Tips for working from home during COVID-19

We know it’s a very different and uncertain time for everyone as we transition to our ‘new normal’, and that these exceptional circumstances are a change from what we are all used to.

Working from home can bring stresses and strains for all of us, especially if you’re not used to working from home. It is important that emotional wellbeing during this time is kept at the forefront of our minds. We all have a duty of care to each other, those who work for us in our teams and colleagues we work alongside. We need to support each other throughout these changes and it’s the spirit of human togetherness that will help us all through this time.

We all face slightly different challenges and scenarios when we work from home due to the type of work we do, our lifestyles, family commitments and our different personalities. However, many of the issues we will face will be similar.

To help make the experience of working from home a positive one, read our guidance tips below:

1. Maintain a routine

We are creatures of habit and when our routine is suddenly disrupted, we go through several emotions such as helplessness, despair, anger and frustration. In order to gain back a sense of control, you will need to mimic your previous routine as closely as possible. 

If you wake up at 5 a.m., then continue that same routine. If you like going for a jog before work, then continue that routine (of course where restrictions allow). If you wear more formal attire for work, then you should still do the same. Otherwise, if we wake up at 9 a.m., don’t work out, don’t get dressed, we start to feel out of place and have no sense of normalcy and our routines becomes distorted. 

Make sure you also create a routine that signals the end of your workday. It might be a sign off on your work messaging apps and computer followed by a chat with friends or family, an online workout, or catching up on your favourite podcast or TV programme. Whatever you do, make sure it becomes a consistent part of your day to mark the end of your working hours.

For those who have children, keeping the same routine will be critical for your children. Otherwise, they will perceive time at home as if it were time off and not be motivated to learn. This will make it harder for you to help them stay on track with their schoolwork.

2. Set Boundaries for Working Hours

One of the biggest mistakes people make when they work from home is to work more. Many do it because they feel guilty that they are working remotely and don’t want their line manager or colleagues to think they are being work shy or slacking off, or they don’t know what to do with the extra time and, as a result, use the time to “catch-up”.

Create time boundaries and use that extra time to do something else. If you commute to work, chances are you take that time to listen to music, podcasts, audio books, or something else. That should continue. The time getting to and from work is a transition period between home and work, and, as frustrating as commuting can be, it’s our time to prepare ourselves to go to school or the office. By not commuting, the lines start to get blurred between work and home. 

3. Create a space to work

It can be tempting to work from your bed or the sofa when at home, but people who already successfully work from home recommend that it is best not to do so. Set up an area in your home as a workstation to give you more of a feeling that you are in an office environment. This will also help you to avoid distractions, maintain good posture and leave the workday behind you at the end of the day.

4. Use Video Calls

For many of us, in-person face to face contact is important because we are able to read social cues when talking with someone. When we work from home, our in-person contact with colleagues disappears; as such, it becomes important to see the people you talk to.
Many of us already have been but try to actively use a video function such as MS Teams, BlueJeans, MS Teams, WebEx and other programmes. It is understandable that many people are not comfortable being in front of a camera; however, doing so will allow you the opportunity to see your friends and colleagues and, in turn, it will give you a greater sense that you are still connected. It’s important to work out how much interaction you need to feel connected and included. At a minimum, continue your chats via instant messaging apps or phone. Don’t just rely on email.

5. Take Breaks

Being in the office or school lends itself to casual chat with colleagues. Someone comes around and asks if you want to go grab a coffee or asks you to go for a walk. That clearly will be hard to do if you’re now working remotely but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take breaks throughout the day. Taking breaks will be critical for your sanity but also make sure you rest your eyes from sitting in front of the computer and screen.

One way to add breaks into your schedule is by adding a daily calendar invite for 10 minutes at 10:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., or you can use ‘Clockify’, free software that tracks how long you’ve been on your computer. Regardless, make a concerted effort to step away from your computer.

6. Move Around

We still do not know how long this pandemic will last and the chances are that we will be home longer than we might want to be. So, take a step back and look at your home. Ask yourself, “if this space were a WeWork or Coffeeshop, where would I want to sit throughout the day?” Even if you live in a small space, moving your chair from one place to another will give the brain the perception that you are now in a new space. Obviously, this would be applicable to those working on a laptop.

For those working on a desktop, perhaps think about adding flowers or plant to your desk area or re-arranging it a little to make it look a bit different. Also, moving your desktop to an area that has a lot of sunlight will also help because it will make where you work brighter. Regardless, the point is to find spaces in your home where you can move around throughout the day even if it means simply taking a call from your phone somewhere other than your desk. 

7. If you have children, prepare for and accept distractions

It can be difficult to work from home if you also have children to take care of who need your attention. To help make it easier make sure you plan ahead and have some flexibility. Try mixing up your working hours to make them work around caring for your children and if you co-parent, take it in turns watching your children and working.

Make sure you create a routine for your children, explain the current situation and talk to them about coronavirus, try new activities and keep in touch with their friends and your family.

8. Make It Personal

Most importantly work out what is best for you. Sometimes it can be beneficial to talk to colleagues and take inspiration from others. Don’t be afraid or reluctant to connect with colleagues just to talk things through whether they are work-related or just personal.

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