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  • Writer's pictureHelen Froggett-Thomson

Homeworking like a boss!

Updated: Apr 7, 2020

12 tips to keep your head and protect your job

Welcome to the brave new world. If like many of us you've always paid lip service to the mantra 'the only constant is change' then now's the time we're going to really get to understand that phrase.

Another phrase I've mused upon is the concept of 'stepping off the world' and this is probably as close to it as we're likely to see. Be careful what you wish for springs to mind. Uncharted territory for all of us.

While many over worked or socially anxious employees might have initially seen working from home as a slight relief, the reality of this being the norm for an indefinite period requires some careful thought and planning.

If you are facing the prospect of working from home with children also at home, you might find this blog post more useful.

We need to acknowledge our fear of the unknown, it's completely understandable, adapt and then move beyond it to a place of planning and acceptance.

Let’s pray we don’t get another situation like this in our life time, so it might be the first and only time we’ve been in this unique position of having more time on our hands than we are used to. Other than the Christmas break! And you know what happens there! By Jan 2nd you are almost looking forward to going back to ‘normality’.

Without a sense of purpose it’s very easy to sink into a sofa, binge watch Netflix and lose all sense of routine and forget to wear your outdoor clothes! Certainly, switching off for a few days is not going to harm anyone but if it’s sustained there’s a massive knock on effect for mental health and particularly in this instance, loneliness and isolation.

Ten tips for working from home

1. Accepting change

While you were at the office, everyone knew what they were doing, when and how. But now everything has changed. It’s really important to remember this because frustration is often caused when comparisons are made to the past. We need to accept that this is our reality for now.

There’s nothing we can do about it. So many people have had massive plans cancelled just like that, weddings, birthday parties, conferences, things they’ve been working on for months if not years.

We’ve all got our stories. It’s how we survive intact which is relevant now. Denying that there’s a good reason for your situation, or being angry with anyone and everyone is simply going to prolong your own pain.

Try to move on, if that’s possible. Every moment is a chance to start anew. We need to recreate our vision of our futures and holding on to the past will only hinder. If your feelings are extreme, it will be akin to mourning. Professional help (via skype or similar) might be worth looking into?

2. Where are you going to do your work?

If you are used to having a laptop at home, you will most likely have a familiar place to plug in and rest your computer on, but one thing’s for sure, a lap should not be one of them!

Prolonged use requires a chair and table, ideally at heights where you do not put strain on your neck, back or wrists.

Please google for advice on this, it might simply involve adding cushions to your seat but please don’t ignore it. You might need to do gentle stretching exercises to compensate for poor alignment.

Try if possible to create a work area which is separate to your ‘relaxing’ area. Somewhere where you can keep your computer and associated books/stationary without packing up at the end of each day.

Even if it’s a 3ft zone on the only table in the house (as in my case), you need to see if as your work space. And when you’re not working, try to sit somewhere else or you’ll develop very blurred boundaries and find it hard to switch on, or off!

3. Self discipline and time management

Self discipline is one of the most important factors relating to success as a homeworker. Doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out why ! Only you will know yourself so you’re best putting in plans to help yourself through this time.

In reality, in a work setting, you will only spend a portion of your day actually doing the work you’re paid to do. How long do you think that is? You don’t have the drive/commute to work – so you’ll have that time ‘free’ to do things for you, and you won’t have the general chit chat.

It’s likely you can do your usual workload, with less distractions, in less time. We all know this, which is why it can be hard to get started, we sit in front of breakfast tv with a bowl of cereal and a cup of coffee and before we know it we’re taking a delivery for next door in our PJ’s. And it’s midday.

Click here for some tried and tested tips for combating this!

4. Managing your manager

Your managers at work know how to manage you face to face and keep on top of projects but this is a whole new scenario (unless you frequently work from home in which case, please send us your tips!).

Your manager might even be struggling to manage their own work flow or motivation, let alone yours. So help them. There is no blue print here. We need to work together.

5. Agree clear objectives

Ideally, try to get some clear direction, if it’s not already evident, of what is expected of you on a day to day basis. Or perhaps weekly or project based. This is the only way you can actually plan your work flow and keep motivated.

Find out the various stages for project delivery, time scales etc and get drafts of other projects approved before you spend an inordinate time going in the wrong direction.

Ask how your performance will be measured and agree some SMART objectives for each element of your work flow. (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Timescaled). The sort of framework you might use in your appraisal system might be useful for planning future objectives.

6. Keep talking

How often did you have contact in the office with your manager or colleagues? If you can have a brief morning chat/skype/zoom/fb messenger meeting  with your line manager at the start of your work time zone, it will help. And then as often as you both need to keep the project/ work on task and delivered on time.

Plan in times to hook up with friends from work.

Consider having a work buddy or setting up your own mentoring system. Having someone to whom you are accountable can make all the difference. Ideally they should be a peer not a manager so you are able to be open and not worry about looking vulnerable or less able to make decisions.

7. Look after yourself

Make an effort to get out of the house. Embrace nature. For most people this is currently ‘allowed’. Try to have a ten minute walk (at least) twice a day if you can. You will feel so much better for it.

Don’t scroll on your phone while you are walking. Try to notice the birds, the budding leaves and hopefully, the warmth of the sun.

Returning to work after this kind of break can be so productive, and for me, I usually think of something which is pretty critical or a solution to a dilemma, which just pops into my head unasked. Something which, had I kept my head down with the continual overload of information that a laptop is capable of producing, would not necessarily occurred to me, which was not on my to do list, which actually has saved a lot of aggro and fire fighting.

8. Recharge. Do something completely different.

Take regular breaks. Allow your brain to ‘switch off’ from processing all you show it on the screen. Try to do something with your hands or do some stretches. Or perhaps just sit (more of that in point 12 below) and create the environment to ‘hear yourself think’. Sort of expression our parents or grandparents used to use eh?

Bit like the coming in from school and being told to ‘wash your hands’ before we were allowed to have our tea... talking of which...

9. Cook for yourself at regular intervals

Try to use fresh ingredients and buy bananas, oranges and apples. You’d be surprised how filling two boiled eggs can be (and you probably know how much cereal you would need to eat to feel full!). Consider developing a taste for flavoured teas and decaffeinated coffee to break up the stream of your preferred beverage. And drink one glass of water each time you are waiting for the kettle to boil. Dehydration is not only about being thirsty, your whole body and especially your joints rely on it, invisibly. Give yourself enough water to help your body wash away toxins which will otherwise poison your body.

10. Switch off

It’s easy, when there’s no other social distractions, and when you love your job, to work all the hours that are available.  Obviously for a short term or urgent project, this is the way of the world. But it’s not recommended for working from home for a period of weeks or months. Within reason, pick a clocking off time and stick to it. Perhaps make yourself leave the house and go for a breath of fresh air, get your old bike out perhaps? The world is eerily quiet at the moment, less traffic, plane noise, more birdsong and you can probably hear the wind in the trees.

Start journalling. This is extraordinarily therapeutic. Especially if you need to offload frustration and sadness. It's also a great place to note what you are grateful for and noticing these things will transform how you are feeling.

11. Practice compassion

Times they are a changing and with it, a return perhaps to ‘old fashioned’ values of kindness and compassion. Just as well as we’re going to need a lot of it over the next few months. Patience and stoicism are also going to be high up there in terms of essential traits. And who do we criticise most? Who are we the harshest on? Ourselves!  So this is the time to really practice these life giving values on ourselves. And others too of course. Please click here to read more /watch a video about it.

12. Try to see the bigger picture

If you are interested in exploring mindfulness and meditation, now is certainly the time. A great opportunity to get back to basics. A chance to find out what we’re really about, what’s really important to us. It needn’t be ‘spiritual’, more a time of stillness and calm.

Here’s some tips for meditation for non spiritual  people!  If we’ve had some time for reflection, and been able to notice what we’ve enjoyed and disliked, we’ll be stronger.  When the dust settles and we’re facing a potentially new landscape at home and at work, we can avoid getting stuck in a cycle of over commitment and materialism and make choices which work for us and those close to us!

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