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As the country slowly navigates a way to emerge from the lockdown, a great many of us continue to work from home and most likely will be for some time to come. With this in mind, we are pleased to bring you part 2 of our series on the subject.
In our previous blog How to work effectively from home during lockdown Part 1, we discussed how to cope with the practicalities of working from home during the Coronavirus crisis. In this second part we focus on emotional wellbeing and share some ideas to help with staying motivated, combating stress and looking after your mental health.
Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, for those of us who went to the workplace, being at home was associated with ‘switching off’, relaxing and entering social or family life by leaving the work persona behind until the next day. It can therefore be quite disorientating to suddenly have to establish a virtual office at home without the tangible boundaries of the workplace setting and without the physical presence of colleagues. We are pushed to handle the contradiction between the temptation to relax as we are at home and the expectation/pressure to be as effective as we were while in the workplace. This requires a new mindset involving finding ways to stay motivated and combating anxiety caused by the feeling of needing to justify your time and show your productivity if you are not physically present in the workplace. Some people even report that they work harder and longer during the lockdown to counter this feeling which can lead to stress. Another difficulty for others is the sense of isolation without the ability to socialise with their colleagues at coffee / lunch breaks or simply exchanging a word or two at the corridor.
Here are some practical tips which can help towards managing this tension:
Don’t have the TV or radio on if you’re easily distracted - Allow yourself to watch TV or listen to the radio during break times.
Do listen to music, if it helps you focus - do ensure that it doesn’t distract others however.
Wear clothes that you’re comfortable being seen in - Staying in your Pyjamas might be tempting but adopting a similar dress code to your colleagues and clients will make you feel more professional and is an important part of the daily switch from a home to work mindset. Plus, you’ll be ready for a video conference at any time! Getting changed out of your work clothes at the end of the day is equally important as it helps you make that transition back to relaxation time.
Try to work the same hours as your colleagues and clients - Do this wherever possible and you will all be more efficient and also experience the feeling of being a part of the team. Starting work really early might make you feel productive in the short term but you will most likely crash later in the day. Finish the same time as your colleagues too so that you feel like you have done a normal day’s work.
Read emails and take calls at the time of the day when you’re least focused - this means you can save your energy for productive working. Only check personal emails after your work day has finished.
Communicate with colleagues regularly - If you usually work as part of a team, it may help to have a brief virtual meeting at the start of the day (e.g. via ZOOM) to touch base and share each other’s tasks for the day. Wherever possible do this again at the end of the day to discuss progress and outcomes.
Clear your email inbox before you start work - Starting the day with a clear inbox means you can focus better on your tasks. Deal with as many emails as possible at the beginning of the day as this will leave you feeling productive before you’ve even started and give you time to plan and deal with anything urgent and add less urgent items to your task list.
Contact your manager towards the end of your working day - Check in with your manager about an hour before the end of your work day to ensure all loose ends are tied up and goals and actions can be agreed for the next day. Don’t leave this until just before you finish or you could end up working later than intended leaving you feeling stressed out during your relaxation time.
Turn off email notifications -this can be useful if you have a large task or lots of small ones on your to-do-list. The constant ‘ping’ of a new email arriving can be distracting and make you feel like endless work is piling up which you don’t have the capacity to deal with. Check emails just before or after breaks for anything urgent when you aren’t trying to concentrate on another task. This will reduce the constant build-up of stress.
Make a to do list - Getting things down on paper and out of your head can greatly reduce the feeling of being overwhelmed. A simple Word document might suffice if you just want to keep track of your own tasks or there are some options for shared lists - such as uploading them to Google share drive -if you need to communicate your tasks to colleagues.
Have the same coffee and lunch breaks as when you were at the office - where possible, take breaks with other people. If your family or housemates are also working from home, try to liaise with them in order to have quality time together. Or, you might prefer to have virtual break with one or more of your work friends where you can discuss how your day is going more informally than at an official online meeting. This can be a good way to relax and share any work-related issues which are causing you to feel stressed.
Designate yourself an ‘office’mug - Although this may seem frivolous, a small thing like assigning a particular mug to drink from at your desk can help create some essential separation in your mind between work and home life.
Take a 10-minute walk outside- Walking is not just good exercise, it’s also a great way to boost brain function, according to a study by Stanford University. If you’re unable to take a walk, go outside for some fresh air; in a garden, on a balcony or even just outside your front door.
Follow a lunchtime stretching routine - If you’re working at a desk then stretching regularly is vital to help your limbs stay flexible but also the exercise will allow you to clear your mind. Create a stretching routine or find one online and try to stick to it every day. You can find a daily 5-minute stretch routine on the Healthline.com.
Take regular breaks during the day - Make sure you take regular breaks from your work to ensure you can maintain productivity and reduce fatigue. Walk away from your workstation and do something unrelated to your work during your break to refocus, relax and avoid burnout.
Some ideas for break options at home:
· Give your child or pet some attention
· Call a relative
· Get some fresh air
· Do a puzzle
· Make a hot drink
· Take a power nap
Drop your colleagues a message at lunch time to see how their day is going - Good working relationships with colleagues are fundamental to productivity and communicating with others is key to maintaining good mental health which is good for both your wellbeing and that of your colleagues.
Avoid viewing your devices close to bedtime - the ‘blue light’ emitted from electronic devices can negatively impact your sleep and a good night’s sleep is key to good mental health and wellbeing.
Practise a 15-minute mindfulness exercise before you start work - Mindfulness has been proven to reduce mind-wandering and increase productivity. Find somewhere in the house,away from distractions, which has a comfy chair.
· Take a seat.
· Relax your body.
· Notice how your body feels, and how heavy it is.
· Notice how connected your body feels with the furniture and the floor.
· Try to notice if you have any tense muscles and,if you do, try to relax them.
· Now tune into your breath and feel its flow.Notice where the breath is in your body and lose yourself in the sensation of breathing.
· Continue noticing your breath in silence, and try not to allow yourself to be distracted by anything other than your own breathing.
If you are still struggling to feel satisfied and motivated 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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