Monday, 23 March 2020

#15: My Top Ten Tips for working from home

I first started working from home back in 2006 and can remember one early episode which sharply brought into focus the reality of the challenges that can present. My son Charlie was about a year and a half old at the time and couldn’t understand why his daddy was shutting himself away behind a door. I was on a phone call to the office with my new boss when the screaming started. “Is everything ok?” says my boss. “Yes fine, please ignore the screaming” I replied. “But he does sound very upset.” I had to abandon the call as the concerns, and the screaming, grew. My son was ok after a mummy cuddle, who was also working from home. So, if you now find yourself working from home and trying to cope with the children being kept off school and home from nursery, here are my top ten tips for home working.
  1. Dress food feel good - Whilst it is tempting to have endless pyjama days in front of the pc, do try to avoid doing so. I remember my granddad who used to dress in a shirt and tie only to sit in his lounge with only family for visitors. Make a point of dressing well, so you can think well.
  2. Get outside for 5 minutes - There is great evidence that just 5 minutes outdoors is enough to lift our mood. Start the day with a 5-minute dose of nature. Step onto your balcony or garden or get out into a green or blue space. Ask yourself “What do I notice?”. Become fascinated and immersed in nature for a few minutes. Repeat after lunch, gentle exercise after eating aiding digestion and at the end of the day, to help create a division between work and home time.
  3. 45-minute work chunks - Set yourself a recurring alarm on your phone for 45 minutes. Attention dwindles significantly after this period and staring at a bright computer screen for prolonged periods is detrimental for your eyes too. When the alarm goes off just stop, don't ignore it. Get up and walk around, check your posture, do a few yoga stretches, trust that whatever you are working on will still be there when you sit back down again.
  4. Do one thing - Set yourself one thing to do for the morning and one thing to do for the afternoon. For the multitaskers amongst us that might feel too easy but it is important, in the absence of an immediate physical team or boss, that you focus on the really important tasks which need doing. By doing that thing first in the morning you will feel better and form effective work habits.
  5. Put things out of reach - It is all too easy to stay seated for extended periods of time, the negative health consequences of which are dire. I leave my stapler and hole puncher upstairs so that I have to go upstairs to go and get them. Getting some much-needed steps and stair exercise each time.
  6. Develop a list of mantras - positive self- talk can be helpful to tackle the demon thoughts which might emerge when you are working alone at home. Develop your own mantras, short affirmations you can draw upon “I am great at this”...I can do this...the only way out is through...if you are going through hell, keep going.” 
  7. Visualise a good day - when you sit down to start work visualise yourself at the end of the day with key productive tasks completed with satisfaction and ease. Imagining a positive outcome is the first step to that becoming a reality.
  8. Spend time with the children or with the dog - there will be times when the children or your pet is demanding attention. Give them the attention, give them a hug, stroke the cat, give them your full attention for five minutes. Tell them you love them. It will make you both feel good.
  9. Set up virtual coffee mornings - actively ask colleagues to join you for a video call for no other purpose but to catch up over coffee. Book these in your calendar so that you have regular social contact that would otherwise happen naturally in an office/team space. Actively invest time for social networking support.
  10. Turn off the news - Whilst the news is a helpful source of updates during these challenging times, there is a good argument for limiting your access to the news whilst you are working. If you need to find something out about the latest developments you can do this at lunchtime or at the end of the day. Try phoning your parents and get their take on the news. Rationing and limiting your consumption of news will help focus, reduce distractions and help keep things in perspective. If you need some helpful background noise then instead of listening to the radio try peaceful music which is repetitive and calming such as Max Richter’s Sleep album, the RSPB’s Let Nature Sing put on repeat or Gregorian chanting for example. 
And finally, practice gratitude. Be thankful for being able to work from home, for having functioning IT to enable you to communicate easily with others from the safety of your living room, and be thankful for the health of your family. An attitude of gratitude will keep you open to the possibility of the positive - write down three things you are thankful for today.

Stay well and work well.