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.
As someone who has had a good mixture of working from home, going into work, working for myself, and working for others, I thought I would share some tips on how to make sure you are still productive, looking after your mental health, and looking after your physical safety during the Coronavirus outbreak.
1. Stick to a routine
When you are working from home, it is important to stick to a routine. It might be that your job is based on output rather than time spent at the desk, or it could be vice versa. In either case, make sure that you still get to your laptop at the same time you would get to the office. Have a break for lunch, and then back to your laptop until you would normally leave work.
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.
Some people, myself sometimes included, can fall into the trap of working longer hours because there is no longer the Tube journey home to separate yourself from your office. It is so easy to just pop onto your laptop or phone and answer a quick email or make a quick phone call. Some situations may call for this, and it is important to rally at times like this, but it is also important to consider your mental health and boundaries and ensure that you are taking time to wind down in the evenings.
2. Create a work zone
We all know how detrimental it can be to your sleep to work from your bed. But it is equally important to try to keep your work zone away from your chilling out zone. If you have a home office already set up, then that's great! But if not, try to find a space in your house that you don't use for relaxing. It doesn't have to be the perfect Instagrammable work space, it just has to be functional. For example, you might set up your work zone at your dining room table, and leave the sofa for relaxing in the evening.
Working from bed or from the sofa can mean that your mind never truly switches off and this can cause unneeded stress and anxiety.
There might be more than one of you working from home, so it is important to be considerate of each others space. If one of you needs to make phone calls for work purposes, it can be distracting for the other person, so it is important to be attentive and think ahead about how you can separate out your workspaces.
3. Fresh Air
If you are still able to go outside, make sure you do so. It might just be a walk around the block or through the local park, but changing your scenery is very important to boost productivity and reduce the feeling of cabin fever.
If you are quarantined due to having symptoms, or someone in close proximity having symptoms, then make use of any personal outdoor space that you have such as a garden or balcony, or even just keeping some windows open to give you a good flow of fresh air.
4. Set up a to-do list
Whether you are self-employed or working for others, you might find yourself at a loss for things to do when working from home. It can be easy to fall into the habit of just being reactive rather than being productive. Sitting there just answering a mountain of emails might not be the best use of your time. It might be better to spend your time composing a group email that you can send to multiple people. It might be better to spend your time on certain projects rather than others.
Make sure you are covering all of your normal tasks by setting up to-do lists and work schedules for yourself. Letting your boss know what you are up to by sending a daily or weekly email update can be helpful as well!
5. Virtual Meetings
Just because we are in isolation, doesn't mean we are cut off from the world. Although the pandemic is awful, there has never been an easier time to be quarantined at home. Through technology, we can keep in touch with friends and family, but also with colleagues.
Make sure you set up Whatsapp groups with friendly colleagues for informal support. Send emails to colleagues and managers to keep everyone in the loop. Set up virtual meetings using software such as Skype or Zoom.
6. Be productive rather than busy
Most of the time, when we are at work, we aren't full-out working 9-5. We are talking with colleagues, making coffee, in meetings that could have been emails, and so on. There is no point sitting at your laptop if you aren't working. Set out the tasks that you need to do that day, get them done, and then relax.
If you aren't on call or actually being productive, then don't sit there trying to be busy when you could be doing other things such as calling relatives or spending time with your kids. Don't feel guilty for not staring blankly at your laptop if you have nothing productive to do.
There we have it. This is my short but, hopefully, sweet list of tips for working from home. I hope that everyone is safe and well! If you would like to request a counselling appointment online, please email me on firstname.lastname@example.org or use the 'Appointments' tab in the menu above.
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