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How to work effectively from home during Lockdown: Part 1 – The Practicalities
Careers in Depth
Career Coaching Services
How to work effectively from home during Lockdown: Part 1 – The Practicalities
Careers in Depth

Working from home during the Coronavirus crisis while enjoyable in some aspects - such as perhaps not having to put on a suit, no long commute time or maybe taking phone calls in the garden, it is also challenging and a little daunting for many people, especially with no clear indication of exactly how and when it will end.

Most of us have been launched into a home-office situation for which we had been largely unprepared and even those who regularly work more flexible hours or are used to working remotely still find themselves in the unprecedented circumstance of working from home alongside everyone else in the household, in many cases including small children or older people who all need care and attention throughout the day.

It is important then to implement some coping strategies to create a workable situation and a more pleasant experience for all involved.

In this blog, the first of two we have written on the subject, you will find some handy tips and information to help achieve this including practical ways to organise your workspace and your time. Look out for our next blog which will discuss ideas to help with emotional wellbeing to combat stress and mental health issues.

How to organise and protect your workspace

Choose a place in your home as your workspace - it’s crucial that you assign a specific area just for work. This will limit outside distractions and help you achieve a work mindset. If you don’t have a separate room, choose somewhere you are least likely to be disturbed.

Agree when others can enter the workspace - If possible, provide guidelines to the people you live with so they can know when they can come in/use the area for other activities. If you are in a room by yourself, using a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door can be helpful e.g. when making a video call.

Remove non-work-related items where possible - Clearing away personal items from your workspace will help you concentrate on your work and not get distracted by personal tasks or  opportunities to procrastinate.

Use a visual divider to reduce noise from other parts of the household – Household items which can be used for this could be as simple as a curtain, coat stand or cupboard.

Sit with good posture in an ergonomic chair - to avoid backache and joint pain

Position your keyboard comfortably to avoid shoulder strain - you should be able to have your elbow at your sides.

Avoid eyestrain - keep your monitor at least 50cm from your eyes and improve ambient light where possible. Bright and natural light can improve your mood, boost energy and help you concentrate better. Avoid working under a direct overhead light where possible as this can cause screen glare.

Manage work/life boundaries with other members of your household

Agree work hours with the rest of your household – This can be tricky with everyone most likely trying to do their job or school work at the same time. However, it will help if everyone can agree set times that you won’t be involved into doing household chores. It also means that your family or housemates will be better able to plan fun activities which include everyone too. Try to stick to this as closely as possible apart from unavoidable unplanned interruptions such as, unforeseen family emergencies.

Ask the people you live with to avoid noisy activities during your work hours - e.g. loud music or riotous games. In return, also limit your noisy calls or manual work to certain hours so as not to disturb others.

How to work at home with children

Communicate that you are all ‘going in to work mode’before you start work - For children, especially younger ones, it can be hard to comprehend that you can be at work and still be at home at the same time. It is vital to explain in advance what it means to be ‘working from home’and where possible, you should continue with the ‘getting ready for work routine’ as you would have done before Lockdown.

Encourage your children to get dressed in the morning around the same time as before Lockdown. It’s best not to let them sleep in really late or spend all day in pyjamas. It can confuse the message that “we are all in working mode” and imply that they don’t need to do school work or help around the house.

Communicate in advance how to Divide everyone’s time over the day for working and breaks - Adults can generally work for approx.45-50 minutes work followed by 10-15 break. Depending on the age of your children,they can concentrate on average for around 40 minutes on one activity. As children are used to a structured school day, you may want to use their timetable as a guide to organise their day. Try to then plan yours around it so that you can take breaks at the same times where possible for minimum disruption and maximum enjoyment for all.

Consider creating a fun and colourful timetable poster with younger children to engage them in the concept of work time and non-work time.This can then be displayed in a place where children will be spending their time while you are working

Eat meals together - Mealtimes with your family will provide a structured start and finish to your day and help you feel connected to your family even if you’ve been working in a distant corner of the house. Try to avoid snacking too much at your desk so you can enjoy a meal with your loved ones. The break will also help boost your productivity when you return to your desk.

Start the day with a family breakfast. Breakfast is a perfect time to connect and discuss activities and expectations for the day so that everyone knows who will be taking on childcare duties and remind children when you will be working and should avoid being disturbed where possible. If you created a timetable poster, use this time to show them what the day looks like. You could even use a bell to indicate start and finish of various sections of time or particular activities.

Keeping your patience – It is easy to feel inpatient or irritable with children when you are trying to concentrate on your work.This is very normal but it is important to manage this to keep a calm household, good working environment and for your children’s wellbeing as this is a difficult and confusing time for them too.

Here are some good coping strategies for managing irritation and impatience:

·       Take 10 deep breaths or sing the chorus of one your favourite songs in your head or out loud

·       Observe your own emotions but do not act on them

·       Label and comment on your emotions internally:“I’m feeling irritated because I have read this same sentence seven times…”

·       Try to avoid saying words in anger that you may later regret

·       Temporarily remove yourself from the situation -rest, quiet and time are the best cures for impatience

·       Communicate – explain calmly why you need to concentrate on your work without losing your temper

Announce when you start and finish your work - It’s useful to spell this out, especially to younger children, so they understand when you are free to chat and play. At the start of your work time explain that you are ‘going to work now’ and at the end of your working day, clear away work items from areas that are doubling up for both work and family activities, such as the dining room table, to create a clear boundary between work time and family time. These simple actions can help children to accept the fact that you are not available to interact with them all of the time which can be a confusing concept when you are physically present at home.  

Share home-schooling duties - If possible, divide home-school duties between all adults in the home to allow each person clear times for concentrating on work without interruption and ensuring the children are engaged to avoid boredom and frustration which can lead to poor behaviour which will impact on your time and productivity.

If you still feel that you are failing to work effectively when working from home even though you have some or all of these ideas in place, you may find that there is a more fundamental underlying issue. If you are unsure how to identify whether you feel unhappy with your work because of the current situation or whether you just need a change of direction, talk to one of our expert career consultants today to find out how Careers in Depth can help you navigate your way through this difficult time.


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