Surviving working from home

Surviving working from home

Adapting can sometimes be a challenge!

How times change and how fast! This time a few weeks ago we had a routine at work of meetings, projects, 121s … and most interactions were face to face. Two weeks into lockdown, and with many of us now working from home for all or part of the week, we are rapidly realising the definition of ‘agile working’, and having to rapidly learn new ways of operating as we face unprecedented changes to our whole way of life to meet the challenge of an unseen but for some, a deadly opponent.

I thought it would be helpful to give you a few tips based on my early experience as a self-employed contractor when I first left the NHS corporate environment. I had come into the office every day for over 20 years and whilst there are many upsides to working from home there can also be downsides and so the things I did to make it work for me made a difference. I hope it helps you to come up with your own routines or ways of coping.

For me the social isolation was a big issue. Moving from a busy office environment to a desk in a spare bedroom was initially exciting and it felt great to keep on top of the washing and be home for the kids, but therein lies the rub. It was either really quiet where I missed having the opportunity for a chat across the desk or meeting up with someone over coffee in the kitchen. Otherwise the house was crowded and noisy with everyone at home which was incredibly distracting. You have to get the balance right for you.

Top Tips:

  1. Getting into a routine is incredibly important and so just as you might set an alarm to get up to travel – set your alarm to get you up to start work at a set time each day. After all you are contracted to work a certain number of hours and so it’s important you adhere to that wherever possible.
  2. I learned early on that my productivity improved just by getting “dressed for work” each morning as if I was going to the office. It doesn’t mean you have to wear a suit/dress but to have a shower and dress comfortably just meant that I felt “ready for work”. It is a small thing that makes all the difference.
  3. Set out a room/space for your work. Even if it is a kitchen table keep your stuff in a box that you can pack away easily. It is a little like the agile working arrangements many organisations have now – book your spot on the kitchen table and let others know it’s your space for the day.
  4. Schedule breaks in the day and take them. No one can sit at a laptop for eight hours without a break. Get up have a cuppa – FaceTime a friend for a chat. Why not agree with two or three colleagues to have a video call – Microsoft Teams, Zoom or WhatsApp are all great for this.
  5. Get out of the house – you need some exercise and fresh air and these are good for your health and wellbeing and will help you clear your head. Some days I had my head down on a big project but if I didn’t go out for a daytime break I had to go out in the evening.
  6. Make sure you have what you need to enable you to work from home – the kit; secure connection links; a work phone for example – seek advice from your line manager who is there to support you.
  7. Timekeeping is an issue that often bothers people – for some “how can I demonstrate I am working all day if I am not in the office?” for others “how can I ensure that my staff are putting in their required hours?” This is easily solved with a conversation between you and your line manager and it comes back to what else is going on at home. If you have children at home during this time or you have other people to care for you, may need to talk to your line manager about flexibility around this.
  8. Setting boundaries is really important – my husband is retired and so when I am working at home, I sometimes have to be firm with him if he keeps interrupting me. I’ve got it down to a certain look now and he knows to leave without it escalating! You might need to talk to your children about your expectations of them while you are working too …

So, go well and stay safe in these uncertain times. Keep the communications channels open with your organisation and clarify expectations on all sides. I feel quite optimistic about the fundamental shift in our thinking that this has brought to our society and community and I hope to do my bit in supporting all the front-line staff who are dealing with this.