We are in a time where more people than ever are working from home. I have been a home-worker in my part-time accounting job for five years now. It's been a bit of a learning curve, but I have some tips to help maintain your physical and emotional wellbeing whilst getting your work done.
There are many challenges. Some obvious, others not so obvious. I have addressed the main challenges you are likely to encounter below;
The boundaries between home-life and work-life can become blurred, especially when working from home so boundaries are essential.
- Set some times where you won't be checking your emails. Sometimes it might be necessary if there is a key deadline, but make sure you aren’t regularly checking your emails outside of your working hours so that you have some time to enjoy being at home and switching off. Emails can create a sense of stress and if we do not allow ourselves time to relax this can have knock-on effects on our health.
- Ensure that managers and teams are clear about expectations of when you will be working and when you won't, and make sure they are reasonable.
- Schedule times where you will be focused on work, and those where you will be focused on other things. Otherwise you will be less focused when you are working, and unable to ever completely relax.
It can be tempting to work from the sofa or sitting up in bed but this is not ideal for your posture, especially over an extended period of time.
- If you aren’t comfortable make changes. Work at a desk, feet flat on the floor, and ensure that you can see the screen comfortably.
- Tune into your body regularly and make any adjustments you need.
- Get up and move around at regular intervals
- Drink plenty of water.
- Plan a change of scenery at regular intervals. Go outside if you have a garden, look out of the window, or just into another room.
- Go out for exercise once a day.
Do you have a workspace where you can be free from distractions? If not can you create more boundaries using headphones / creating times where you can focus without interruption?
- Pay attention to how focused you are and what tends to distract you. Without pressure from colleagues and the work environment it can be easier to lose focus. However, it is not possible to focus solidly for long periods of time so make sure you factor in some time to move away from the screen, have a cup-of-tea etc.
- Try methods such as the Pomodoro technique where you focus solidly for 25 minutes followed by a 5 minute break. After 2 hours you then get an extended break.
- Block out a period of time each day to get the most impactful work done. Work out the time of day that you are most effective and use that for tasks that requires the most concentration.
- Use your phone’s settings to use focus mode which stops notifications from popping up at certain times.
Children in the house
This post is written at an unprecedented time where schools may be closed and many people are working from home alongside other family members, which creates added distractions.
- Plan how you want the week to go. Create a schedule of how the whole house is going to get things done this week.
- Communicate to everyone, including work colleagues, when you are focused on work and when you may be unavailable due to other responsibilities.
- Realise you can’t do everything and don't try to.
- Practice self-compassion. Think how a friend would respond if they could see your work/life balance.
Lack of face-to-face communication
Being physically apart can lead to communication challenges and social connection is vital for our mental and physical wellbeing.
- Be sure to use video conferencing or face time where possible. Emails and chat are great but they can feel impersonal and lose tone.
- Remember that 'Impact isn't intention'. Often emails can come across as harsh or insulting when this is not what the sender intended. Take a step back before you take poorly worded communication as an insult.
- Make time for small talk during work meetings. It can be tempting to jump straight in to the agenda but this wastes a valuable opportunity for connection.
- Use the radio or music for company. It was be hard to focus in silence for long periods of time.
- Arrange to call friends at lunch.
You can't do everything, so make time to plan out what the important things are that need to get done.
- Communicate your priorities.
- Share your to-do list with your team / family / housemates.
- Make sure you factor in things outside of work such as self-care, exercise, eating well, social connection and rest.
It can be more challenging to motivate ourselves when we don't have the usual accountability of colleagues and meetings.
- Set goals each week / day. I find that 3 things a day is a manageable goal that moves me towards what I want to accomplish.
- If you have lost motivation, tell someone what you are struggling to achieve, which makes you more accountable.
- If you find yourself procrastinating, just do one thing. Think of a small thing that will get momentum going and start to build motivation.
- Plan some rewards, like 15 minutes to read a book, sitting in the garden, or a cup of coffee once you have completed a certain task.
- Tick it off. Ticking off tasks on a list is surprisingly motivating and leads to a sense of achievement. Once you get started you will start to believe that you do have the motivation to get things done.
It is now thought to be a myth. Rather than doing several things at once, you just end up diluting your attention across the tasks that you are doing.
- If you are doing one task, try and focus on it with your full attention.
- Have an awareness of flitting between tasks and practice the discipline of completing one thing before moving onto the next.
- This also applies to multi-tasking of your attention between different people and responsibilities. Try to be fully present in what you are doing.
Movement & Exercise
It can be easy to end up being static when working at home without a commute or need to get lunch.
- Make sure you go for a walk or cycle outside, or get some movement in your garden if you have one.
Lastly, I want to share this exercise that you can practice whenever you find yourself struggling in some way, either bored / stressed / lonely / stuck etc. It helps change your focus when needed and keep your energy levels topped-up.
Take a few deeps breaths
Become aware of what is going on around you. Notice your breath, your body, your mind.
Notice what you need. What is important right now? Do you need to get up from your desk? Drink some water? Move your body.
I hope this gives you some valuable tips for working from home whilst prioritising your mental and physical wellbeing. I'd love to hear if you have any tips that I haven't mentioned that work for you.