Working From Home - Survival Kit
Is this your first time working from home? Or have you experience, but with the current uncertainties and social distancing laws finding yourself struggling to keep sane, productive and able to deliver you once did. If so, here are some top tips for Working from Home (WFH).
Work space environment:
First and foremost it is important to find a working space away from the home environment solely for working. If possible consider a place that has some spots for natural light exposure. If you can work near a window that can be kept open often in the sunny weather, even better as studies suggest better sleep when we are absorbing natural light and fresh air. Ensure that this environment is as comfortable as can be and your posture is as supported as possible. Ensure that work space is organised in a way that gives you easy access to your paper diary, stationary, wifi, water bottle, charging ports and all the other tools you may require to complete tasks at hand with ease.
If your using home wifi I would recommend creating a secure password, and ensuring your working laptop has antivirus software installed. Its important we continue to maintain confidentiality and privacy of phone calls and video calling. Use headphones where possible to reduce the chance of others in the house hearing your conversations. Save and lock screens when you are not at your work station, because some documents are private even for your family.
With children running around and partners (perhaps in some case parents) asking what you want for breakfast at 10AM, it can be quite difficult to ‘cough’ over that noise while on a call! Maybe let your family know your working hours, stick a copy of your timetable on the fridge or on your door so they know not to disturb during this time.
Dress and get ready for work:
Start and close your day with routine. Unless you can reduce the working day, keep to the same or similar routine or working hours that you’ve always done to maintain the mental and emotional association with being at work. It can help to put your usual work wear on, because the change back to information wear will help transition back to family and personal life. For the ladies - perking up your make-up look may also set you up for the day. These small considerations will influence your mindset making you feel professional and with some semblance of control in what are extraordinary times. If you have a company badge or lanyard, wear it as it will offer the right work mindset when talking to colleagues or clients. Maybe now is also the time to have a little fun with your clothes. Why not try on that pink shirt you got for Christmas, or that floral dress? As long as you look professional, a dash of colour will do your mood wonders, and might brighten things up for those you are working with too.
Arrive and leave for work:
The journey to work is usually what separates home life from work life, allowing us to park most of our personal and domestic issues when we are at work, and to leave work stresses in the office when we come home. During COVID-19, our journey has been reduced to a few steps between the Bedroom, Loo, Kitchen and Sitting Area, with some people having the benefit of a Home Office or Dining Room that is doubling up as one. We still need to step out if we can, into the air. We would also do well to build in artificial breaks and changes of scenery, to emulate the variety of experience we usually get at work.
Maintaining social distancing as recommended while engaging in your once daily outdoor exercise is really important. Maybe you could achieve this having a morning walk, as if this is your journey into the workplace. By pretending to travel to work in this way, it can act as a bridge between brushing your teeth, having breakfast and sitting down with your laptop or phone. Perhaps the end of the day could be marked with some walking around the garden, or up and down the stairs, as another physical aide to transition.
Maintaining structure to your calendar:
It's so easy to be distracted at home, so it's important we maintain some basic boundaries. Try to keep as much structure as possible to your working day, keeping your diary up to date. Be realistic with this and try to add regular breaks in between for a stretch, making a cup of tea or to check in with a colleague or friend. Just as you would have lunch and rest breaks at work, this is needed at home too. Those social chats that break the day up are still useful, so maybe coming out of the work area to talk with your partner or housemates, or just giving someone a social call, might help. If you and other family members are working from home and have children to look after, try and plan balancing the care between each other so that adults can manage responsibilities with ease.
Whatever you do, try not to overwork. Put your phone and laptop away when the working day is over, and be disciplined in not returning to it until the next working day. When everyday blurs into the next, clear endpoints to each day are crucial for our own sanity and peace of mind.
This doesn't haven't to be vigorous exercise but rather any physical activity which helps you to move more. As suggested, get into your garden. If you have a dog, go out for a walk. Take some headphones and listen to your favourite music or podcast, while you move. Others may find it helpful to compliment their activity with meditation or simply being mindful of the sounds of nature. It may seem silly, but even ironing, taking washing in and out of the dryer or cleaning an area of the house can get the blood flowing! There are lots of guided strength training sessions online you can also follow. The well known body-coach, Joe Wicks, is currently offering free easy beginner home workouts every morning live at 9AM. Some videos are online to browse and there are also family activities you could do together with as part of your break from work or even to start or finish the day off on a high. See: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCAxW1XT0iEJo0TYlRfn6rYQ
Communication and Support:
use of emails for quick questions or follow ups.Keep in touch with friends and family. If you are struggling with work tasks, you should feel able to reach out to managers and supervisors, like any day at the office. If you are a sole trader or self-employed, then make use of the mentors and peers who do similar things, such that they would understand your position. Don't feel as though you are disturbing anyone as it's important to remember we're all in this together. Support given and received, is a reciprocal process. If you work as part of a team, use technology such as Zoom and Skype to video call and maybe consider planning a daily Zoom Lunch meeting so you can share with your colleagues as to how your day is going so far.
Remote connectivity with others via video or phone can lead to cognitive ‘drift’ in our communication style. When we are not face to face, our thinking and decision making may not be as sharp. Make a written note of what you want to cover, and also any tasks or actions that arise during the call.
I hope you find these simple tips and suggestions to be helpful. You know yourself better than anyone else, so ask yourself:
What are my helpful and unhelpful habits?
What will work for me, right now?
What is my usual coping style when I am stressed or need to negotiate change?
What will help me to be calm and productive?
Who is in my support network, and when was the last time I gave them a call?
Do I usually keep realistic goals, or do I tend to set myself unachievable standards?
How might I be kind and supportive to myself, in this difficult and uncertain time?
IAPT Psychological Therapies Practitioner
Harishtha achieved a first class honours degree in Psychology from the University of Sheffield. She subsequently trained as an IAPT Therapist, using an approach known as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). She works in NHS IAPT Services and has kindly written this article for Solihull Well Being Clinic.