As I’m writing this, the UK and much of the world is still deep under lockdown because of the Coronavirus pandemic, which means many people are working from home who wouldn’t be in normal circumstances.
Working from home – whether you’re used to it or not – can be a tricky task at times. There are lots of distractions, no colleagues to share a coffee break, and no manager to keep you on your toes.
Saying that, working from home has lots of benefits, too. You can work at your own pace, make a comfortable space for yourself, and – my favourite – there’s no commute!
For me, the pros far outweigh the cons, but that doesn’t mean I don’t struggle at times. So I’ve written down some of my top tips for staying on track while you’re working from home.
1. Get out of bed
It’s oh so tempting to lie in bed as long as you want when you know you don’t have to go in to an office. But if you sleep until mid-morning, you’ve lost half a day’s work and you may find yourself deciding that, as you’ve missed the first half, why bother with the second half? Or else you’ll stress about fitting in 8 hours of work into the afternoon instead.
If you DO want to treat yourself to a lie in, use the length of your usual commute as a basis for setting your alarm a little later.
2. Get dressed
Some home workers love the benefit of lounging about in their PJs, but I find that puts me in a lazy mood. Getting dressed is a great way to remind yourself that today is still a working day, even if you are staying in the house. A cuddly dressing gown and comfy pyjamas are great for a relaxing day, but they can also help you sink deep into a pit of unproductivity if you’re not careful!
3. Dedicate a space
If you’re at home with other family members or housemates who also aren’t allowed out, then things can seem pretty crowded. If possible, find a dedicated place to work from and make sure your household knows that during your working hours, this is YOUR space and they should act as they would about your usual ‘off-site’ office.
Then follow that advice yourself. If you have a dedicated work space, you’re letting your brain know that you mean business when you sit down to start your day and you’ll be more focused because of it.
4. Give yourself a break
Remember that it’s okay to feel unproductive and sluggish at times. If you’re having a day when you’re really struggling, then take things easy. Give yourself good breaks between bursts of work and accept that you’re not going to always be at 100% productivity in such unusual circumstances.
Breaks are also important when you ARE feeling productive. Take a few minutes now and again to walk around the house, do a few stretches, or just take a Facebook break. It’ll help you concentrate more in the long run.
5. Daily exercise
It’s frustrating only being allowed out of the house once a day, but it is what it is and you should take advantage of what’s available. A walk or jog is a great way to get away from the computer and to reset and refresh. I like to go out mid-afternoon when I’m at my least productive, but find the time that works best for you.
If the weather’s rubbish or you just don’t fancy getting out, then there’s plenty you can do around the house. Gardening, a YouTube exercise tutorial, yoga, or just letting go with a bit of mad dancing around the living room!
6. Don’t binge
You may find yourself constantly snacking while working from home and that can make you feel sluggish and is also obviously bad for your health. So when you go to the supermarket, make sure you go soon after a meal so that you’re not craving sweet things. That way, you’re less likely to be tempted by sugary snacks. Pick up healthy nibbles instead and try and only allow yourself a treat at certain times of the day.
And remember my favourite anti-snack mantra: if it’s not in the house, you can’t eat it!
7. Drink Water
Without colleagues and customers to keep you connected to the world around you, it can be very easy to zone in completely on your work and forget to take the occasional break. Not only are these important for your health and sanity, they’re also a good opportunity to remind you to re-hydrate.
Becoming dehydrated can cause headaches, sluggishness, and a lack of concentration, so it’s good to have a cool glass of water by your side at all times so that you can continue taking sips throughout the day.
8. Talk to Someone
Sitting at home alone for days at a time can drive you round the bed and can also become incredibly lonely. Even if you’re not completely on your own, sometimes you want a change in conversation from those in your household. So make sure you keep in touch with your friends and colleagues. Why not set up a group chat with those who you usually see on a daily basis? You can discuss work, air frustrations, or just have a bit of banter. Whether you use WhatsApp or Zoom is up to you!
If the isolation is really getting to you and badly affecting your mental health, always remember that there is support available and people willing to listen.
9. Break it down
If days on end of working from home has you overwhelmed, then break it down. If a week is too much, think about today only. And if today is too much, just think about the next few hours. Set out a few achievable goals and tasks to do in that time and just focus on them, without worrying about what comes next.
It’s also important to remember that these are strange times. It’s okay if you’re not as productive as you would usually be and it’s okay if you do things more slowly. With this lockdown comes the chance to enjoy a slower pace of life and there are lots of benefits to be had in that.
10. Keep it normal
In abnormal times it’s important to keep a hold of your usual normal as much as possible. It will help you remain grounded and focused. As far as possible, it can be really helpful to stick to your usual schedule: get up, have a shower, get dressed, go to bed at a reasonable time… You will, of course, need to adapt to a different situation, but if you can hold onto part of that routine, you will find that you’re able to much more easily work from home.
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