rather enable us to work with resumed energy and enthusiasm. #workfromhome #workingfromhometips #wellbeingatwork #homeworking #remoteworking