From Sophy Norris, long term remote worker
I have worked remotely – either from home or in a serviced office/hot desking – for over 14 years. I am used to carrying my office in a backpack, dialling in remotely, shared to do lists, fevered Skype conversations and the perils of a virtual private network. I have come to relish the quiet time during a long-distance train journey, podcasting in the car and the luxury of a solo hotel stay as I travel across the country for meetings and to connect face to face.
But the last two weeks have been the most extreme home working environments I have ever experienced. Thank you Covid-19 for the joys of a husband and children at home (or flat mates, or suddenly being plunged into solo living), for huge pressure on internet services resulting in patchy wifi and shaky video connections, for the mass adoption of new group technologies so at any one moment I could be Skyping, Teams–ing, Housepartying and Zooming my ass off. And that is before we talk about messaging, messenger, Instagram, Whatsapp, IM, text… Could I BE any more in touch?
Good stuff (really good stuff) aside – such as this might change how we work forever; mother earth is getting a much deserved rest; this a time to reconnect with what really matters – there are some basic principles (many revamped dramatically over the past few days) that I have followed over my homeworking years and have seen me stay (relatively) sane.
1. Make your bed every day
Get up, workout, shower, get dressed, make your bed. Starting the day off properly, ending your period of rest and stepping into a fresh day, has been proven to boost productivity. Particularly the making the bed thing, which you can read more about here but, in short, by completing the first task of the day you trigger a domino effect for more tasks throughout the day – and BOOM, without knowing it you have become more productive.
2. Set a routine and stick to it.
There is a cadence to working outside the home which brings rhythm to our lives, a cadence that is all too easy to lose when working in the home. Give each weekday its own structure and shape based around work. It need not follow the same one you might have in your external workplace (what joy to make supper at lunchtime, or walk the dog on a coffee break or even yoga in the garden mid-afternoon), but make a plan and follow it. Otherwise you may find yourself glued to a screen for hours on end or find it almost impossible to get stuck into anything at all.
3. Work in short bursts
Research has shown that the most productive people don’t work longer, they work smarter. 52 minutes of smart in fact, followed by a 17 minute break. This enables them to focus, get through tasks and be refreshed and ready for the next one. This short burst approach is as applicable at home as it is to the office, perhaps more so when you can use those 17 minutes to get life tasks completed.
4. See people and network
Yep, even in lockdown – in fact especially in a lockdown – find ways to have face to face (or Zoom to Zoom) meetings with people. More than ever we seem happy to share ourselves on video with our colleagues. Even a 5 minute chat is vastly better than a 15 minute email conversation, and to see people’s reactions is even more powerful.
5. Make the end of your day final
Close the door on the study or tidy away your temporary workspace. Shut down the laptop and put it away. Take a physical and mental step away from work at the end of the day, and just as you would if you were in an office, “commute” into your evening. That might be some relaxation exercises, a walk, preparing dinner, or even an old-fashioned glass of wine or beer, but take a conscious step away so you are ready and refreshed to make your bed the next morning!
Below are some of the best pieces I have found online about home working during Covid-19, which I have found especially helpful.
- Managing Virtual Meetings: https://hbr.org/2020/03/what-it-takes-to-run-a-great-virtual-meeting
- Working at home with children: https://hbr.org/2020/03/a-guide-for-working-from-home-parents
- Putting the pandemic in context: https://www.visualcapitalist.com/history-of-pandemics-deadliest/
- Yoga and meditation tips: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-england-hampshire-52047284/coronavirus-simple-yoga-poses-to-help-home-workers
- Getting the kids (and you) to start the day well: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCAxW1XT0iEJo0TYlRfn6rYQ