#SurviveAndThrive – Advice for Working from Home

By Jen Heil | March 24, 2020

As we navigate this strange new Covid-19 world, we want to do what we can to support individuals and businesses to #SurviveAndThrive. In this blog, we’re sharing advice, resources and useful links for people working from home.

The majority of businesses, including ours, are now operating remotely with staff working from home. Whilst some individuals will be seasoned home-workers, for others this will be a new and sometimes difficult way of working. We’ll be sharing how our team are approaching it on social media each day but here’s a round-up of some important tips and some useful links to help reduce isolation, stay productive, and take care of yourself.

 

Reducing isolation

Working from home can be a lonely business and it’s important to find ways to stay connected in order to reduce those feelings of isolation. Here are some simple ways to do that:

 

  • Get some fresh air – if you’re able to leave the house and take a short, socially-distanced walk around the block or a local park, this can help you connect with the outside world and as long as you’re not coming into close contact with other people it won’t compromise social distancing. If a walk isn’t viable, try opening a window to let some fresh air in and give yourself a bit of time to watch the world go by. If you have access to a private outdoor space, get out into it when you can – a change of scene, however small, will help.
  • Keep in touch with other people – there are a couple of elements to this. Firstly, it’s obviously important to stay in regular contact with your team to help co-ordinate the work side of things but it is just as important to make time for a general chat. Organise video calls with colleagues where you all have a brew and a biscuit together and talk about random things – what you’re reading or watching in the evenings to stop yourself going stir-crazy, personal projects you’re working on, or that funny thing your pet/kid/parent/partner did. As well as keeping in touch with colleagues, check in on family, friends and neighbours. If you are feeling vulnerable or fall into the high-risk category, ask someone for help with groceries or just to give you a quick call every day or two so you can talk. If you’re able to, reach out to vulnerable people you know and see what you can do to help. Community is more important than ever.
  • Put the radio on – sounds simple but it can be really effective! Just the sound of people talking quietly in the background can help you feel less alone.
  • Use social media wisely – this is a tricky one. During the working day, depending on your job, you may be used to avoiding social media. You might be more tempted to hop on Twitter and scroll whilst you’re working from home and, if this is the case, there are a few things to bear in mind.
    • Avoid endlessly scrolling through the bad news stories. If you need to mute or unfollow certain accounts for a bit then do that. Protect yourself by curating social media feeds that will enhance your feelings of community rather than making you feel more afraid or isolated.
    • Engage with other people in the same situation (which will be a lot of us right now!). Search for the hashtags #workingfromhome and #wfh and see how other people are dealing with their new working reality. There are lots of lovely work-from-home veterans out there who are already sharing advice and generally chatting to people to make this transition easier. There are also more specific conversations going on for particular circumstances, such as if you’re #workingfromhomewithkids – great if you need ideas for making it work or just empathetic people to talk to!
    • Set a time limit – this might seem a bit clunky and take some getting used to but try and set a time limit on your scrolling. Set a timer or an alarm before you open that app or web page to avoid the trap of inadvertently entering a social media rabbit hole and losing an hour!

 

Staying productive

It’s strange suddenly having to work in a new environment – there are different distractions, an unfamiliar working atmosphere and it can sometimes be a struggle to hit your productive stride. Here are some things you can do to help you keep on track and establish a new working mindset:

 

  • Download the important stuff – it’s reasonable to expect that you may, at some point, experience internet connectivity issues. Make sure you’ve downloaded copies of any important documents that you reasonably can, so you’ve still got something to work with.
  • Make sure you are secure – having up to date anti-virus protection on your computer is important if you are working from home. As well as protecting your work, it will also help avoid any security related interruptions!
  • Create a routine – if you normally have a commute into work, try and come up with a routine that will provide an alternative way to transition. Go outside, do some gentle stretching, spend 20 minutes reading or try writing some morning pages. Find something to help you get into a positive headspace for the day. Doing the same at the end of the day can also help you to decompress and make sure you’re not working into your personal time. Although working from home gives you more flexibility, try to be disciplined about the hours you work, and keep to a ‘normal’ day as much as possible. This will also help you to relax better outside of ‘work’ hours.
  • Get dressed – we get it. It’s totally tempting to stay in your pyjamas and work from bed. But, whilst there’s nothing wrong with dressing more comfortably that you might normally do for a working day, getting dressed is a way to signal to your brain that it’s time to be productive. (You also don’t want to get caught out on that unexpected video call…) We’ve also found that wearing shoes helps!
  • Take regular breaks – just as it’s advised that you move away from your desk every hour or so if you’re in an office, the same applies at home. Get up, move around, get yourself a drink, ring a friend or colleague, give some love to whichever pet/child/other has been looking at you mournfully for the last hour.
  • Download a distractions blocker – if you find yourself getting distracted, try downloading a distraction blocker (such as ColdTurkey) to prevent yourself from straying onto sites that suck your time and productivity. If you are endlessly reaching for your phone, the Forest app is fantastic for helping you focus and you get to create a pretty forest along the way – you could even have a light-hearted competition with your colleagues: who can grow the most trees in a day/week!
  • Prioritise and time-block your day – this is good practice whether you’re working from home or not. To tackle your to-do list, write down everything you need to get done and then pick no more than 5 to prioritise for the day (put the rest of your to-do list out of sight). Look at the jobs you’ve got to do and the time you’ve got to do it in and block out time in the day for each one. Think about when you are most productive to help you decide when to do what. If you focus better in the morning, use that time to tackle the bigger, more focus intensive jobs and switch to smaller, more easily achieved ones in the afternoon. Make sure you block in time for breaks when you do this and don’t cram your day too full!

 

Taking care of yourself

As you adjust to a new routine, taking care of yourself is paramount to avoid burnout and reduce stress.

 

  • Separate work and life – this can be so much harder to do when working from home but that makes it all the more important. If at all possible, set up a workspace that is separate from where you do your ‘living’ at home. Keep all work-related activities in that space and, at the end of the day, close the door (either literally or metaphorically) on that space and don’t go back to it until the next working day. If you physically can’t create a separate workspace, do everything you can to prevent your work from creeping into personal time. When you’re done for the day, close down all work-related documents and pages, quit all work-related apps and tidy away all work-related paraphernalia.
  • Keep your workspace tidy – remember that when you’re working from home your workspace isn’t just the particular area you do the work, it’s all the key places you use during the working day, including your kitchen and bathroom. Keeping these spaces as clean and tidy as possible helps to create a productive environment. We know this can be particularly tough if you’ve got kids so just do what you can – maybe get the kids involved with tasks and rewards to help keep the space in order.
  • Stay hydrated – you know those regular breaks we talked about for keeping productive? Well here’s another reason they’re important! Good hydration is essential for maintaining good health so when you stop for a break, use that time to get yourself a drink. That way you’re taking care of your mind and your body as well as your work.
  • Have something to stop for – it’s incredibly easy to let the end of your working day run over when you’re working from home. Set an alarm to remind you it’s time to clock off. Line managers, team leaders, MDs – check in with your people at the end of the day and gently remind them that, if they haven’t already, it’s time to stop working. Check in with colleagues to ask what they’re doing after work as a reminder that life outside work needs our attention too. One way to help make sure you stop is to schedule something specific to do that will force you away from the work. Arrange to call friends or family, find something on TV and DON’T set it to record or say you’ll watch it on catch up.
  • Stay active – another one that can feel tricky to do when you’re stuck at home. Fortunately, lots of friendly people on social media are recommending their favourite at-home work outs and one person has even created a handy spreadsheet with some quick and simple exercises that you can build into your day.
  • Keep washing your hands – even if you’re self-isolating, properly washing your hands regularly is still vital to maintain hygiene. You can find clear instructions for proper hand-washing technique here. And remember – using soap and water is just as effective (if not more so) than hand sanitiser!
  • Look after your mental health – being stuck at home, not being able to see friends and family, and general worry about the current situation can all take their toll. Looking after your mental health is just as important as looking after your physical health in these uncertain times. A couple of our team members volunteer for local not-for-profit, ECBC Manchester, where there’s a whole back catalogue of blogs with tips, advice and comforting words, as well as book recommendations, and they’re active on social media and always happy to chat, so if you’re feeling down reach out. We also love this kind gesture from Balance, who are offering a free one-year subscription to their meditation app if you sign up this month. Just email access@balanceapp.com for instructions on how to get access.
  • Eat lunch – it’s far too easy to either skip lunch completely or just eat whilst you work when you’re working from home. Make sure you take a proper break and get something nutritious to eat – and check in with colleagues to encourage them to do the same! You could even schedule a video call at lunch time and eat together.
  • Make time to disconnect – remote working relies on using technology to stay connected with our colleagues but excessive amounts of time in front of screens can make us feel trapped and anxious. So make some time in your day to step away from the screens and do something ‘real-world-y’. Step outside and get some fresh air; read a physical book, cook a meal; if you’ve got pets or kids at home, play with them; get out an old board game or a pack of cards; write or draw with pencil and paper – it’s time to go old school!

 

Let us know what you’re doing to stay calm, healthy and productive if you’re working from home or self-isolating – come talk to us on Twitter.

 

Explore the #SurviveAndThrive series

Check out the other blogs in our #SurviveAndThrive series, covering:

We will continue to update each of these posts as more information becomes available and we discover more existing/useful things to share. In the meantime, keep in touch with us on  FacebookTwitter,  Instagram and LinkedIn. We look forward to connecting with you. Stay safe and well.