For the most part we know the craic. Unfortunately Coronavirus has most of us locked up at home, socially distancing from our friends and family while healthcare and retail staff are on the front lines propping up the country.
I could set the scene and detail all the developments from the past week or so, but we know the bottom line: We are going to have to change our lifestyles, habits and social life dramatically. For a lot of people this includes now having to work from home.
I myself have been working from home three to four days a week for the past 7 or so months. While it may seem a relatively short period of time to some I’ve picked up some tips and tricks that will immediately improve your well being and productivity if you give them a chance.
I’m aware that people work differently. For this reason most of the tips are flexible and can be adapted to suit your preferred approach.
1. Take your time
On a cursory glance this seems counter productive. Take your time? I promise it’s not code for skiving, rather it’s the opposite. A morning routine consisting of snoozed alarms, half drank cups of coffee and uncomfortable jogs in the rain to catch the bus or train is all too common. Moreover, you know what it’s like getting stuck beside someone with poor hygiene or a having to stand like you are stuck in a tin of sardines.
Well now you don’t have to.
Alter your morning routine to have a more comfortable start to the day. The 50 minutes you took travelling to work can now be appropriated elsewhere. Give yourself an extra ten minutes in bed, 30 minutes to make and enjoy a nice breakfast and ten to chill before you start.
Allowing yourself that extra time to have a pleasant start to your morning can have a seismic effect on the rest of your working day. If you can stick to your guns and ensure you get out of bed at an appropriate time then this can be really beneficial.
Likewise if you have the freedom to start and end when you want then take advantage of that. These are trying times and we have to do what we can to get through it. If you know you are not a morning person and you work better in the evenings then take an extra hour in bed and finish work an hour later. Try implement these changes into a consistent routine, but importantly be pragmatic and cut yourself some slack.
2. Separate work from home
This is paramount. The size of your home, its layout or the number of people you live with can make this difficult, but with some thought you can place some much needed physical and mental boundaries.
First and foremost, if possible you should separate your work area from your living area and/or where you sleep. Keep your bedroom only for sleeping and your work space only for working. From my experience it becomes difficult to escape checking notifications, emails and the thought of lingering work if you continue to spend your evening in the same spot you work.
If you don’t have access to a separate room to work in (I don’t), this is what I suggest. Build a workstation. Now this doesn’t mean you should hand craft a desk from the finest oak the closest forest has to offer. Simply organise your belongings and necessary equipment into a spot that is isolated as possible and when your work day is finished completely remove them out of sight. If that means moving a desk or chair to another spot so you have a different view when working and chilling then so be it.
The long and short of it is you need to create recognisable and visible differences between when and where you are working. When you are done keep your work equipment out of sight and out of mind if possible.
3. Exercise, take regular walks and stretch
Even at the best of times I can feel a sense of cabin fever working from home. With the current situation that risk increases tenfold. Most social sports have been cancelled and social distancing is being encouraged so it’s important to get some fresh air and look after your head as much as your body.
The action that strikes a balance between ease and getting the necessary exercise is a short walk.
I find scheduling a walk early in the morning or during your now more flexible lunch break works wonders. To be frank some days it doesn’t help and we have to be realistic. There will be days that a walk doesn’t rid you of looming anxiety, but in the long run you’ll be creating healthy habits that ensure you look after your physical and emotional well being.
If you are having a day where you can’t face leaving the house then doing some yoga or stretches can provide those welcomed benefits for your physical and mental health.
If you are feeling more adventurous you can go for a short run. Allow some time in your now more flexible day – you can go before breakfast and kick off your morning with a rush of endorphins that will no doubt improve productivity. Alternatively, if you are having an unproductive or slow day break it up with some exercise in between.
The key takeaway here is working in the same space as you live is often jading and it’s easy to become housebound. Give your fragile nervous system a break from the dystopian news cycle and reconnect with the real world, take a gulp of fresh air and get moving.
4. Shower and get out of your pyjamas everyday
This may seem like an obvious one, but having spoke to many people who work from home it can be a slippery slope.
With no one watching over you it may seem like an appealing idea to remain cosy and roll out of bed onto the sofa to start your day. This is like a psychological flat tire that will impede your entire day.
If we think back to the earlier point about separating work and life, this tip is crucial. Having a shower and getting dressed into new clothes marks the start of the working day. Similarly getting changed into your pyjamas and putting away your work equipment signals the end of the working day. Delineate when possible and give your brain clear signals about when to start and finish work.
Anecdotally I generally feel more motivated to start work once I’ve got showered and dressed.
5. Pick up the phone
Even before the pandemic hit, an increasing amount of communication was being done over text, messaging apps and emails. In the absence of our usual social calendar we will have to take different approaches.
If you can’t visit an elderly relative, give them a ring. First and foremost they will appreciate it and secondly it will bring the kind of human communication that will keep you grounded in a way instantaneous messages can’t.
There’s no water cooler chat in your living room and no break room gossiping in the gaff. You need to replace this interaction and bring whatever social element you can to your life.
On a final note, stay safe. Don’t put yourself or others at risk and don’t be afraid to reach out to people. It’s a difficult time, but if we are sensible and stick together we can get through it.