Top tips for working from home during lock down!
I’m somewhat fortunate in that I’ve been used to working at home for many years. I live in a different county to the IMPA head office nearly 70 miles away and as a lot of my work is working on the phone or on email, I decided a long time ago to set up a home office base. At one time it was shed at the bottom of the garden which was pretty cold and miserable during winter but now I have a dedicated space in the house and a set programme for managing this. As a prolonged period of time working at home is new to some of our team and perhaps many of you, I’m sharing my thoughts on how to make this work. Keep safe and best wishes.
1. Keep to a routine
IMPA’s CEO sent out a message to the council on this one around motivation and following your existing routine. It’s very easy to slip into bad practices at home like watching that extra episode of a Netflix series before you start work but this will quickly put you out of sync with your colleagues and your regular routine. It could affect your sleeping patterns, add to the sense of uncertainty and feel a little unsettling after a little while, so painful as it sounds keep the morning alarm at the same time and stick to a regular routine for sleep, work and play.
2. Set up your workspace
Sometimes difficult but it’s still important to make sure you have a dedicated place you got to. Dom in our office who heads up digital has a lovely terraced house and his wife Stevie also works in the business. They figured out a plan from the start of the lock down that Stevie would work in one room set up as an office, whilst Dom would work in his son’s room that had a desk already set-up, meanwhile the children have the house to play in and Dom and Stevie run a shift for managing meals and child care. It’s important that the space you establish is set up and allows you to work comfortably just as it would be at the office.
3. Get washed and dressed every morning
Maybe you think it isn’t worth the effort if you don’t see anyone and when you do pass a stranger on your daily exercise then your two metres or more apart so why bother!? This one’s more for your own benefit and linked to the point above. It’s about preparing your state of mind to go to work and to develop the right mindset. Maybe you don’t need to put on a shirt and tie (although I have to say I never thought I’d miss wearing a suit and shirt and tie as much as I do now) but putting on your work clothes and changing after work can be a good way of mentally preparing yourself for work and for stopping work.
4. Stick to a working day
One of the worst things that happened to me when I first started working from home was not stopping (yeah…what a hero I hear you say) and this can be as important as anything. It’s easy to get wrapped up in a project and engross yourself at the expense of everyone else around you and your own routine. Sticking to regular working hours is key to keeping this under control. All pretty obvious stuff this I know but still worth remembering, I think.
5. Set the rules with your family members
This one’s a little tricky and needs to be handled well with your loved ones (and pets!) but it is quite important too. Wherever you have established your working area make sure that everyone knows that’s what you’re doing to avoid interruptions. This was easier for me when I was in my little shed at the bottom of the garden but now, I have a small area near the back door I’m often distracted by things going on around me and especially by a five-month-old Dachshund puppy! Try and establish some rules for the working arrangements with those around you – good luck!
6. Take regular breaks
One way of helping with the above is by planning and then taking regular breaks at regular times, then use the time chat, cuddle the dog, etc. This is super important to keep yourself productive and give your eyes and brain a break from the computer screen. If you’re lucky enough to have a garden, then take in some fresh air but if not just make sure you get a change of scenery so you can stay creative and fresh. Just don’t let the lunch hour turn into a long lunch and finish at 5pm! There’s something called the “Pomodoro Technique” and I think you can get apps on this too, it’s a basic concept of breaking your work into 25 minute chucks followed by breaks, it was developed by an Italian some time ago and has proven very popular.
7. Stay connected – talk to people
One thing that makes a big difference is making sure you talk to people. I often think we send an email rather than pick up the phone these days and you get much more from a telephone call. When you’re isolated it’s very easy to feel disconnected with the world and managing this is perhaps the biggest challenge of all. Talking to people, catching up on the phone, Skype or Zoom breathes a sense of normality to your working day and encourages you to make a bit more effort, it’s also more fun!
8. Keep healthy
Healthy body, healthy mind and we all know the benefits of this. Try and get outside and take in the season, wherever you are, one of the benefits of all this right now as far as I can see is that we have more time to enjoy the simple pleasures in life. The things we most often take for granted and the things that pass us by. We are in Spring in the UK and I’ve noticed how quickly the trees are turning green and how everything is changing. Maybe this is a time to reset the work life balance and finally get that healthy lifestyle into a reality. Whether it’s walking the dog, taking a run (back for IMPA London 2020) or just walking yourself get outdoors and appreciate what’s going on around you.
All obvious stuff but hopefully a pleasant read, let me know if you’ve got any tips of your own.