At the time of writing, offices all over Cardiff have fallen quiet. The New Year has brought back work from home in Wales due to the spread of the Omicron variant. Although I am sure many of you are already accidental or unexpected experts at working from home, in this unpredictable world it doesn’t hurt to brush up on your practices. Here are Levitate’s 4 Golden Tips to help you through the often uniquely challenging world of working from home.
1. Establish a work-space with set boundaries
If you have a home office, ideal. However, if you, like me, do not have a home office, it is crucial to establish where you will be working in order to tailor this area into a quiet, private, and focused workspace. Keeping all of your work-related devices, documents or anything else in this area helps you maintain a positive work-life balance. The last thing you want to be thinking about after a long, solitary day of working from home is work so boundaries are very important.
Boundaries are also important if there are other members of your household who will be around when you are working from home. Depending on the flexibility of your specific work from home job, you may be able to use this time to spend some more time with your children than you otherwise would have. However, you should make sure that everyone in your household knows that you are not on holiday but still have to work.
Have a discussion with the people you live with and maybe discourage them from interrupting you when you are sitting in your workspace. Similarly, ensure that your employer does not take advantage of their ability to contact you easily in your home office. When you finish your shift, really try and put the days work behind you and spend some time with your loved ones or doing something you truly enjoy.
2. Routine, routine, routine
Similar to our last point, this tip aims to help you clearly demarcate between your work life and your home life. By creating, and sticking to schedules, you are able to become more productive at work and more relaxed when not working. I know this is easier said than done but humans are creatures of habit and once you proactively begin to design schedules and routines, working from home becomes a lot easier.
However, you must craft a routine that is right for you, rather than changing yourself drastically to fit the easiest schedule. If you are someone who needs 8 hours of sleep to function, do not change this just because you want to start working earlier to finish earlier. On the other hand, you should try and avoid waking up 5 minutes before you are due to start and just work from your bed.
Why don’t you try and act as if you still have to go into work? Wake up and get ready as you normally would, getting dressed and having some breakfast. After that, you could use the time you normally spend commuting into work to do some exercise, listen to some music, or do whatever else you like to do when you have some spare time. This way, your body is ready for a proper workday and you have the benefit of some extra time before work!
3. Eliminate (or at least minimise) distractions
Without a home office, it can be difficult to eliminate the many distractions of modern life. Putting your phone on silent is one thing but this is often only the distracting tip of the procrastinating iceberg. Let me run you through a distraction I faced while working from home and how I have countered it.
Initially, during this pandemic, I would study on my desk right in front of the TV and my PS4. I do have some self-control but the temptation of a quick 15-minute gaming or Netflix session was sometimes too much to bear (I would like to make it clear that I am of course referring to a time before I worked for Levitate when I was still a university student). My solution to this problem? Move the PS4 into the living room during the week so I am not tempted. It is easier than you may think to make changes such as this to really focus your working environment.
If you live near the noisy neighbourhood bog, maybe look into noise-cancelling headphones or playing something to cover the barking like music, a podcast or some white noise. If you find yourself constantly tidying up your home in order to procrastinate, ensure your home or at least your workspace is as organised as possible before starting your shift. Finally, if you have small children, maybe buy a Disney+ account or some LEGO (I am not a parent and will not pretend to know what to do with children).
4. Be kind to yourself and everyone around you.
This should of course be something you should strive for in everyday life, regardless of whether you work from home or not. However, the nature of working from home means that by actively trying to cut yourself and others a bit of slack, it becomes a much less daunting prospect.
For example, what tone you read an email in can sometimes drastically change its effect. If you receive an email that comes across as a bit snappy for no reason, just remember that it is probably not written in that way on purpose. Communication often involves facial expressions, tone of voice, and many other factors that are impossible to take into account with emails. Just be aware that sometimes you may be putting a tone on an email that was not intended by the writer.
When communicating with your colleagues, don’t be afraid to throw in the odd exclamation point or emoji! These little additions make it clear to everyone that you are not mean spirited or nasty (as some of those rushed emails may come across otherwise). It might be necessary to be a bit over positive and maybe even over-communicate a little.
Be kind to yourself as well. If you found yourself drifting into a rabbit hole about some non-work-related issue, ask yourself, would have I have done this in the office? Let us not over romanticise offices as some places of complete efficiency, as this is not the case. Everyone gets distracted sometimes, so avoid beating yourself up over the fact you’ve spent 10 minutes reading the news after 2 hours of work. By being overly harsh on yourself, you could end up hurting your productivity and overall happiness, a loose-loose.
It’s sometimes easy to forget that you are not the only person working from home. When you are talking to colleagues, clients, customers, or anyone else for that matter, just remember that they are likely working from home as well and facing the same challenges as you. COVID-19 has changed the way we work, the way we enjoy our free time and everything between. We can all get through this together if we just strive to be kinder to everyone, including ourselves.
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