Do these interesting times find you working from home? Possibly for the first time? Whether you are loving it or finding it challenging, this post will hopefully include at least one idea or ritual that might be of help.
Before I jump into this post, there are three caveats I would like to preface with.
1. A significant amount of people are finding themselves out of work at the moment or are frontline/essential workers who are busier than ever and working with increased stress and health risks. To be able to work from the safety of home is a privilege, and I want to acknowledge that.
2. For many people, their workplace is a safe place whereas home is not. If you are at risk at home, the National Sexual Assault Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service is available via phone or online chat, 24 hours a day. This is a significant issue always, but particularly now. If you are concerned about someone in your world, please reach out to them.
3. Many of us are currently assisting our children with learning from home during quarantine. We're finding ourselves in the world of long division and comprehension tasks on top of our normal workload. I am not going to attempt to address the schooling/working from home juggle too much here, it is a whole other issue and from the way things are looking, children could have returned to school before many adults have returned to their workplaces. This post is simply some ideas for making working from home a positive experience for those that may be new to it.
However, if you do find yourself working at home with children learning from home as well, can I say that as with many circumstances in life - I believe that clear and honest communication mixed with a bit of creativity is key. That might look like exchanging honestly with your clients or employer about your changed situation (chances are they are in the same boat) rather than pretending we're all super-human. Perhaps a bit of flexibility can be arranged.. completing some of your work outside of normal work hours etc. If you are not a single parent, talking to your partner about sharing the domestic/schooling load is incredibly important. It isn't business as usual so that might mean adjusting your home life accordingly. Also, having a meeting with your kids and coming up with a pandemic plan that works for everyone can help.. explaining your work to them and what it will look like for you to be working from home, brainstorming fun rewards for the end of each week, hearing and addressing their concerns and worries can all make a difference. Get creative, have some fun and figure out what works best for your household - it doesn't have to look the same as it does for others and our children's emotional and mental wellbeing (as well as our own) is always the priority. Lastly, I do recommend calling in the village for help.. in an online capacity. My youngest is six years old and setting up a video chat for her with an extended family member or friend a few times a week has been like calling in a virtual babysitter for 30 minutes if I have something I really need to concentrate on or an online meeting to attend. It is something that can easily be reciprocated and is a great way to support one another from afar.
With that said, let me share the 'working from home' tips and rituals that myself and several friends of Nourish and Nest find helpful.
If you are making the transition from working outside the home to within, consider if you had a few small rituals at work that made your day more enjoyable. Can you replicate them at home? Taking the time to make yourself a good cuppa before sitting down at your 'desk' (whatever that might look like for you currently), going for a walk in your lunch break, having post-work video chat drinks with your work mates once a week etc.
Then there are the new small rituals you can now indulge in at home that you may not have been able to at your workplace. Putting together a music playlist that makes you happy and playing it as you work, lighting a candle at your desk, cooking yourself a delicious lunch and eating it in the sun.. the list goes on - inject your day with as many little moments of joy as you can.
Small rituals can also be helpful in marking the beginning and end of your work day. For those of us that have worked from home for a while, we know all too well that when your work life and home life exist in the same space, it can be important to have practices that help you switch modes. Otherwise you can find yourself never switching off from work, or getting distracted from your work by household tasks that need doing.
Natalie, Creative Chief at Sea Tribe, shared with me that as there will always be distractions at home, she finds it important to distance herself from those things if she wants to get her workload done. What works for her is allocating 30 minutes of her work day for home tasks like washing and folding clothes.
Something as simple as ensuring you're working with the laundry pile out of sight (close that laundry door!) can help, as can having a little 'end of the work day' ritual that symbolically changes your lounge room/dining table from a work zone to a home haven. Changing the music, dimming the lights, lighting a candle, getting changed - whatever works for you.
If you are fortunate enough to have a designated workspace, really take advantage of that. Set it up in the ideal way that works for you, try and keep it organised and if you can leave that area just for work, it can really help separate work life from home life.
If you're new to working from home, being able to work in your pyjamas is quite the novelty.. for the first week anyway. I would be lying if I said I hadn't been part of at least one Skype meeting where I donned a shirt and lipstick up top but was wearing pj pants and ugg boots down below. But many of us find we generally work better if we are dressed in something that makes us feel like we're in business mode.
Nat agrees. She said she works best when she gets up and gets dressed like she is going to work as she finds she is lazier when she stays in her loungewear. I definitely agree.
This seems to be common advice from friends that work from home. Naturopath Emily Rose Yates shares, "During isolation, I still get up and get dressed as if I was going out for the day. I have been getting dressed in my work clothes top to toe, including make up but minus the shoes, then once I am done working I change into active wear (I have three boys so time with them is always a workout) or relaxed day clothes, I find it helps me transition from one role to another".
Interior Designer Jodie, from Belljar Interiors, swears by keeping her morning routine the same as if she was in an office. She likes to break her work up into three hour blocks (a great tip for tasks that feel overwhelming) and starting work at 7.30am so that she can finish early. Lastly, Jodie finds that having a vase of flowers or greenery from the garden on her desk keeps her sane.
This is great advice. Many of us are spending more time in our homes than ever before and the environment we work in has a profound affect on us. Hanging some artworks or photos you love on the walls, bringing nature inside via potted plants or foraged greenery and burning uplifting fragrances are all simple ways you can elevate your space.
Now, to address productivity itself. Each person's situation is different and so of course there won't be a one-size-fits-all approach to 'getting it done'. Some people are finding that they are more productive at home (turns out there were plenty of meetings that could have been e-mails after all!) whilst others are finding themselves less productive outside the structure of their workplace.
I put the call out to some seasoned 'work from home' professionals and they came back with some great advice.
Faye from Busy Business Women shares:
Working from home definitely has it's comforts but requires boundaries and some self-discipline that doesn't come naturally to everyone (or me at least!)
I personally find it helpful to put time limits on the apps I use via 'settings' on my phone. My phone lets me know when I have reached, for example, my maximum 15 minutes a day on the News app. For those of us that can get lost down the rabbit holes that are social media, online articles and endless messaging with friends, it can be good to have some self-control measures in place, especially during work hours.
There are plenty of apps that can help you keep on track with work projects. Lead Drafter Anita from Simply Drafting and Interior Stylist Jessi Eve both highly recommended the Toggl app as a simple way to keep track of your hours and be able to see how long different projects have taken.
Speaking of apps, one of the most helpful for me is Trello which I use for planning and managing my work load as well as collaborating with others. However, I still also love a daily hand-written paper list. I prepare it the night before and only write the work tasks that are absolute priorities (so as to not feel overwhelmed) and include a couple of self-care reminders on the list too. Simple self-care whilst working for me looks like going for a walk around the block, doing a 15 minute online yoga class, drinking plenty of water and stopping regularly to take a few deep breaths and check in with my posture. Simple things that make a world of difference.
If you have some control over the structure of your work day, think about what times of day are best for your different tasks. Self-awareness is key here. I find my creativity takes an hour or so to kick in each morning so getting admin and physical tasks done first thing in the morning is best for me and then I aim to get more creative work done later in the day. I enjoy financial and report work the least so getting that side of things ticked off earlier in the week helps my morale too.
Lastly, if you are particularly missing human contact, it can be great to have some online socialising booked in to look forward to. Knowing I have a planned Zoom chat with a couple of friends after the kids go to bed helps keep me focused during the day and gives me some social connection to look forward to. As the new cliche goes - we're practicing social distancing, not emotional distancing.
At the end of the day, these are unusual times indeed and most people's lives have changed significantly overnight. Be kind to yourself, allow some time to transition, be realistic with your expectations of yourself and reach out for help if you need it.
I'm off to eat lunch in the sun.. one of my favourite work-from-home rituals. Hope you can create a moment for something that brings joy to your day too.