How to work from home (and not go crazy)

Remember when you used to think working from home was total #workgoals?

Fast forward to right now and, due to coronavirus, you’ve finally been able to test it out and found that it’s actually making you crazy. Sound familiar?

Last year, I made the decision to go self-employed (really loving past me right now… not) and so have been through all of the ups and downs that come with home-working. I really struggled with it in the beginning – I’d hate to think how much money I’ve spent in coffee shops just trying to get out of the house – but I managed to work it out, and some might say I’ve become more productive because of it.

Since the UK government announced advice for us all to work from home if possible in order to stop the spread of coronavirus, a number of friends have told me how difficult they’re finding working at home. So, I thought I’d write a few pointers down that I found to be helpful in the beginning – who knows how long this might go on for, so why not try to make it a bit easier for yourself? Here we go…

Routine

One thing that I realised that I was lacking – and desperately needed – was structure in my day. Otherwise I ended up pushing my mouse around not doing a whole lot, scrolling through Facebook for the 70th time that afternoon, ignoring whatever I had going on and then realising I hadn’t achieved anything that day.

Photo by Emma Matthews Digital Content Production on Unsplash

Set yourself some office hours – either keep to your regular office hours or, if your employer is flexible, set hours to suit when you are most switched on (not everyone can be a morning person!). Schedule a call or a task for the start of your day (whatever time that is), and then make sure you are ready for then. Accountability is everything, so make a date with work and show up!

Get ready

It’s so easy to think ‘I’m only at home, there’s no-one to impress. PJs and dressing gown it is!’ Although it sounds like a great idea on paper – and is quite novel once or twice – it’s not going to help you get into that work headspace. Think about it: on a normal day you come home, change out of your ‘work clothes’ and put on some comfies and chill. Getting too comfortable is bound to make you feel more distanced from that ‘work’ environment. Plus, wearing the same clothes for a week straight is going to feel pretty gross (not that I’ve done that before…).

Environment

Speaking of a ‘work environment’, get yourself set up as closely as you can do to how you would normally be at the office. Try to work from a desk if you have one, away from areas you would normally relax in. This is obviously harder to do if you live in a flat or are in a houseshare!

One of the biggest difficulties I found was working in my living room – at the end of the day I couldn’t distance myself from the ‘office’ and so couldn’t fully switch off. Try not to work from the sofa and DEFINITELY don’t work in bed! Keep the TV off, and maybe put on some music if you don’t like to work in quiet.

Breaks

Don’t feel guilty for taking a break – when you’re working without distraction it’s easy to want to just push through, especially if you’re on a roll. In a normal office environment there is so much that breaks up your day – chats with colleagues, making a coffee, just going for a walk. It can be easy to feel like you can’t take a break when you don’t have those interludes naturally, but they’re actually really beneficial. Did you know that you should look away from your screen every 20 minutes to help keep your eyes healthy? And you should be standing up every hour for at least a few minutes. If you own a smartwatch, these are great for prompting you to be more active, and if you don’t, try setting some reminders in your phone or calendar so you can break up your day. Make sure you’re still taking your lunch hour too!

Similarly, don’t beat yourself up too much if you’re not being very productive. Working from home takes a lot of adjustment, and can feel quite overwhelming to some people. Why not try calling a colleague for a 5 minute brew and catch-up?

Discipline

Just like you can set yourself a time to get up and start work by, make sure you are ‘leaving work’ at the end of the day as well. Having access to your work laptop and emails at home can seem convenient, and replying to that email from your boss at 9pm might feel like it’s just a couple of minutes of your time, but it’s an easy habit to make, and one that’s very difficult to break – especially if it becomes something your team expects you do. It’s also not going to be great for your mental health, feeling like you need to be switched on all the time!

Photo by Nathan Riley on Unsplash

Once you’ve finished for the day, switch your laptop and work phone (if you have one) off, put them away somewhere out of sight so you’re not tempted to look at them. Use your evening time to do something for yourself, like learning a new skill, reading a book or just binging Netflix – anything that isn’t your day job! Just because you’re not leaving the building doesn’t mean you can’t stop working.

Communication

Working from home is so lonely! You don’t realise how much you’ll actually miss your colleagues until they’re not there – even the most annoying ones. Make sure you’re in constant communication with everyone, not just for work updates but also for social updates too. Where possible try to video call people – it will feel so much more like a face-to-face conversation and help you to feel less isolated. Constant emails and calls may feel like overkill, but when you’re not sat across from someone you miss out on so many small interactions and brief moments that help pass the time and help you bond as a team.

Go outside and exercise!

Unless the government actually ban us from leaving the house, make sure you’re getting a daily dose of fresh air. Being stuck in the same place for long periods of time is really soul-destroying and I know I tend to get really cabin fever-y. As long as you’re properly social distancing yourself from others then it’s perfectly safe to go for a walk down your local highstreet, run through the park – anything! Why not try Couch to 5k and get some regular exercise planned in? There are also so many resources online to help you keep fit at home too – Joe Wicks, Yoga with Adriene – the list is endless!

Let me know if any of the above has been helpful for you! Is there anything else that helps you that I’ve missed off? Please do share this with anyone who you think may be struggling with working from home, and know that I’m here to chat if you need it. Stay safe!

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