By business author and Purple Cubed founder, Jane Sunley
This blog is available as a podcast. You can listen to it here:
If even the thought of enforced homeworking has sent you into a panic, you’re not alone. There are upsides to working at home such as work-life balance, schedule flexibility, and work performance that working offsite can bring to your life. However, many of the challenges are wellness-related, for example being unable to ‘turn off’ after work, feeling disconnected, uninformed, lonely and staying motivated. For some industries, such as hospitality, where working at home is infeasible though, due to closures, people are sent home anyway, the challenges increase because you might not only be suffering pay cuts, though your sense of purpose and the collaborative, interactive spirit of your work is lost. There are things you can do though to improve the way you work at home and to help you through this challenging period:
- Mean business: get up, shower and get dressed – unless you’re one of those rare people who work better in their PJs. If you start to feel low when you realise a few metres is as far as you’re going today, find the upsides such as the flexibility you now have, working without being interrupted, having space to think, avoiding a packed commute and so on.
- Work zone: finding a dedicated space to work at home is, for many, easier said than done, though it will really help with productivity and being in it signals to your fellow home dwellers that they should give you some space. Even if it’s the end of the kitchen table or in the corner of a room, it does help to be able to ‘arrive’ and ‘leave’ once your work is done.
- Routine: this is up to the individual – if keeping to the same one works for you, do it. However, here’s also an opportunity to work according to your own biorhythms. If you’re more motivated, productive and creative earlier or later in the day, when the kids are at school, or in blocks of two hours with breaks in-between, for example, then do what works best for you (though let colleagues know when you’re available via a shared Outlook diary or similar).
- Willpower: setting down to complete a challenging task when you’re on your own can be tough, especially when hovering in the corner is the opportunity to catch up on the Netflix series everyone seems to be watching, though here’s an opportunity to build up your determination to succeed. Avoid doing both at once at all costs! Turn off your phone, email and other distractions and enjoy the quiet time to think and focus.
- Lose the guilt: many people find it hard to focus when working alone and remotely. Make sure you’re clear about what you’re supposed to be achieving, then write down a manageable to do list for each day (with the least enjoyable tasks first to get them out of the way), take one step at a time and cross them off the list.
- Refocus: if you lose focus and motivation, avoid pushing on at all costs, put the washing on, focus on something else for a while. Reward an unpopular task with and enjoyable one. Take breaks: even if you can no longer pop into your local coffee shop, maybe you could go for a walk in the fresh air, go for a run, walk the dog?
- Virtual support group: connect with colleagues or friends who are also working at home. Perhaps have a certain time of day when you all dial in to catch up, talk work and socialise? Schedule in regular meetings with your line manager, colleagues, others. Using video conferencing will mean you don’t go days without seeing another human.
- Rewards: celebrate achievements such as finishing a report with a short break/drink/treat (watch the extra snacking though!). Work on your self-confidence; with no one around you to provide feedback and positive reinforcement, you’ll need to access your ‘inner cheerleader’ to give yourself some positive affirmation.
- Self-care: be conscious of your mental health and be kind to yourself. Build in some ‘me time’ such as rest and relaxation, exercise, meditation, spending time with family, doing something you enjoy. It’s important to disconnect when the work is done. Here’s a good article about protecting your mental health.
- Community: if you’re fit and healthy, find ways to support others locally who may be unable to leave their homes by helping with their shopping or just with a friendly virtual chat. This can provide a great sense of achievement and something different from the day to day (you might find you race thorough your day job to then do this).
Overall, think about what you’re learning from having to do things differently and see how this can be applied in future – you might discover a few surprises…