Working from home is every shade of awesome. Until it’s not. After a couple of weeks, you realise that the man next door REALLY enjoys slamming doors and you can set your watch by when his toilet flushes. You’ve forgotten the last time you wore shoes (those stinky sneakers don’t count, my friend) and the cat keeps tugging your laptop cable out. It’s time to take another look at how to get the best out of your new office.
Did you really draw the line?
While working from bed is a lovely novelty, the brain needs separate space for work and… non work. There’s actual science here: our psychological well-being can actually suffer if we don’t set clear boundaries between places of work and places where we rest and relax. Particularly when it comes to the bedroom. If we begin to mentally associate our place of rest with being a place of work, we simply won’t switch off – and the stress of being ‘always on’ can have truly detrimental repercussions for mental health.
Tip: If you can’t have a permanent workspace, find a (preferably well-lit) spot away from the bedroom and get into the habit of unpacking/packing your ‘office’ every day.
Is housework ‘all at once’ or ‘not at all’?
When your home and your office are the same place, you suddenly gain a whole new appreciation for the wonderful people who keep office buildings ticking over. You realise how essential these things are to your productivity: your bin is magically emptied, bathroom cleaned and office vacuumed. At home, housework requires some discipline – make sure chores are not distracting you by doing them regularly in short bursts, rather than spending a morning tackling the mess, then the afternoon firefighting the work you’ve left behind.
Tip: Use the laundry as a kind of ‘Pomodoro timer’. Put a load on and challenge yourself to complete a task before the cycle ends.
Are you around too many people? Or not enough?
If you share your home, then have you had ‘the conversation’? You know, the one that starts “please be understanding of my working hours...” If not, why not? Equally, if you’re alone for prolonged periods of time it’s easy to go a little Tom Hanks in Cast Away. But before you reach for a football and marker pen, why not try creating your own ‘virtual water cooler’ instead? Be a master networker on LinkedIn, schedule video catch ups with colleagues and if all else fails… pick up the phone!
Tip: Organise ‘lunch’ via a group conference call with your friends so you can catch up and talk about something other than work. Don’t forget to set a reminder ten minutes before so you can make a quick coffee and grab a bite.
Is it suddenly night-time?
It’s dangerously easy to get your head into a project and before you realise it, the sun has gone down and it’s way past your regular finish time. With no colleagues packing up around you to remind you that it’s home time, it’s probably a good idea to set an ‘end of day’ alarm – and stick to it as much as possible. It also helps to structure your day to include breaks and get moving, whether it’s those short bursts of housework mentioned above (stick your favourite song on and do some vacuum dancing!) or something more structured.
Tip: There are some brilliant apps that can get you moving. Think about what suits you (are you a yogi? Enjoy a hit of HIIT? Chair aerobics? It’s all out there) and ask for recommendations from friends and colleagues.
How’re you feeling?
Take a moment to check in on yourself, physically and mentally. Paying attention to your mental wellbeing is essential, but even more so when you’re working alone – even when you are checking in with others. What are the things you’re most worried about? And are they in your control to deal with? It’s important to practise self-care and not to be hard on yourself. Try to acknowledge that you’re no doubt doing a great job, even though you may not feel like you have any measure.
Working from home, you probably don’t have an ergonomic chair, or a height adjusted desk, so you might be feeling the strain on your neck and back. If so, then it’s time to make some adjustments to the way you work. Is there a space you can turn into a standing workspace? Can you make some DIY adjustments to the height of your desk?
Tip: If you’re feeling pressured and unstructured, arrange a weekly check-in with your line manager. They can help you feel reassured that you’re on top of your workload and, most importantly, valued.
Creating your own structure and staying within that of your company is, without question, a long-term undertaking. Another important aspect of this ongoing challenge is the cyber security of your home office. If you haven’t already, take a look at our blog from Canon’s Director of Information Security, Quentyn Taylor for some sound advice and things to look out for.