For many of us, working from home has become the norm over the past few weeks in light of lockdowns and social distancing. I’ve worked partly from home for nearly twenty years, but if working from home is something you’re still getting used to, there are a few things you can do to make life easier.
Create a Space
Designate space to your work area. A spare room with a table for your laptop and plenty of plugs. If, like me, your spare room is only big enough for the bed, your dining room table will have to do. Make sure this surface area can be left undisturbed, and that it is in a quiet part of your house. If you can get out to the shops and can afford it, a vase of fresh flowers makes a huge difference and nice to look at when you’re mulling something over.
Remove Distractions & Temptations
If, like me, you’re easily distracted (and not expecting any work calls), put your phone on silent and mute application notifications. The quickest way to do this is to switch your phone to Airplane Mode. Quit any other applications on your laptop that may eat your attention, such as email notifications or WhatsApp messages if you have the application loaded onto your desktop.
Play Some Music
I find it easier to concentrate if I’m listening to relaxing music. Applications like Spotify or Google Play are great to have on in the background. A bluetooth speaker makes for better sound quality than directly from a laptop or phone (you can buy these online for as little as €15).
Keep in Touch
Deep into isolation, it’s good to keep in touch with friends and co-workers. An excellent, easy to use, application for this is Zoom (40 minute limit call duration on the free version) or WhatsApp which is a good alternative to Zoom, but limited to four people on a group call at any one time (call one person and then invite the others via the plus icon on the top right hand side of your phone screen). Although distracting, WhatsApp is a great way to message people as a group, and can be easily downloaded and used from your laptop as opposed to on your phone.
Plan Your Day
Working from home can mean your working day floats in and out. For your own sanity and productivity, set regular hours for yourself that include start and end times. It’s important to be able to switch off when you’re not working. If you have a great idea or need to remember something, have a pen and paper close by so that you don’t need to open up your laptop (and become distracted by a work email or message).
Tempting as it may be to sit in your pyjamas all day – especially if you don’t have any video calls scheduled – the sense of laziness can affect your mood. Getting dressed and washed tells your brain you’re ready for business (and anyone else who might need your attention).
Working from home, by yourself, you may forget to take breaks. Without the distraction of colleagues and meetings, you may enjoy the sudden burst of productivity from working uninterrupted. However, without regular breaks this productivity can slow.
Equally as important is taking regular exercise. As my gym is closed, I’m running or walking. If the weather is bad there are tons of free exercise videos on YouTube. My favourites are the glute burning ones from Bailey Brown.
Try to eat well and regularly. The beauty of working from home is that you can stick your dinner in the oven and carry on working. By the time you’re done, you can eat!
Don’t be Hard on Yourself
Remember we are living in exceptional times. You can’t be productive and brilliant every day, and it is perfectly understandable to feel anxious or worried. Taking breaks, eating well, talking to someone and exercising are all great ways to be good to yourself. If things really get on top of you, there is always someone ready to listen at Samaritans.
Working from home, being isolated from friends and co-workers, takes some getting used to. Don’t be hard on yourself. Whatever you manage to do, you are making a contribution for all of us.