Working from home

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So many people will be working from home at this difficult time, something for which many are unprepared as it is a very different way of working. I am in the fortunate position of having worked from home with Mark for more years than I care to remember and there are a few things that I would like to share with you that might help and make it easier. You do need to be disciplined, and make a routine, that’s really important but don’t beat yourself up if you find it difficult. You are NOT alone!

Remember, when you are in an office, you have colleagues around you and although you may not have been aware of it, you will have stopped to talk to them, chatted through a work issue, perhaps make a hot drink, or even just had a few minute socialising.

Now you are isolated – maybe you are alone or maybe you have other family members living in the same household.

If you are on your own it can be very daunting and very lonely. Hopefully you have some form of conferencing set up and can talk to your work colleagues (and family) that way, and there is always the telephone of course, but it is still difficult not having that direct contact – the moment when you would turn to the person at the next desk and ask how to spell something, how to re-word a sentence or ask their advice. And you are probably finding yourself spending a lot more hours staring at a computer screen than you have been used to, because that is now how meetings are being held, how you are now interacting with your colleagues.

So – you forget to take those few minutes here and there to walk away from it. And that’s something you need to do for your mental and physical health.

First of all, it may be very tempting to decide you won’t bother to get dressed and do the things you would normally do before going to work. Maybe wearing those not-very-comfortable work shoes isn’t essential, but you will feel a lot better if you are dressed properly believe me.

At regular intervals during the day, stand up – look out of the window for a few minutes so that your eyes adjust to a different view with a longer focal length. Take a walk round the room – several times if it’s a small room. If you have stairs in your home (I don’t!) walk or even run up them a couple of times. Make a coffee or tea or get a glass of water. You are on your own so how about doing a bit of dancing for a minute or two, wave your arms around – they say you should dance like no one is watching … but no one is watching so go ahead and dance ( remember to turn the web cam off first! ).  Do this for a few minutes on a regular basis.

At lunchtime WALK AWAY from the computer – go and have something to eat. Go outside for half an hour for some exercise if you can or at least get right away from it. Aim to work at your normal time and STOP work at your normal time.

While you are at the computer, make sure you do simple things like blinking lots, adjusting your focus by looking away. Wiggle your shoulders, turn your head, stretch your arms.

If you are there with other family members it can sometimes seem even more challenging. Of course you will have some social time, but it’s also difficult to get them to understand that you are WORKING, not on holiday and relaxing.

Basically you need to explain to them that while you are at the computer they are to treat you as invisible. And if you are on a work call they must not interrupt. I am quite sure that people will be understanding if a toddler bursts into the room, or a cat takes a flying leap onto your shoulder, but you should try and keep it all as professional as you can. They know you are working from home so I am sure they will accept the occasional oops but you should try and keep any disruption to a minimum.

Of course it’s best if you can set your computer up in a different room and shut the door – try and avoid your bedroom if you possibly can and keep that for sleep and relaxing in though in many cases that won’t be possible.

But remember that your family members are still in the house and pop your head out occasionally (see my advice above for people on their own – it’s just as valid). Stop and have lunch with them and … start and leave work at your normal times if you can. If your job normally starts at 9 am, start at 9. If you normally have an hour for lunch, take that hour. If you normally finish at 5 pm, finish at 5. I know that may not be possible because of extra work, but try. And when you do finish, CLOSE THE COMPUTER. Or at the very least switch off all the work applications.

Be sure and talk to your family members and get them to help you make the best of this difficult and challenging time … talk through any issues and find sensible ways to resolve them.

Maybe you and your partner are both working from home and in the same room. We find, in that case, that if we put our headphones on that is a “Please do not Disturb” notice. There are times when you really don’t want to be interrupted, maybe you are doing some complicated programming or working on a budget or something. Important interruptions are allowed of course, but not general chatter.

If you are in close proximity, you may need to schedule phone calls and conference calls at different times – a phone call isn’t too bad as you can probably go to another room, but two conference calls going on in close proximity is very disruptive and to be avoided. And it’s often easier if your partner is on a call, to stick your own headphones on and listen quietly to some music to stop being distracted by it.

And it’s not all doom and gloom – my daughter streamed and joined in a ballet class with the Royal Ballet yesterday. And my other daughter had a virtual night out with her friends last night using online conferencing, where they were able to let their hair down as a group !

You can find games to play, funny videos of the inevitable kittens, plays to watch and the clocks going forward will mean longer evenings.

And if Mark and I can live and work from home for nigh on 30 years and haven’t killed each other yet, I am sure you can manage it for as long as is necessary right now – the current situation won’t last forever and things gradually get back to normal.

Take care – stay safe and look after yourselves

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