Last week, (hundreds of?) thousands of people in the UK were encouraged to work from home to slow the spread of COVID-19. While the idea of working in pyjamas for a few days sounds great, the experience can be something very different. By Friday I was reading a whole load of comments on social media by people who are finding the whole experience really frustrating.
I’ve been working from home for the past three years and I think that means I have something to offer from my experience, so very quickly…
Please, give yourself a break
Working from home can be a wonderful opportunity but like anything new, it will take time to adjust to. Most people have time to plan for this, create space for their desk, move what they need to from the office to home and probably shift to moving one or two days a week from home rather than being dropped in full time.
And, let’s be honest, it’s not like the rest of life is plain sailing either. There are many other distractions (which in my house include a seven-year-old and a four-year-old), and trying to organise a shopping delivery.
This isn’t a normal working from home time. Give yourself a break and realise it’s going to take practice and time to adjust. Try things, find out what works for you but try not to heap the pressure on and think that you’re just going to be able to work from home in the same way you do in the office (well done if you can).
For everyone working patterns at home are going to be different, but a few things I’ve learnt include:
Set time and space aside
The risk of working from home is that everything becomes work. You work from your bed, on your dining room table, out in the garden (if you’ve got that luxury), in the living room, on the loo. Problem is after a while work is everywhere and there’s no escape. Try to keep work to one space so you don’t end up living in your office.
Same with time. It can be liberating to think that you can work late into the night or open your computer first thing in the morning but after a while, it will mess with your life. Try to limit when you work, especially if you have others around that need your time too.
Get up, get dressed
Routine helps. I have friends who wear a suit to their desk at home. Others get up, make the bed, have a shower, breakfast, walk the dog, then settle to work. Whatever, you may find it helps to get into a routine that sets you up for work.
Keep in touch
This situation is strange for many people. After a few days you may find that the thing you miss most about working in an office is other people. Time to pick up the phone and talk to a few of your colleagues. Even if it’s not to do with work, have a chat anyway and see how they are doing. Social interaction matters. And if you are living in chaos right now, think about your colleagues who are on their own.
- one idea a friend gave me is to arrange an office coffee time every day and get a group together on a Zoom call.
Get exercise and get rest
Exercise is important to your health. Without a walk from the bus to your desk, you’re going to miss it. So, whether you join in with PE with Jo like every other parent with primary school kids at home or take the dog for a walk every day. Make sure you get some kind of exercise.
Also, get good rest. You need time away from work so turn the phone off, shut the computer, get away from your desk (this is why I’d suggest keeping work to one room or part of the house) and take your rest seriously. Don’t let work take over!
Enjoy it and learn from the experience
This has been an enforced change in a particularly unique situation. One that hopefully we won’t need to repeat again. But, take the opportunity to learn from what you are being forced to do. Can you adjust to working from home? If not why not? Is there something that would help you to do this better in the future?
And, while having family or flatmates around may make work more difficult than normal. Try to appreciate the time you have with them.