In the final part of our series of articles covering coping with the current crisis, business author and Purple Cubed founder Jane Sunley provides 10 tips for home workers
If even the thought of enforced homeworking has sent you into a panic, you're not alone. There are upsides that working offsite can bring, such as work-life balance, schedule flexibility and improved performance, but there are also challenges, many of them wellness-related, such as being unable to ‘turn off' after work, feeling disconnected, uninformed, lonely or demotivated.
For some industries, such as hospitality, where home working is infeasible due to closures, the challenges increase because workers are not only suffering pay cuts, their sense of purpose and the collaborative spirit of work has been lost. But there are things you can do to improve the way you work at home and to help you through this challenging period:
Mean business Get up, shower and get dressed – unless you're one of those rare people who work better in their PJs. If you start to feel low when you realise a few metres is as far as you're going today, find the upsides, such as the flexibility you now have, the ability to work without being interrupted, having space to think, avoiding a packed commute and so on.
Work zone Finding a dedicated space to work at home is, for many, easier said than done, though it will really help with productivity and it signals to your fellow home dwellers that they should give you some space. Even if it's the end of the kitchen table or in the corner of a room, it does help to be able to ‘arrive' and ‘leave' once your work is done.
Routine This is up to the individual – if keeping to the same routine works for you, do it. However, this is also an opportunity to work according to your own biorhythms. If you're more motivated, productive and creative earlier or later in the day, or when the kids are more distracted, or in blocks of two hours with breaks in-between, then do what works best for you (though let colleagues know when you're available via a shared Outlook diary or similar).
Willpower Setting down to complete a challenging task when you're on your own can be tough, especially when hovering in the corner is the opportunity to catch up on the Netflix series everyone seems to be watching, though here's an opportunity to build up your determination to succeed. Avoid doing both at once at all costs! Turn off your phone, email and other distractions and enjoy the quiet time to think and focus.
Lose the guilt Many people find it hard to focus when working alone and remotely. Make sure you're clear about what you're supposed to be achieving, then write down a manageable to-do list for each day (with the least enjoyable tasks first to get them out of the way). Take one step at a time and cross them off the list.
Refocus If you lose focus and motivation, avoid pushing on – put the washing on or focus on something else for a while. Reward an unpopular task with an enjoyable one. Take breaks: even if you can no longer pop to your local coffee shop, maybe you could go for a walk in the fresh air, go for a run, walk the dog?
Virtual support group Connect with colleagues or friends who are also working at home. Perhaps have a certain time of day when you all dial in to catch up, talk work and socialise. Schedule regular meetings with your line manager, colleagues and others. Use videoconferencing and you won't go for days without seeing another human.
Rewards Celebrate achievements, such as finishing a report, with a short break/drink/treat (watch the extra snacking though!). Work on your self-confidence; with no one around to provide feedback and positive reinforcement, you'll need to access your ‘inner cheerleader' to give yourself some positive affirmation.
Self-care Be conscious of your mental health and be kind to yourself. Build in some ‘me time', such as rest and relaxation, exercise, meditation, spending time with family or doing something you enjoy. It's important to disconnect when the work is done. Here's a good article about protecting your mental health.
Community If you're fit and healthy, find ways to support others locally who may be unable to leave their homes by helping with their shopping or just with a friendly virtual chat. This can provide a great sense of achievement and something different from the day to day (you might find you race through your day job to do this).
Overall, think about what you're learning from having to do things differently and see how this can be applied in future – you might discover a few surprises…
This article first appeared on the Purple Cubed website
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