Working From Home – a World of Contrast (How to Survive and Even Enjoy It!)

Whether you are working from home, studying from home or trying to educate your children from home, this post may just have some golden nuggets of advice and tips to help you not just survive, but thrive.

Working from home – felt like a novelty at first didn’t it?  “I love the flexibility, I love that I don’t need to even get dressed or put on my makeup, I love that I save time from having to commute, blah blah blah”.

BUT…. months down the line we start to see the cracks.  From my work with clients, and from my own direct experience, there are a number of downsides many of us are noticing as we start to develop unhealthy habits which can negatively impact not just our work/study, but our overall wellbeing.

For this purpose I have shared my top 10 tips for working from home below.

1 – Create a schedule or timetable for yourself.

Flexibility is fabulous, but this has meant that many are working hours which are much longer than when you were physically present in work/school/uni.  Or working late at night impacting on sleep.  Devise a routine or even timetable for yourself which helps you to fit in the hours you need to dedicate to work, but also ensure you are spending time on other things.

2 – Take time off.

One of the biggest issues I am finding is that people are not taking enough breaks during the day.  Trust me, skipping those breaks does not help you to finish your work quicker.  In fact, you are typically less productive if you skip breaks, and the quality of your work can also suffer. When you take your breaks ensure to physically move away from your work station.  I recommend as a MINIMUM taking at least one short 15-20 min break, and at least a 30 min lunch break.  STEP AWAY FROM THE COMPUTER when you do so!

Also please, please, please take your annual leave!  I know people hold off because it feels there is not much reason to take time off at the moment, or are waiting in hope of better times where you may even be able to travel.  But the sad reality is that you may well lose that annual leave.  ‘No big deal’ you may say, but if I asked you ‘would you rather be paid a full weeks wage working your job and usual hours, or would you rather be paid the same amount for doing whatever else you liked for that week?”  It’s a no-brainer right?!  You NEED that rest and restoration time.  It is not a luxury, it is ESSENTIAL for your wellbeing and productivity.  If your barrier is that you don’t know what you would do for that week, and you would rather work than do nothing then read tip 6 – ‘Do something else other than work’.

3 – Create strong boundaries for yourself around work, and be strict with yourself in keeping these.

The unconscious cost of working from home is that work/life balance is beginning to go out of the window, and work can start to bleed into all aspects of our life.  This is not good for anyone involved.  Some small adjustments can really make all the difference here.  For example – you know that lovely timetable you have now created for yourself because of suggestion number 1?  STICK TO IT!  The sky usually will not fall if you don’t manage to finish absolutely everything that day.  Switch off from work during your down time completely – this means switching off any kind of notifications you get from work. Do not have your phone linked to work accounts ideally, and have a separate device which you can keep away from you during your down time so you are not tempted to even look.

4 – Create to do list, but keep your daily list short.

I know we all have a ridiculous amount which feels like it all needs done NOW.  Writing down what NEEDS done is often a first good step of getting it out of your head.  Keep your large to-do list separate for reference only so you don’t feel overwhelmed by it, and every morning create your smaller daily to-do list.  Prioritise the minimum that is ESSENTIAL for that day, this means what cannot be left until the next working day.  Only have 2 or 3 items on this list, and do them first.  If this is all you get done then great, you have addressed the important and urgent tasks.  However if you find you have time left, then go back to the main list and figure out what else is important that you could work on next.

6 – Do something else other than work.

All work and no play makes…..yes we all know that old saying, but it rings of a certain truth.  Think about your leisure time and how you can spend it.  I understand we feel limited at present, as going to the cinema, out for dinner or to the gym just isn’t possible just now.  This DOES NOT mean you should fill that time with work as a consequence.  Have a think, and write a list of different things you can spend your down time on.  If you think hard enough, I know you could find plenty.  For example a hobby, walks, exercise, self-care, reading, watch a movie, improvements around your home, planning a trip for when travel is allowed again, playing an instrument, learning a new skill, virtual social meet ups, I could go on!  Find things that make you happy, give you pleasure, create some fun, or help you relax, and put them on that list.

7 – Make sure your basic needs are met .

Easy to forget this stuff, but it’s so incredibly important, as it is the foundation upon which our general wellbeing is built.  Drink enough fluids, eat regular and healthy foods, get enough sleep (see previous sleep hygiene post on Facebook and Instagram), get outside regularly for fresh air, exercise (doesn’t need to be strenuous, even if it is just a short walk each day).

8 – Create a safe and healthy space conducive to work/study

Your work space should ideally be a designated area where you do nothing else except work.  I know it is tempting, but try not to work from places you tend to relax such as the bedroom or couch where avoidable.  Pay attention to your seating position to avoid back problems.  Move around regularly, as we are not designed to remain seated for prolonged periods.  For example you could set an alarm every hour to remind you to do a lap of your house.

9 – Stay in touch, socialise and have fun (virtually for now)

Make sure your interactions with work colleagues or fellow students are not just work related.  What many of us are missing at the moment is that fun part and comradery of having people to relate to around work.  To have others who can empathise with our frustrations, bounce ideas off and chat about our lives in general and not just about work.  Where possible you could try and set up some social networking for this purpose.  Get some of the fun back into the workplace where possible and appropriate.

10 – Spend some time away from screens

Much of our lives at the moment involve using electronic devices.  Prior to COVID we already did spend too much time on them, and now it is through the roof!  Although technology is a wonderful thing, we do need to take breaks from it.  On your down-time where possible, try to ensure that you have plenty of screen free time.