The shift to working from home isn’t entirely new to me. Before COVID-19, I did this once or twice every workweek and found it to be a great way to balance my work environments.
Working from home full time can pose its own challenges surrounding motivation, mental health and productivity. Somehow, there’s this pressure that’s emerged to get all your eggs in order, be the fittest you’ve ever been and slay the lockdown life.
Yes, it’s desirable but the reality is that people will be balancing a family, figuring out finances if their job has been impacted or just simply adjusting to this new norm.
Flexible working has been on the rise though. Stats from the Office of National Statistics showed that between 2012 and 2016, flexi-time increased by 12.35%. According to the upward trajectory, roughly 50% of the UK workforce would be expected to be working remotely by 2020 – interesting coincidence!
Working from home for over a month now, it’s apparent that you’re not going to function like clockwork every single day. That doesn’t mean you’re failing or not making the most of this time. Some days have been plain sailing. Others have involved binge-watching TV and a steady stream of snacks. Instead of beating myself up about not having a super-efficient day, I’ve started being resolute to try again tomorrow and keep in mind the following things.
We’re working from home during a global pandemic
It’s all good wanting to spring clean your wardrobe and do some neglected DIY, but let’s remember that we are in extraordinary circumstances here. Thousands of people are dying and this is a worrying time for many. Being indoors and socially distancing ourselves from people isn’t the norm for us, so take that in your stride and remember that it takes some longer than others to adjust.
Everyone’s already on the go
We all have some kind of routine that we normally stick to during ordinary days, which can leave very little free time for ourselves. I’ve read so many articles about how this lockdown is a good opportunity to develop and do things you wouldn’t normally dedicate time to. However, it’s also a great chance for you to do absolutely nothing and slow down. Also, when I switch off from work, I may not want to do anything productive – and that’s okay. I’m slowly working my way through a mountain of books but I’m doing this at my own pace.
Not only is slowing down a little good for our mental health, but it also allows you to recharge and regain focus on what really matters to you.
What you see on social media isn’t always the reality
Even during a global pandemic, there’s still a lot of content out there telling you how to live your best lockdown life. Influencers and celebrities have taken a big hit during this pandemic for being tone-deaf and just off the mark on what people want to see or hear. Maintaining this aesthetically perfect life isn’t realistic on a normal day. So it’s worth paying attention to who you’re consuming information from and whether it’s serving you during this time. If not, that’s what the mute/block buttons are for!
Saying that, there are practices that have helped me focus, which I’ll share below. Ultimately, now is a time to be taking care of each other and yourself, so do what you need to do in order to achieve this. When it comes to working, these nuggets of advice have helped me maintain some kind of order throughout the day.
Don’t work in the bedroom
It’s so tempting to stay cosied up in bed but I can guarantee I’ll have the least productive day. Routine is important when working from home so getting out of bed, showered and dressed really does work wonders. Set up a makeshift workspace somewhere away from your bedroom and stick to it. I find that I gravitate to where I get the most natural light, so now my living room is my office and I can easily shift into that ‘work’ mindset.
Listen to focus music
I don’t know what it is, but I can’t work and listen to music with vocals. At the same time, I need something to cut the silence. The answer for me has been to tune in to instrumentals. I’m not talking about pianos and flutes – I’m talking about hip hop instrumental mixes that last for a good couple of hours. Chillhop is easily my most visited channel on YouTube and Spotify have an entire genre of focus music for you to choose from too.
Make realistic ‘To Do’ lists
In the past, I had a habit of writing down every little task I had to do. Too many items on a ‘To Do’ list can leave you feeling overwhelmed and less productive than you usually would be. Baring in mind that I’m working from home now, I set myself up with two big tasks each day according to priority. Sometimes they’re continuous tasks like engaging with people on social media, but as long as I make a start on a task, I know I’m on my way to have a productive work week.
Build a non-negotiable morning routine
It sounds very ‘millennial’ but routine is the key to riding out this lockdown. Your morning can dictate the day that you’re going to have, so fill it with enriching practices that set you up for a good day. That can consist of not checking emails until a certain time, having a solid breakfast with your family or getting your exercise in first thing in the morning.
Step away from the laptop
I make it a point in the office to take breaks – too much-uninterrupted screen time triggers headaches for me. Plus having your favourite co-workers there to grab a coffee with is another motivation. I’ve noticed that working from home has the opposite effect. I can stay glued to my screen for hours without stepping away – not even having a sip of water – and then I wonder why I have a pounding headache at the end of the day. It’s not good practice and I’ve actually set alarms for me to take breaks where I’ll go and get a drink, step outside for some fresh air or just see what everyone else in the house is doing.
Make plans for after work… or not
Whether it’s a video call with friends, movie night or a guided workout, add your plans to your calendar like you would do if you were going out after work. I don’t know the psychology behind it, but I’m sure it has something to do with tricking your mind into having something to look forward to after work. Even if you just want to collapse in front of the TV, at this point, that’s perfectly fine too. Seeing too many posts about how people have been overhauling their homes and lives can make you feel as though you’re not using this time in the right way. Even during a pandemic, people are still putting their best foot forward on social media. I’ve been watching Marvel movies most weekday evenings and I don’t feel bad about that at all.