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Cast your mind back, way back to the beginning of 2020. No, before Tiger King was a thing (yes, believe it or not, that was still 2020). When the big C-V kicked in for us, many of us (myself included!) secretly thought that working from home sounded like a dream:
No commute (goodbye, queuing for petrol!)
Annoying keyboard clacks
Phones ringing 24-7
Noisy crisp eaters (no names, Josh…)
Lunch was just a couple of strides away
Always home for parcels
Be your own DJ every day
The list could (and definitely did!) go on. However, after a few weeks, once the novelty wore off and reality set it, for more and more people around the world, working from home has been an enormous challenge. The old commute was replaced with getting bored within the same four walls. Old distractions were replaced with new distractions (did I mention Tiger King?) Food being a couple of strides away was (cue gasp) sometimes a bad idea. And sometimes, you just miss the old office playlist…
In this article, we look into various ways to stay positive, motivated and healthy inside and out while working from home. The exercises listed below can all be from the comfort of your desk, within a few yards of your house, or even further afield if you wish – whatever you are comfortable with and whatever’s within the guidelines from the Government (boring, I know, but necessary!) We will go through a few big topics, including:
How can we remain motivated working from home
Learn to enjoy working from home
Adjust to the ‘new norm’
(For ease, from here on in, we’ll be changing “working from home” to “WFH” for easier reading. Plus, our fingertips were getting sore.)
The reality is, we are going to be in and out of a lockdown situation for a while, with many industries and companies choosing to continue a WFH scheme long after a vaccine has been issued across the UK. Intermittently, I have worked from home on-and-off for 10 years of my life. So, with this in mind. I’d like to share some tips and experiences for WFH that have worked well for me, and hopefully will help guide you to live your best WFH life.
This struggle can often be at the top of most people’s lists. It can be really tricky to stay motivated to work when surrounding by lovely home distractions (from the TV to the fridge, everyone has their vices!)
The trick is finding a way to remain consistent when anything but work seems to catch your eye.
One way I have found works well is to create lists and plan your day, or at least, your goals for the day. Tick off even the small tasks (send that email, do that phone call). Assign breaks to help you refocus your energy, and when you come back to your desk, review your list and goals again before starting up work. Share your progress on a regular basis with your team and/or manager – this is great not only to put yourself in the right frame-of-mind, but also builds communication between your team when WFH to stay on top of tasks.And – my favourite part, I’ll admit – treat yourself for successes. Whether it’s a biscuit with your cup of tea (I’m very partial to a Hobnob), or something a little more substantial, it’s important for your own mental health to provide yourself some positive reinforcement for a job well done.
Another massively useful tip I’ve found for myself – please dress for work. As tempting as it is to stay in your pyjamas (or as some of my friends had started calling them, “day pyjamas” and “night pyjamas”), comfortable loungewear keeps you in the ‘relaxation’ frame of mind, and so can be difficult when it comes to getting your brain in gear for work. Not only that, but by the time you finish work, it might be difficult to separate your mindset into a more restful state – robbing you of your hard-earned downtime!Instead, dress the part, even if you have no video calls scheduled that day. That way, you can mentally get in the ‘zone’ for work, and have a nice change of comfy clothes to look forward to in the evening. (Pop a nice pair of fluffy socks on the radiator in the winter months for best results!)
Remember you’re a part of a team. Remind yourself of the part you play in the bigger picture (chatting with your team and your manager can help with this, too!) Share your wins and successes on a regular basis, and take opportunities to work together with your colleagues on tasks and projects.Not only will this help leave any feelings of loneliness or solitude behind, it will help motivate you to work together for a better outcome on your joint project.
Create a defined ‘Work Zone’. Define an area in your home that’s dedicated to work, whether it’s an office space or even a large cupboard you can kit out with a desk and chair. This helps you to associate that you are at work, so you can close your laptop/spreadsheets/notebooks at the end of the day, and leave work where it is.Try to avoid any spaces such as bedrooms, dining rooms or living rooms, where you would usually carry out other tasks like sleeping, entertainment or sharing meals. That way, you have a clear delineation when work ends, so it doesn’t bleed over into other areas of your life or space.
Guard your Mental Health
Working from home in general can be a challenge for your mental health. You can often experience loneliness, lose confidence in yourself and your abilities, often lack motivation (see above!), and a lack of external stimulation or contact when you never have to step outside your front door. In the last year or so with the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown isolation outside of work, this can of course make things feel a thousand times worse.
Here are a few tips I’ve picked up that can help carry you through the darkest times, even during a lockdown.
Be sure to arrange social meetings outside of work. Even if it’s just a quick Zoom call with a friend to catch up over coffee, or a socially-distanced outdoor gathering with friends, family or loved ones, this can help to boost your mood and morale.
Share your feelings with colleagues. Even if they don’t fully understand what you personally are going through, chances are they have felt the similar loneliness or isolation that you have, and might even have helpful advice of their own that you can apply to your own work or day.
Schedule regular catch-ups with your managers to chat through your performance and progress. Chances are you’re already doing a lot better than you think, and if you’re struggling, you and your manager can chat things through on a one-to-one basis to see what can be done to best help you.
Focus on your hobbies and recreation outside of work. I de-stress by playing guitar, and playing sports or catching up with family however and whenever I can, which really helps me to focus when I do come back to a working environment.
Get plenty of rest, not just for the body and mind.
Challenge yourself to learn something new, and reward yourself regularly.
Take regular exercise. A healthy body very often leads to a healthy mind. I tend to exercise in the mornings 3 or 4 times a week – while it’s tough getting up, I find that the mornings are the times I can be most consistent, and is a way of giving myself some ‘me time’ before the rest of the day.
Wherever you are working, and whether it’s by choice or enforced by other factors, it’s important to find a way to enjoy yourself. It’s such a big part of your life. To help guide you along the way, you can download this handy checklist to keep tabs on your mental health, your achievements throughout the day, and areas of self-improvement.
Don’t underestimate the importance of some of the tips above – they made a massive difference to my happiness, and I hope they can do the same for you. It’s easy to get stuck in a cycle, and ignoring yourself and your mental health. It takes time and effort to review and apply these and create new good habits for yourself, so make a plan today and try it for a month – you might surprise yourself. You can do it!