This is the third part in our series about home-based working. The first part was onboarding, the second part was looking at how managers of teams can help them adapt and get up and running, this third piece is focusing on how we can all cope with our new paradigm, sustaining momentum and prioritising our wellbeing.
The novelty of not commuting, having Zoom drinks or being able to wear pyjamas on your bottom half while maintaining the facade with a work shirt has worn off for all at this stage. Having become accustomed to our new way of living, the restrictions in place are resulting in small world lifestyles.
At Archer Functional Programming, we have been talking to clients and candidates with a wealth of experience of working from home so have distilled down a shortlist of considerations and simple practical tips to help people be as happy, healthy and productive as possible. We have broadly split these into two sections (although they overlap), firstly mental health and secondly some simple actions.
Self-care is a subject we all have some degree of familiarity with but for many people, being a practitioner of good mental health and thinking of the actions to include it into a lifestyle may be a new journey. Starting with an acknowledgement of the impact that restricted movements and social distancing are having (and will continue to have) on you and those around you is an obvious place to start. Having measures in place that help to nurture a healthy mental state often only requires minor adjustments and can have a tremendous impact.
Talking about the elephant in the room
Be willing to discuss the down days, feelings of isolation or cabin fever, the challenges of juggling working from home and homeschooling or parenting or the days when you’re just not feeling motivated. Since you are not in the same physical space as your colleagues, they won’t be able to pick up on your mood, body language or feelings if you plaster on a brave face for video or phone calls.
Ideally, you would have a manager and colleagues you can open up to or it may be someone else in your life but being able to share this and discuss how you are feeling is important.
Creating time for ‘the chat’
As a species, we are social creatures and are used to an office setting where we get to bump into each other. Whether it is a pre-morning-coffee nod in the lift or genuine conversation about your weekend; sharing small interactions builds relationships and contributes to our sense of self.
It is important that you continue to stay connected with your colleagues and now is the time to be proactive in how you do this. Some good examples we have seen are having Slack threads on popular topics (such as home brewing, knitting and board games), scheduling BYO lunch with colleagues, doing a lunchtime workout via WhatsApp video call and Zoom-it-up (having an open invite for everyone in the team to hope onto a video call to chat about their weekend).
Take a break from social media
If asked, we all know that losing an hour or two to Facebook, Twitter or any other channels of information and misinformation that come into our lives isn’t having a positive impact on our well-being but this can be a tricky habit to break.
Restricting yourself to a small amount of scheduled time per day can be a helpful way for you to stay up to date enough, while not falling into the social media abyss.
Outside is where it’s at
We have been fortunate to have had unseasonably fine weather over the last number of weeks so getting outside has been more enticing. Spending time outside was high on the list of just about everyone we have spoken to on this topic. It could be for exercise or just to look up at the sky to gain a sense of space, either way, getting outside should be on your to do list.
Move your body and stretch
At this stage, the benefits of exercise are something we are all well versed in. Finding the correct version of this for you is the key. People spoke to us about YouTube how workouts such as Joe Wicks PE with the kids or chasing them around the garden, taking on 5km running challenges, taking walks within the 2km radius, taking the dog for a walk or just stretching.
Do what works for you, plenty of variety and setting a goal, were the three comments most repeated as ways to find, and maintain, an exercise routine that works for you.
Think of this time as a treat
We are living in small bubbles at the moment, many of us are checking in with loved ones more than we have in years, doing simpler things that are on our doorsteps, spending more time with immediate family. We can think of this as an inconvenience or embrace it as an opportunity and a treat. How many times have we all said or heard others say that our lives are hectic? This is a rare time when we cannot rush from one activity to the next but get to focus on simpler pleasures and moving through life at a slower pace.
In due course, a new normal will emerge for us all and the speed will be notched up again so enjoy this period while it lasts.
Do something new
Take the time to do something that may have been on your bucket list that you’ve just never gotten around to, some examples mentioned were; gardening, cooking and even juggling.
It doesn’t have to be developing a new skill, it could be as simple as exploring your local 2km radius to find any surprises or little nooks you’ve never noticed before or taking the time to speak with your neighbours.
Take breaks – you would in the office
Spending time away from your screen is a given in an office setting as you go for a coffee or head to a meeting with actual people in an actual room or just move around the office.
Give yourself time to disengage from your screen and your workspace will help clear your head and enjoy your day more.
Don’t be afraid to step away, it is perfectly fine to miss an unplanned call or not answer an email within two minutes. Don’t think of yourself as having to prove you are working.
Structure and planning are your friends
Having a structure to your day with items that you can mark off as completed as you move through your day allows you to see that you are accomplishing things. These accomplishments will motivate you to go on to accomplish more things and so on.
Starting your morning or afternoon with one or two more enjoyable tasks to get things started allows you to tick off your first item and build momentum.
Routine and knowing when to stop
There can be an internal pressure to work late or some people find it difficult to switch off. Maintaining a similar routine to your working day when you are in the office is key for making time for self-care. Building in elements discussed already like time outside and exercise will all help you detach.
Don’t forget to stop your day when your day is over. There will always be more email to respond to and more tasks to complete so having a cut-off point is more important now that work is always within reaching distance.
Re-purpose your commute time
Your commute time has been gifted back to you so there is an opportunity to use that time as suits you best, acknowledging that you have this time and putting it to specific use is valuable. What you get up to is entirely up to you, it could be an extra 45 minutes in bed, going for a run or catching up on emails and planning the day. If you are using this as working time this allows you to take breaks at other times that may suit you better.
Have a place to call work
A little variety can go a long way (between where you live and where you work). Having a designated space that is your workspace allows you to step away from that space and switch off, thus creating a clearer boundary between work you and non-work you.
The ideal scenario is to have a spare room that you can close the door on to create the separation. This is not a luxury that everyone may have, so even if you have a designated table, chair or area of a room that allows you form a sense of when to turn on your game face.
Ergonomics can easily be overlooked but being hunched over a laptop day after day is no-one’s idea of comfort. If you are not comfortable there will be a part of you (such as your neck, back, shoulders or hips) resenting the time.
You may not have the perfect setup, but it is worth investing some time to create the best version of this for yourself rather than ending up in pain or even mild discomfort which will harm your mental and physical well-being.
Humans are incredibly adaptable and have a survival capability that has brought us this far so we can be confident that we will survive. However, thriving in good health is another matter, many people are having to adapt to seismic changes in our lifestyle which can be more challenging than expected.
There is no one size fits all solution since we all perform at our best in different ways. Work from home can facilitate and enable this so try to think about it as an opportunity. Acknowledging the difficulties and challenges, while taking small steps to adjust to a new way of living and functioning will help people to come through this defining period.
At Archer Functional Programming, we are taking a ‘wearing the Green Jersey’ approach to things and helping both individuals and companies to make the adjustments that will lead them to a brighter future. If we can be of help you too, don’t hesitate to contact us.