Updated: Mar 22
Working from home sounds idyllic, low stress, highly productive time - really great ... until the cat shits in your slippers, the dog vomits on the floor, your other half decides that its time for redecorating the living room and your complete tit of a neighbour, who you can only assume is building some sort of tardis, starts firing up all sorts of hammer drills, circular saws and other noisy machinery - right over your back fence.
For many us, working from home every once in a while is something, that most self respecting companies can afford us. Actually, the best of them actively encourage usto do this now and then, in this World of carbon footprints and making a great corporate impression. However - which environment actually allows us to be more productive: the in in or the out out ? ie the home office or the actual office ?
In the actual office, your coworkers often pose the greatest threat to keeping you from getting some real, heads-down work done. We all know who they are, and if you don't then take a long hard look in the mirror 😂 these are the colleagues that drop by your desk, engage you in conversation, show you something funny on you tube, chat shit about their other halfs latest foibles, or explain in great detail the actual state of their head after 15 sambucas last night. The social benefits of a workplace are definitely nice to have, but they can become a pain in the arse if you're want to get anything critical done.
At the home office, however, I find that it's way too easy to become your own worst enemy, the pursuer of complacency, and the greatest procratinator. This is because when you're not surrounded by coworkers, you're free to drop those pesky inhibitions. At the home office, no one's watching. You don't necessarily feel that same peer pressure or communal obligation to get stuff done. Nobody is dropping by your desk, looking over your shoulder or demanding time.... No - this comes via you mobile devices, and you can ignore those pesky things quite easily.
Also, you can work in your pants... or even better completely naked.
On this point however, there is always the danger that you are so engrossed in being productive at home, you forget your naked attire and answer the door to the postman and a queue of surprised neighbours at the chip shop opposite...
To help you avoid the whole postman at the door scenario (those that know me know the truth, just substitute postman for window cleaner) , here are my top tips for working from home:
1. Stick to a routine
Many home workers will tell you about the importance of just getting dressed. Apparently just because we can lounge around in our pants (or naked), it doesn’t mean we should. Boring right? However, a good idea is to take a shower, get dressed and maybe even take a short walk before you set up in front of your computer for the day. Use this time to set your brain for the day. Exercise outdoors during lockdown is limited, but a good workout in your own home is allowed... how you do that is up to you.... and possibly the people that share your house.
2. Designate a specific working space
When I first started my own business, I made the mistake to work from my sofa. Very soon the sofa became connected with work. So, a top tip I have learned is to designate a space for work only. If you can, invest in a comfortable chair and of course watch out for ‘tech neck’. Meaning if you can’t use an external screen, at least try to put your laptop on a pile of books to give your neck some rest. As a matter of interest, My first home office consisted of a mini chest of drawers and a childs chair, I was working whilst at the same time giving my best impression of elf.... not ideal, extremely uncomfortable, and quickly changed.
The other thing is maybe even stand up while on conference calls. I love walking whilst talking - helps me think clearly. 3. Set your intentions and take breaks
It’s always a good time to brush up on your time management skills, especially when working from home. Begin every day by identifying what you need to do that day and how you intend to do it. The mistake I often make is forgetting to pace myself. Working from home gives me a lot more flow and allows me to think that little bit deeper. However, I forget that these sessions also take a lot more out of me. So, my tip is to block time in your calendar for breaks, if not solely to ensure that you plan your time more realistically, but also to ensure you get time to recharge. WFH is stressful in so many different ways to working from your office.... not least of which, the added pressure of seeing your home chores as part of your work life - which they aren't. However much it would be lovely, your company does not want to pay you to be your own domestic, on their time.
4. Ramp up the chat
A lot people reading this won’t be an extrovert like me. But even for introverts in times like these, connecting with colleagues is probably more important than you think. We normally spend most of our time in close proximity to our colleagues, which makes it easier to stay in sync more effortlessly. Now with the proximity gone, we need to be mindful to keep those communication lines open. Luckily today there are tons of tools available to help us with video calls, digital chats and collaboration programs like MS Teams. We even have the tools to set up virtual break areas, for those who want to grab a coffee and socialize in between work (any connected app could do this - try setting up a virtual coffee shop group on whatsapp or teams) .... And don’t forget, with so much of the communication happening digitally, empathy is more important than ever. I try to remind myself daily to always assume positive intent, even though I might want to read something else into that latest chat message….
Having said that of course, the person who behaves like a twat in your presence, is hardly likely to be a better twat via whatsapp.
5. Practice self-care
In times of self-isolation it’s easy to question the meaning of being productive and happy. For instance, the important of self-care. Maybe you need to carve out time each day for exercise. Maybe you need time for meditation. Or maybe it’s just enough for you to make sure that you take the breaks you planned. Whether you’re at the office or at home, you should prioritise your own health and safety. For some, this may be quite obvious. But, this can actually be a challenge for many people. Research from the World Economic Forum shows evidence of health and wellbeing taking a hit while working from home. Especially when it leads to the blurring of work and non-work boundaries. So even if this WFH setup may not be a long-term route for us all its important for us all to be better at taking care of ourselves as well as others through the means we have today. Be nice to yourself.
6. Do fun stuff
Outside of work, isolation can be really hard work. Your movement is limited, your opportunities to interact emotionally are nil - unless you make the effort on social media platforms and the wider web.
6.1 Google have a list of lots of museums and places of interest around the world that have virtual tours. You can go through this link and watch as though you are there !! For my friends who love to travel, this might help them pass a day or two of their days off. Why not plan a virtual trip to a museum, through this link to the top 12 museum sites, then cook a meal in that country’s cuisine and feel like you’re there for one day. The museums were in Los Angeles, New York, Brazil, Mexico City, Paris, Amsterdam and Italy, so you’d get that travel feel, at least.... and I for one can't wait to ask my chef for Brazilian recipes, or indeed the ingredient list for Amsterdams famous space cake :)
6.2 I know use of social media sites has increased. Games, for example, are giving unlimited time and more lives, and the like. Sadly, I had to self-restrain and further “isolate” myself from some of my Facebook 'friends'. I found myself getting really pissed off with people I care about and reacting very negatively to the massive amounts of bullsh*t, nasty comments, and general antagonism. So I have voluntarily withdrawn from some of those circles for my own sanity.
6.3 What I am going to do, though, is send a group email to my work colleagues and friends, to set up a virtual cafe, where we can partake in games nights and pub quizzes. This vitual cafe could get as big or as small as you like, the important thing is interaction and communication with the outside World. Unlike regular cafes though, the coffee and cake is only as good as you make it, but the booze is exactly what you want, when you want it, in the amount you want.... no need for taxis or designated drivers....
6.4 Learning something new can be fun. Order something from Amazon that you can learn to do without much training or through a DVD. I am fancying ordering a “learn to tap dance” dvd. I may be isolated, but I can still dance and now I can pretend to be Fred Astaire.... just remember to warn your other half if needs be... brewing your own beer may sound ace - but it will make your house stink....
Stay safe. Stay Home. Save Lives.