I’m not going to lie: working at home can be a challenging thing.
If you’re new to this, you might have always thought that working from home sounded pretty sweet. Getting up later, not having a commute and being in your home surroundings all the time is living the dream. Unfortunately, it’s not quite as simple as that.
The crux of the matter is that work is work, no matter where you are. Not having a schedule, getting out of the house or having conversation with colleagues can actually have a negative effect on your wellbeing.
PLEASE DON’T FEAR!
If you’ve been recently asked to do your day job from home or if you are newly self-employed: I promise that even though it might seem a little hard right now, there are ways to get through this and actually enjoy it!
I was there, where you are right now. Despite thinking that self-employment sounded amazing and loving the idea of working from home, I suddenly felt, isolated, lonely and a little without purpose. So, it was time to put on my ‘big girl’ trousers and get through it…
Here’s what worked for me and I promise it can help you too!
First Things First: Get out of the house!
This is one of the biggest things that will make a difference. It may seem simple but you really need to enforce it. You will literally go stir-crazy otherwise (I did before I put it in my schedule).
I walk every morning and it means that I can change my mental state and I’m ready to work when I get back. Even if you can't do it in the morning, make sure to get out at least once a day. Some people go for a walk right before working and when they finish, so they feel like they have a commute. That is a nice way to change mental state before and after work too. Allowing you to ‘switch on’ and ‘switch off’.
If you can’t get out of the house there are other options. Open windows, play nature sounds and follow a live or pre-recorded virtual exercise class – there are loads on YouTube. You’d be amazed at how much of a difference exercising before you work can help.
Try to have a designated working area
Even if you can't have an office somewhere, you can still create a working area. A lot of people online have come up with really creative ways to do that. If you can’t have an office at home, there are other options:
· A set part of the dining table that you always work at
· A floating shelf with a bar chair
· A small table in a corner
· A converted under stairs area or boiler cupboard.
Just don’t sit on the sofa. You won’t be able to focus and you won’t be able to relax next time you sit on the sofa, when you’re not working. It also won’t be great for your back. Mentally it really helps to have a set place where you work, so you can switch off when you're not in that space.
Try to keep work as an official thing, in an official place. If you do it in a place of relaxation/in a relaxing way, your poor brain won't see those things as a relaxing activity any more. Or at least not quite in the same way.
Make sure you still connect with other humans (adult humans!)
This is an IMPORTANT one! Be it colleagues, friends or other people online, get interacting! In person is better but Skype calls/Zoom chats can work well. Working from home can feel isolating and a little sad and lonely if you don't see other people. You don’t realise how much of a difference even hearing office sounds can be.
Enjoying working at home is vastly improved if you can maintain a social element to it. We are social creatures (even us introverts) and we need a certain human interaction to feel happy. If you are working for a company from home, try to arrange virtual meetings instead of discussing everything by email. The same goes if you are self-employed: try to arrange video chats with clients or potential clients because it’s likely that they’ll benefit from it too. It also limits miscommunication that can happen when everything is communicated via email.
Create a strict schedule for working time/home time
Don't just 'quickly do something' after work - switch on and off at set times.
It's too easy for your home to become a stressful work space. Instead of work becoming more relaxed at home, your home, which should be your escape, can too easily become a place where you can't escape work. Make sure you can have official cut offs. This is also why having your set area to work at is an important thing. You need to be able to walk away from that area and switch off from work.
Don’t let your whole house become a work space. Your brain truly needs the opportunity to switch off and relax. Trust me, I speak from experience on this one! If your mental health is suffering since you started working from home, start being more forceful with yourself about the start and end of work time.
You also want to try to plan more fun things outside of work time, to do at home. Teach yourself how to do something artistic (again, YouTube is a great resource), try new recipes, have a games night (virtually or in person). Make work time exactly that and make home time the time to do nice, relaxing things (or practical home-related things).
Even working from home it's important to dress properly (I even wear proper shoes at home when I work). It makes a big difference to make yourself presentable and feel good about how you look. This is a good way to boost yourself mentally and it will support the right state of mind to work.
You can always put on that onesie after you finish working!
Try to invest in a good chair to sit on. If you don’t have space or can’t afford a new office chair, make sure you have a lumbar support pillow if you need one. Ultimately any cushion to sit on or to support your back will do. Make sure that you sit up straight with a tall spine and relaxed shoulders.
Make a schedule
This is especially important if you are a recent convert to self-employment. The mind craves structure and even if you think you don’t like it, deep down you probably need it. Spend 5 minutes each morning planning your day ahead. Make sure to plan in your lunch break and be strong about start and finish times.
If you don’t work a standard week hourly wise, then make sure that your hours are balanced and that you’re not working too many of them. If you’re getting distracted with laundry that needs doing, put times in your schedule for doing that, so your mind can then focus on the task at hand.
If you’re struggling with focus…
I like to use the Pomodoro Technique. Simply set a timer for 25 minutes and tell yourself that you are literally going to focus on one work thing for that 25 minutes. 25 minutes is a totally achievable amount of time and not too scary, which makes it feasible. After the 25 minutes is up, start a 5 minute timer and have a break. After your break, set your 25 minute timer up again.
I used to be a world class procrastinator and I really feel your pain. Homes are full of distractions but this method is great if you are struggling. You just tell yourself that you’re going to commit to that 25 minutes and it somehow makes focus a lot more manageable.
Focus on the POSITIVES to really enjoy working from home!
Make sure to spend a bit more time on breakfast and lunch because you. Sit down at a table and really savour them before you start work again. It makes a difference! NO MORE EATING OUT OF TUPPERWARE!
You can spend more time with your pet/s!
No petty arguments over milk funds/who didn’t refill the sugar/who used the last pen etc.
No commute really is a wonderful thing. Fill that commuting time with something stress relieving like a workout or have a slow cuppa in the garden. If you have kids, play a game with them if you have time or sit and chat over breakfast.
Being in for deliveries/workmen/other things that are only practical during the working day is really useful!
You can listen to your favourite music/radio station/background sounds whilst you work.
If you want part of your lunch break to include a siesta, who am I to argue! Just set a timer (anything above 20 minutes can make you feel groggy)!
Do little rituals that are pleasant but also get you in the right state of mind when it's time to work:
Put an energising/refreshing oil in a diffuser or light a candle (it will be a nice background smell and you will associate it with working).
Put on a certain classical music playlist (or whatever you might enjoy as quiet background music that helps with focus) – there are some great background sound videos on YouTube, some that sound like cafes or offices or whatever you fancy (Disneyland parks might be one of my favourites….).
Make your favourite tea/coffee/hot drink/do a minute of full body stretching before sitting down. Whatever it is that makes you feel good but also prepares your mental state like those things - do it!
I'm currently at my little desk, with a beautiful vase of gerberas next to me and I’m drinking my favourite matcha tea. I sat down and had a nice breakfast this morning. I have a cat sleeping a few feet away from me and the sun is streaming through my window with no arguments about closing the blind.
Working from home is what you make of it and I promise you, it can be great!