Adjusting to the new social isolation norm? The irony is, you’re not alone.
As individuals, couples, families, businesses and communities across the globe grapple with the spread of coronavirus, we’ve never been more united on one front – learning how to keep a positive and productive at-home mind in the thick of an outbreak.
For those of us who have moved our office to the kitchen table, we may have already caved in to the appeal of staying in our PJs all day… but without a set routine or healthy work-life balance, it’s easy for things to become a jumble when stuck inside.
Nevertheless, there’s tips to be taken from those who have mastered the process of working from home, before the onset of COVID-19, and who have lived through the struggle of how to not just stay focussed and productive, but also happy and healthy – and here’s their best tips.
1. Create an at-home office.
Not having a designated work space can often take a toll on productivity. When bills are scattered all over the table, the vacuum cleaner’s left out, you don’t have a good work chair or you’re relying on having your computer on your lap in bed, it’s going to be a struggle (mentally and physically) to get into the zone and concentrate on the job. Have a think about how comfortable your physical setup is; if the kitchen table works for you, stick to it. Otherwise consider changing up your space every now and then or when beginning a new project, if you’re in need of new inspiration or a different environment to change things up.
Extra tip: If you have an outdoor space such as a backyard or balcony, use it! Make sure you’re getting enough fresh air and vitamin D to stay balanced during lockdown limits. If not, open the blinds – enough natural light can turn a dark and gloomy room into a bright and uplifting work space.
2. Tune into inspiration.
Whether it’s a new Spotify playlist or starting your morning with a quick at-home workout, find your jam and incorporate it into your daily routine! Starting your day with the right energy can improve productivity.
Extra tip: If you’re finding that you’re feeling pretty lonely working from home or the room seems ‘empty’, try switching up music to radio talkback – it can be a comforting background voice on the low.
3. Opt for a daily phone call or video chat.
While it seems that we’re all connected digitally, only communicating through text and emails can quickly lead to feelings of separation. Opting for video chats and phone calls wherever possible is the next best option for human interaction, especially if you’re after meaningful communication.
Extra tip: For a challenge between friends and family, try sending a daily or weekly voice recording of how you are and what you’ve been up to. This can work well for those who don’t have time for a long chat, or who are after a friendly voice when needed!
4. Set realistic goals.
Have a schedule and plan what you want to achieve for the day, so that you experience a sense of fulfilment when you’ve ticked it off… but be conscious of separating your home to-do list and work tasks to avoid being overwhelmed.
Just think: if you couldn’t do that pile of ironing previously because you were at the office, then don’t do it now – it can wait!
Extra tip: Many who work regularly from home share the advice of getting dressed first thing in the morning into work attire, as a physical reminder of being ‘on the job’. Try it for a few days and see what it does for you!
5. Log off.
Too distracted to get into the zone? Log out of your social media accounts! It’s the only way to stay productive without the constant temptation to check notifications. Scheduling in a time to check social media and the news can be helpful, such as on a lunch break or at the end of the day.
Extra tip: If you’re in the digital space or logging out isn’t an option, try muting all non-important notifications temporarily or until your lunch break.
6. Have a break from the screen.
Additional screen time is inevitable when working from home, which means we need to be more conscious of switching off. Going from a mobile, to a laptop, to a tablet in front of the TV at night can easily mean that we’re glued to a screen every waking hour. Be conscious of choosing hobbies that don’t require one, such as spending time outside, cooking a new recipe, reading a book or exercising.
Extra tip: Have you heard of the 20-20-20 rule to prevent eye strain? The rule is that for every 20 minutes at a screen, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds…. it’s a great reminder to take frequent breaks to reduce short-distance strain.
7. Meal prep.
For some it’s a struggle, for others it’s a hobby. But if one thing’s for sure, it’s that pre-preparing meals at home can save a lot of time wasted throughout the day scouting the pantry or becoming distracted in the kitchen. Keep it simple – there’s plenty of inspiration out there – and you’ll find it will remove the stress of deciding what to eat, as well as where to find it, with supermarket shelves at an all-time low.
Extra tip: If you’re stuck for ideas, consider home delivery meal-kits like HelloFresh, Dinnerly, Marley Spoon or YouFoodz. Most are still operating, but check their websites for updated information.
8. Walk around and stretch every hour.
If you’ve got a step-counter, get it clicking! Working from home makes it easier than ever to fall into the habit of sitting all day, so make the effort to have a quick walk and stretch every hour – your back, neck (and overall health) will thank you for it.
Extra tip: Need inspiration? There’s millions of free YouTube workouts that cater to every physical ability and time limit… so no excuses!
9. Create a rewards system.
Often the best incentive to get a project out of the way is to have something to look forward to for when it’s done. Rewarding yourself with a quick snack or 5 minute break will help keep you fulfilled as well as on track for the day.
Extra tip: Make it something that’s actually rewarding… unlike putting a load of washing on, or having a shower…
10. Have clear rules if working with kids.
When working from home, half the battle can be trying to concentrate on the job with one eye on the kids. If you find yourself in this situation, be clear of your expectations; give them a heads up if you’re about to go on a call or into a virtual meeting, and ensure they understand the ‘do-not-disturb’ sign on the door. It’s worth planning things that don’t require supervision, such as favourite TV shows, craft activities or online learning/educational apps for older children.
Extra tip: Friends, family, grandparents, or even a friendly neighbour might be able to help out on an extremely busy day with a ‘virtual playdate’ or planned activity through a video call.