As we face a time of social distancing, and the potential for weeks of working from home for people who ordinarily don’t – We thought we would share our top tips for staying productive and motivated whilst working from home. So if you’re entering self-isolation – Read on!
Here at Sprechen we make no secret of the fact we are remote workers – The nature of the job takes our Director Steve on client visits all over, so it’s paramount he’s able to open his Macbook and pick up where he left off on the train or in whichever coffee shop takes his fancy on his travels. For Marianne (hi, it’s me writing!) remote working means mostly from home around school runs and toddler naptimes.
The benefits of this for our business is that we can work with clients who don't do the standard 9 to 5, it gives us more flexibility, and means we are often on-call outside of the normal working day which is handy for many business operations - our own a well as our clients.
Working from home might sound like bliss at first thought – Sitting around in your pyjamas (if you wear any…), lounging on the sofa with the TV on in the background, lazy breakfasts over the keyboard, tea and coffee on tap in the next room.
That might be okay for the first day or two, but you’ll quickly find yourself in an unproductive, unmotivated rut which you’ll struggle to climb out of. So start smart and follow our top tips for working from home.
Set Yourself Up for the Day
What do you usually do before work? Shower, cup of coffee, breakfast, run out the door? Keep your morning routine, but slow the pace a little (you don’t need to rush, now) and maybe even introduce a little bit of mindfulness to your day.
1. Set an alarm, get up (without multiple snoozes) and enjoy a shower.
Mindfulness tip: Actually feel the water on your skin. How warm is it? What do the drips feel like? The soap? Imagine any stresses or worries washing away, off your skin from head to toe, and draining away down the plug hole.
2. Get dressed. Although you’re not going out anywhere, it puts you in the right mindset for the day. We’re not saying don your best suit, but a pair of jeans and a shirt / top is infinitely better than pyjamas or pants. Also, consider wearing a pair of trainers rather than slippers (or just socks). Some people swear by wearing trainers when they’ve got things to do at home – It puts you in the right frame of mind for ‘doing’.
Self care: Even something as simple as having a shower and getting dressed is an act of self care in these times. You might not be going out anywhere or seeing anyone, but you will feel better in yourself and ready for the day.
3. Have some breakfast. Don’t be tempted to check your phone, or switch your computer on yet. Boil the kettle, make a cup of tea/coffee, sit down and enjoy whatever you usually have for breakfast. Or maybe treat yourself to something you wouldn’t ordinarily have time for!
Mindfulness tip: When is the last time you consciously tasted your morning coffee? Your breakfast? Feel the textures on your tongue, taking your time to actually chew it rather than swallowing it down in a lump. Try to enjoy the process of eating, rather than just the necessity of having food.
Miss the Commute?
It’s maybe doubtful that you’re missing the commute itself – I can’t imagine many people enjoy driving through rush hour traffic or being crammed into a train carriage. But perhaps you might miss that time each morning between leaving the house and starting work.
Assuming we’re not placed on complete lockdown, or you’re not actually infected with Coronavirus Covid-19, then a walk around the block (or even the garden!) might be a great way of getting the ‘commute’ back into your day.
Mindfulness Tip: What’s the weather like – How does the sun/ rain/ air feel on your skin? Is it warm or cool? What noise do your feet make on the ground? What other noises can you hear – Birds tweeting, dogs barking, cars, airplanes? Can you smell anything – Flowers, neighbours cooking, car fumes? Use your senses to ground you and bring you back to the present.
Find a Work Space
Not everyone is lucky enough to have a home office or study, but there are places that will prove better than others, and ways to make sure you find a line between work and home. Whilst we’re in this situation, it’s important to keep the two separate – You don’t want work productivity to suffer because you feel like you’re at home to relax and play, but equally you don’t want to feel like you’re always at work, 24/7!
1. Try to choose somewhere away from the TV. You’ll be tempted to turn it on, and you’ll become easily distracted. If you’re home alone and want some noise as a form of company, then stick the radio on. It’s less distracting, and the music will boost your morale if you’re feeling disconnected from the world.
2. Choose somewhere near a window if possible so you can enjoy some fresh air and natural light throughout the day.
3. Sit on a sturdy chair (possibly not the sofa) at a desk or table so you feel like you are actually working. This also helps to keep the sofa a work-free zone to relax in during the evenings.
4. Avoid, if possible, working from your bedroom. The idea of working from your bed might seem idyllic, but it could quickly start to blur that line between work and home. It also negates the need for the routine above, which could prove a dangerous habit for weeks of isolation. If there is no other option but to work from your bedroom, then it’s even more important to ‘set yourself up for the day’ and do a ‘commute’ to make sure you don’t fall into a trap of staying in bed all day.
Keep a ‘Working Day’
You might not be clocking on, but that doesn’t mean you can’t keep to the routine of a normal working day.
1. Start work at the normal time. You’ll be saving time by not having to do your normal commute, so it’s likely you can take your mornings at a slightly slower pace and still be sat down ready to work at the normal time.
2. Take a lunch break. You might think this is silly – You’re at home! But the temptation to ram a sandwich down your throat whilst typing an email is going to be too great. Get up, leave your work station, make some lunch and sit somewhere else to eat it. Take a 5 minute walk outside, drink a cup of tea in the garden, read a book. Switch off from work for at least half an hour.
Mindfulness tip: Just like with breakfast – Really taste what you’re eating and drinking for lunch. Chew more, rush less. Bring yourself to the now – Not what’s happened this morning, or what work you’ve got to do this afternoon. Only now.
3. Just as you started work at a certain time, you need to also finish at a set time. This is important. Just because you’re at home, it shouldn’t mean working extra hours into the evening – This is very easily done. Switch off the computer at a pre-decided time, and leave your work station. You might even like to do the same ‘commute’ as you did in the morning, and finish your day with a walk around the block. Then when you’re home, you’re home and your work day has finished.
If you’re in self-isolation then actual face-to-face connection might be a tricky one. Always follow government guidelines in regards to whether you can go out or have visitors. If you are completely in quarantine, then utilise video calls with colleagues, friends and family.
We all need some human contact, and whilst that may be harder in these worrying times, a video call with a friend or family member can really raise our spirits.
In addition, a conference call with a colleague is much more personal when it’s via video link instead of a black screen. We all need a bit of connection sometimes!
In order to make life easier, make sure you’ve got all the technology in place beforehand:
1. Does your company have the means for you to access data and business information from home? Ultimately our entire business here at Sprechen is setup perfectly for helping those who want access to their data and analytics remotely, including exposing hidden information for business intelligence. We can help allow remote working. Check to see if this is possible at your place of work.
2. Make sure you have any webcams / cameras ready and set up.
3. Make sure your home Wi-Fi is reliable and has the connection speed and signal strength to support video calls.
We know, you’re probably in the next room to your kitchen and being able to just get up and grab a snack (without any judgemental looks from ‘Susan’ on the desk opposite) is very tempting and all too easy.
But just as we said above – It’s important to keep to a routine during your day, and eating is a big part of this. Everyone snacks, but make sure you’re not replacing meals with them. It’s important you stop for lunch and eat something substantial – Not only does this give you the nourishment you need (and we do need it right now) but it also sets you up for a productive afternoon.
This situation could be the perfect time to practise your culinary skills and cook up something you wouldn’t ordinarily enjoy at lunchtime via the work kitchen’s dirty microwave.
It’s not just lunch though. If you don’t keep to your work hours as outlined above, then you could easily slip into a pattern of skipping dinner as well; or eating an inexpertly put together meal over the tapping of keys.
Mindfulness Tip: Really taste your food – How often do you savour what you’re eating? Do you eat for enjoyment or eat to survive? Chew your food and make it a conscious decision to savour the flavour and enjoy your meals.
When working from home, it would be very easy to stay in all day every day. If you’re able to, get outside. We wrote earlier about trying to sit near a window to get a flow of fresh air and maybe even a bit of sunshine, but actually getting outside for a little bit every day will work wonders on staying positive, motivated and productive.
1. If you’re able, introduce that ‘commute’ walk every morning and afternoon. Not only will the fresh air (and possibly some Spring sunshine) do you the world of good, it will also introduce a bit of exercise into your day when you might not be able to get to the gym.
2. If you can’t get out for a walk, but have a garden (even a small one) then try and spend some time out there. Tend to a plant, enjoy a hot cup of tea in the fresh air, maybe even do a home workout out there with a skipping rope or weights!
3. Plus, sunshine gives us Vitamin D. And we could all do with a dose of that right now! (Did you know Vitamin D helps fight viruses..?)
Mindfulness Tip: Ground yourself in the world around you by focusing on your senses. What can you see? What can you feel – And how does it feel? Can you smell anything? If you’re drinking that cup of tea out in the garden – How does it taste? How hot is it? How does it feel in your mouth?
Last but by no means least, is social media. You might be craving connection, but if you’re already a bit addicted to scrolling social networking sites then working from home is likely to make this worse.
1. Try to limit yourself to only looking at certain times of day (not during work times) otherwise it will prove too much of a distraction. And the more distracted you get, the less work you’ll get done. That’s when the routines above go out the window, and you end up working late to catch up or make yourself feel less guilty for wasting time earlier in the day. Late nights lead to late mornings and you could find yourself in a bit of a downward spiral.
2. Social Media is also generally not great for our mental health. If you’re in quarantine, but others are not, then it’s not going to make you feel great looking at what they’re getting up to whilst you’re stuck inside. Likewise, while people are trying to share positive messages, it’s also a breeding ground for panic and misinformation which in large amounts could be very overwhelming. If connection is what you’re looking for, then maybe reach out to a friend and chat to them for a bit instead.
3. If you’re craving 10 minutes away from the computer and want to just ‘switch off’ from everything then consider some mindful moments like we’ve suggested above, instead of zoning out on social media. You won’t get sucked down a rabbit hole of videos, and will likely return to your work feeling more energised.
Mindfulness is fantastic for mental health and could provide some much-needed calm at this time. It might feel silly at first, but why not give it a go?
They are our tops tips for working from home! What are yours? Share them with us @sprechendigital and we’ll share our favourites!