Following the recent Coronavirus outbreak, we understand that the majority companies across Europe are following government advice to work from home (if possible) to minimise the spread of the virus. While working from home and flexible working have gradually become part of the daily working rhythm for many people, for some, this a major change and adjustment. As with all change, adapting can take time, but we hope to help the process by sharing a few of our top tips with you.
1. Maintain your normal routine and act like you are going to the office
The human brain responds well to routine. So, when home working trying to mirror the same routine as you would otherwise have can be helpful. Set an early alarm, get up and dressed (i.e. out of your Pyjamas!), have breakfast and aim to be at your working space 10-15 minutes before you are due to start work. People often use their commute to fully wake up and shift head space from home to work, so you could make this your one piece of exercise and get ready for your day.
2. Choose a dedicated workspace
If you are fortunate enough to have an office or workspace in your house try to use this same space consistently to create routine. A living room or on a couch, while not great for posture, could also pose distractions with TV or other family members and once you are finished working it is important to be able to move to a new space in your house to signal to your brain that work is over. Ultimately though, it’s important to do what works best for you and whatever that is, stick to it.
3. Structure your day
Have a structure and plan for what you want to achieve in a given day, just like you would in the office. Use your calendar to block out time and be disciplined in sticking to it. If you are easily distracted and tend to need the steer of your manager to keep you on track, perhaps ask a partner or colleague for support. Try setting yourself mini deadlines and have a colleague call you to check in and help hold you accountable to them.
4. Take regular breaks (but don’t be too tempted by the kettle!)
Just like in the office, to ensure you are mentally and physically fuelled for work, make sure you set aside time for food/refreshments and have regular breaks. If you are working from a kitchen, the temptation to snack or drink coffee more regularly can be tempting, so to strike a balance and stay healthy, set aside time in your day for this or even reward yourself with a refreshment break once you have completed a particular task or hit a deadline.
5. Minimise distractions
Once you have your work-space set up the best way to minimise distractions is to remove them from the room completely. If technology is distracting, then close down apps like Facebook and Instagram during working hours. If you need Whatsapp to communicate with your team, try downloading (if you have the relevant permissions) the web version to minimise the number of devices around you. If you live with other people, let them know your intentions and agree that your office space is out of bounds while you work. Equally working in complete silence can be tough. If this applies to you then put the radio on in the background only just loud enough to hear – classical music can be great to break the empty silence but not enough to distract you!
6. Communicate with your team
If you’re not used to working remotely, the absence of people around you can be mentally tough and test your motivation. However, there is so much great technology out there to keep us connected so use it at every opportunity. Applications such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Webex can bring meetings to life with the support of webcams and simple WhatsApp groups can be created to share funny photos, stories, or motivational team talks and messages.
7. Prepare meals and do housework
Feeling and being organised can positively impact mood and in turn productivity. Plan your meals the night before and make sure you have in what you need. With many shops low on stock and cafes, restaurants and take-aways closed, being organised is even more important and will avoid having to leave the house unnecessarily and help support government isolation guidelines. When working in the office, housework can pile up and become a huge task to tackle at the weekend. However, if you’re working from home, you can use this to your advantage and get on top of those all-important tasks. Try breaking down some of the items on your housework to-do-list and work through them over lunch or on your coffee break. A tidy house helps keep a tidy mind and when your house becomes your workspace this matters even more!
8. Move regularly and exercise
Staying physically fit is key when you’re at home and moving less. Schedule in time once a day to go for a walk, run or cycle (in line with Government directions, of course) or download one of the many fitness workouts online that can be done at home or in the garden. Doing sit-ups, press-ups or other body weight exercises require minimal space and no equipment so if you don’t have a home gym you could try a short 20-30-minute circuit work out. There’s plenty content on the web just now such as this workout guide from verywellfit.com
9. Maintain your work-life balance
When your home becomes your office, over time this can strain on your mental health. Your brain doesn’t always know when it is working and when it should be switched off and at ease. To help maintain a healthy balance, we recommend being strict with your working hours and committing yourself to switching off from work at a set time. Turn off all technology if you can, change your location and even what you are wearing as you would if you came home and changed out of your suit or work attire.
10. Be kind to yourself as a working parent
Juggling a full-time job as well as parenting/home-schooling is not easy, so be kind to yourself and be open to learning as you go and trying new things. Create a timetable or plan of activities each week for your children to create a level of structure and organisation. For younger children, who require more attention and involvement from you, we encourage you to work with your manager or HR to agree how you can best manage your work as well as parenting. These are unprecedented times and most employers will be understanding of the challenges you are facing, but the most important thing is to talk and ask for help if you need it. To avoid feeling like you’re on your own, use technology and communicate with other parents around you. You could set up a working from home parents’ group online to share ideas or for general moral support. Over the coming weeks and months try out some of these tips and see how you get on. Strive for progress, not perfection and stay safe and well while you are learning new skills and new ways of working.