The coronavirus pandemic has caused disruption on an unprecedented scale, and it has affected lives right around the globe. While we are staying open for some key workers, we’ve had to take lots of precautions for the lockdown, including taking extra safety steps like carrying out regular deep cleaning.
As a result of the crisis, many people are working from home for the first time. You might be a freelancer or craftsperson who is unable to work in your normal setting, or you may be a small business owner now forced to work from home and manage your team remotely.
Whatever your situation, here are some tips to surviving and thriving when working from home.
1. Act Like You’re at Work
One of the biggest challenges with working from home is separating your work life and personal life. Leaving your home in the morning and going to the office or coworking space creates a clear separation between your personal and work lives. It’s therefore important to try and recreate that as best you can while working at home.
Start by trying to make your working day as similar as you can to working in your normal setting. That means having a shower, freshening up and getting dressed in work clothes. Yes, you could work in your pyjamas – but this can affect your mental state and make you feel lazier.
Wearing work clothes just like you normally would can help you to mentally and physically separate your work time. At the end of the day, change into your home clothes again to mark the end of the working day. It’s an effective way to transition into your work and out of it again at the end of the day.
2. Create a Dedicated Workspace
One of the most important things for most people when they suddenly find themselves working from home is the need for a workspace. This will depend on how large your house is and whether you live with children or not.
You might want to convert a corner of your bedroom into your office, but a garden shed or garage could be even better. In short, you need a place where you will not be disturbed. Creating a separate space also helps you physically separate your work life from your home life.
You will need the basics for your workspace, including a desk, phone and computer. Try to recreate your normal office space as best you can, and make it comfortable with a good chair. Somewhere with plenty of natural lighting will also help.
It also helps if you can physically ‘go’ to work. This could mean going for a short walk before returning to your workspace to get to work, which can mimic your daily commute and mentally prepare you for the working day ahead.
3. Stick to a Routine
Now you’ve got your dedicated workspace and you are making the transition into and out of work each day, try to stick to a clear routine.
Stick to your usual working hours if you can. Not only will this make it easier to communicate with colleagues, but it also provides you with a dedicated routine to follow. If you don’t do this, you could end up losing track of time and working late or not putting in enough hours.
Try to avoid distractions during your working day. This can be difficult at first, but try to avoid looking at the news – you can always check it on your lunch break or at the end of the day. You might also want to listen to white noise or natural sounds via an app like Noisli, which can help improve your concentration – especially useful when there are kids about. Some people can work to music and that’s fine but if it’s distracting, turn it off or find some music you can concentrate to (many people find classical music works well).
Don’t beat yourself up too much if you get distracted, but a good routine can help you to prevent it from becoming a problem.
4. Stay Connected
It’s easy to feel isolated when working from home. You may be used to working with colleagues and having people around in your coworking space, and now suddenly you’re on your own. So make the effort to stay connected.
Apps like Skype, Google Hangouts, Microsoft Team, Zoom, etc are ideal for holding virtual meetings. Zoom has become incredibly popular during the outbreak and has now become a household name.
But even if you don’t have any meetings, try to regularly check in with colleagues – talking to them and seeing them can help. Don’t go the whole day without talking to people, and don’t overly rely on emails and Slack – try to make the effort to speak by voice or video.
5. Take a Break
Do yourself a favour and take regular breaks from your work, such as every 30 minutes or every hour. Follow the Pomodoro Technique, which involves setting a timer to force yourself to take short routine breaks.
In your normal office, you may find yourself getting up to talk to people, hold meetings, and print documents. At home, you may not have these natural breaks, so make yourself take them.
Stand up, go into a different room, walk around the garden, or just stretch. If you live near an open space, try to make the most of it by going for a walk on your lunch break. Don’t let yourself get stuck in your work for hours on end because it can affect your productivity.
COVID-19 is here to stay for a while at least, and things are unlikely to get back to normal anytime soon – you may have to make the most of working from home for a while to come.
Do yourself a favour and stay healthy by eating well, getting exercise and socialising as much as you can, even if that’s via a screen. We’re all in this together, and keeping in touch with people will help you feel less isolated.
For now, it’s about looking after yourself and your loved ones while trying to make the most of a difficult situation.