Whether you like it or not, you may now find yourself working from home.
There have been many times when you may have wished you could work from home because of the positives – when the commute is not working for you or when you can’t get a minute to yourself in the office, home working sounds very appealing. But just like making the office work for you, working from home takes some adapting to.
Below are some choices you can make to improve your working from home experience. Remember, you are the expert in what works best for you, and so if something is not working for you, change it.
I have included top tips that can be adapted to make your home based work life as pleasant and effective an experience as possible.
How to make working from home work best for you
Make a distinction between work and home life
Some people recommend wearing work clothes; some even suggest wearing shoes; some suggest a fixed work schedule; some suggest a dedicated workspace.
For me, I find that over a long time working from home, I have created a finely balanced lifestyle where I work when I feel like it, and if I don’t, I don’t. I do not adopt a separation of clothing, shoe-wearing or dedicated spaces. Instead, I move around the house so I don’t get stir-crazy cabin fever, I swap work tasks to keep myself amused, and I use social content to motivate me, but depend on routine to keep me on top.
I find having a routine start, evidence of my productivity throughout the day and a wind-down routine helps me find that balance. Alongside this, I stay aware of how this lifestyle can threaten my mental health if not managed properly, and so have safeguards against this.
Create a routine start
Working in an office has a normalised way of starting the day: commute, ponder work on the commute, and then arrive at a typical time. Grab a brew and chat to the same people, open your emails and crack on with the day.
Homeworking does not have this routine, so you’re left with a choice. If the world was perfect, how would you like to start your day?
My day starts – or at least started – by taking my partner to work. It’s only a fifteen minute round trip, but it gets me out of bed and ready to make a start. I would then have that moment to wake up, reflect on what I am doing whilst also leaving the house, as I will then be home for the rest of the day alone.
Use a plan
Every single day I create a plan. You should create a plan the day before as part of your wind-down routine. Putting your plan down will help you step away from work, and shut your head down so you can reconnect with family life.
I plan my time and activities, and also include some activities as rewards. My plan has notional times against each task. I do not schedule these tasks until the day starts as my mood may not be aligned with certain tasks. The more you are in the mood to do a task, the faster and higher quality an outcome you will end up with.
If you have a task that you really don’t think is going to inspire you, then schedule a reward for doing it, or break it down to tiny steps and complete those steps in between more enjoyable tasks.
When I first started working for myself, old colleagues would ask over and over, ‘Do you not miss the office banter?’
Working from home can be an isolated experience, and if you are the only one at home, you may have to deal with that. I used to need the radio on to start my day and to hum away in the background. Over time I would turn it off earlier and earlier as once I got into the day I found it distracting. I no longer have any noise and work in Zen-like silence. I get some distraction from all the home delivery folk as I would be the go to guy for mail for all of my neighbours. This distraction seems to have been lost now that most people are at home.
This solitary life is a huge risk to mental health, so you need to plan to connect. My role as a therapist means I spend much of my life in the presence of others and having meaningful conversations, but in reality they are not enough, so I have to also plan my social life to have contact with others. I balance that with meeting with fellow business owners as the need to discuss the pressures and challenges of business is an invisible threat to mental health only known to fellow business owners. I have had to create my own support networks around this, and whilst you are working from home you can use tech to keep that connection with colleagues.
I also have time dedicated to exercise so I take time by walking or running. Home life can easily be a productive prison if you are not careful. I used to walk to the shops just for one item to force some outside time on me during a very busy day. Now I have adopted a one hour walk or run each morning adhering to the 2m recommendations.
A huge amount of my work involves confidentially and I can carry some very dark conversations as I specialise in addictions, suicide and abuse. I access supervision so that I have a space to manage me should I need it.
Discipline yourself to avoid time consuming distractions such as Facebook, emails and scrolling activities.
Avoid the TV. It has been demonstrated that TV causes children to move less than when they are asleep, and it will be just as effective at making your day disappear and your focus reduced.
You are entitled to breaks, and you really do need them to be effective. If you do not schedule breaks, you may find that work bleeds into another task and you work nonstop until you burn out or your productivity is eroded.
Even in the most troubling times, remember to take care of your mental health. Betterminds are here to support you with any guidance, tools or techniques you need.