Working from home can be the very best. But it has its challenges and if you are someone who needs structure and/or company then you need to make sure you take care of your needs.
I have been working by myself at home for more than ten years and have also done so for extended periods previously. It can be lonely and sometimes dispiriting but there are huge benefits too.
Here are some ideas on ways to help you survive and thrive:
Two of you (or more)?
If you are married or have a partner and you are both working at home you need to establish ground rules from the outset. These might include who works where, whether you will talk to one another while you are working, what your respective working hours are. What your arrangements are, individually or jointly, for lunch and other breaks, and so on.
Perhaps one of you already works from home and the other is suddenly in all day too. This could be very disruptive to the one who already works at home so make sure you have a good understanding of how this is going to work. If you feel things are not going so well you need to be prepared to broach the subject one evening or weekend. “How do you think it’s going?” might be a good place to start, for example. Try not to use accusing language – you both have your part to play.
Habits and routines
We are mostly people of habits and routines. We each have many habits from the moment we wake up in the morning until the time we lay our head on our pillow at night, and everything in between is our routines.
We are comfortable in our routines and anything that disturbs them has an effect on us, to one degree or another. For some this disturbance can be very difficult and have a detrimental effect on mental health.
In order to help you get comfortable again:
a) Continue with your previous habits as far as you can
b) Establish new habits and routines in which you will soon start to feel comfortable
It is tempting, when starting to work from home, to think “oh don’t have to get up so early” and “I have so much more time to do everything” etc etc. This is a mistake and will knock your equilibrium.
Keep A Working DayMaintain a proper, organised, working day with structure.
Keep your weekends and evening as distinct as you can. You need leisure time to relax, unwind and refresh your body, mind and, especially, your heart.
Take your coffee and lunch breaks as you usually would as far as you can.
Get up and walk around and get some fresh air in your garden or balcony, or if you have neither of those open a window or door and get some fresh air. When you do so you might also see someone you can have a little pleasant social intercation with.
Place of WorkEstablish a place that will be your place of work so that you still “go to work”. If you have a spare bedroom or study then set it up as your workplace. Try to keep your work in that place and keep a separation between your work and home lives. If you have two PCs try to keep one for work and the other for personal use.
Go to work and come home again.If you have needed an alarm to wake you up on workdays then carry on waking up to your alarm and get up at the same time that you normally would. Keep your early morning habits and routine as much the same as you can.
Make your “going to work” the time when you set up your “office” ready for work. Include having a coffee if that’s what you usually do on your way to work.
If you usually read a book on the bus into work or on your way home then take a little time to read before you start work at home. If you do some work on the train as you commute then you can start early at home perhaps sitting on your sofa with your morning coffee. The get to work in your designated workspace.
Get Ready For Work
Do what you need to do to get into the right frame of mind for working. If that means dressing up for work then do so. Putting on a suit and working shoes might help you to really feel you ae going to work and will also help your self-esteem.
Have StandardsMaintain your usual standards at work and at home. We are not the same in how we keep our surroundings but it is really important to maintain your self-esteem both for your productivity and for your mental health. Have a routine which includes maintenance of your workplace and your home area.
Pay attention to your personal care and grooming, your clothes, diet and house-keeping. Feel good about and within yourself.
Maintain your healthy habits and use your extra time to work on improving on any unhelpful ones.
Keep InTouchMake telephone and video calls and stay in touch with colleagues and customers, even if you are just checking in to make sure they are ok. Have meetings using Skype, Zoom or other platforms (there are plenty of free platforms available).
Keep Good CompanyMake your social interactions positive a nutritious. Avoid those people who are negative and bring your mood down.
Limit your consumption of news and social media. They can be good for “keeping company” but they can also be distracting and can easily bring you down.
If you need company and you can work with it on have some music playing. Music will lift your mood and help keep you mentally healthy.
Have goals.Set targets for each day and/or for each segment of your day. Having goals is motivating and will give you job-satisfaction when you tick off your set tasks.
Maintain your “to-do” lists if you use them. If you haven’t been using “to-do” lists then this might be the time to start. You might also try working on other time-management systems.
Help!Ask others for help and support if you need to. Don’t be shy or afraid – many are in this situation and someone might be asking you for help and support soon.
If you have a supportive Line Manager make him/her your first call as and when you feel the need. Don’t wait to feel like you are struggling – pre-empt your needs.
You might fell that you will not get or have had a sympathetic response, in which case get hold of someone in your HR department, if you have one. Failing that, reach out to a colleague you know will listen without judgement.
Some workplaces simply do not have enough or the right kind of people for you to reach out to but if you haven’t got a sympathetic ear at work you can always try a friend or relative.
DO ask for help. We all need help at some stage.
EnjoyEmbrace the opportunity that you have.
Being one your own without others to distract you can increase your productivity massively. Many companies are already finding that their employees are getting far more done now they are working from home.
On a personal level you don’t have to deal with all the office politics that can be so disturbing during your day at the office.
You can play your own choice of music, get up and walk around when you need to, work through things at your own pace, enjoy your own thoughts and feeling without interruption.
Quiet and stillness are gifts not often afforded to us in great quantities. Indulge in htis special time.
Be KindI have been struck at the kindness of people both when I have been out and about shopping or getting my daily exercise. Just a few kind words makes a huge difference.
On a rare visit to the supermarket I noticed that (almost) everyone was being very kind and considerate about keeping their space and allowing you to pass with a good distance between. Everyone obeyed the rules and mostly smiled “we are all in this together”. It made shopping a really pleasant experience.
Many people are finding this a very difficult time and you can make a real difference by being kind. And you will find it makes a difference to how you feel too.
Smile when you see people, be friendly and considerate and, if you can, pick up the phone and call friends, neighbours and colleagues to make sure they are ok.
You could also think about volunteering in your local community as there is plenty to do. People are needed to do shopping or pick up presriptions for the elderly and vulnerable and various other simple tasks. These groups are well-organised and will give you as much or as little as you feel able to do. Somtimes it’s a simple communications role, for which you will not need to go out of your home. Some people just need a call now and then for some simple human contact.
At the very least, be kind and considerate in your social media output.