I suspect that if somebody had told us this time last year that most of us would be working from home by now, we’d have given them a bit of an old-fashioned look.
And I daresay for many of us the thought of not having to go to the office, factory or workplace for our jobs would have seemed rather appealing.
Now that it’s happened, of course, things are somewhat different.
Partly, that's because we are not just working from home, we are in a state of lockdown at the same time. We can’t go out, can’t meet our friends, can’t get to the gym or the shops or do any of the hundreds of things we do in more normal times to keep balance, perspective and context in our lives.
But it’s also important to remember that there are inherent drawbacks to homeworking which would apply even in the best of times. By recognising these, there is at least some hope that we can do something about them.
The big danger is isolation.
For many of us, going to work is the biggest source of social interaction in our lives. Being cut off from it will inevitably increase feelings of isolation and loneliness, which is why it is so important if you are working from home to stay in touch with your colleagues.
This doesn’t just mean using email – a slightly impersonal form of communication. Take the time to call colleagues, arrange video meetings and use your company’s own internal communication channels to stay in touch. And if your company isn’t holding regular meetings to keep everybody in contact with each other, start pressing them to do so.
It’s also hugely important to set a routine for working from home. Don’t think you can work from your bed in your pyjamas – it’s unlikely to ever be a success.
Instead, stick to working hours and dress for work each day. Make a plan, stick to it and check in with your colleagues to keep your motivation up. Don’t forget to take some screen breaks and resist the temptation to work through lunch. Use the time to take a break, get some exercise, get away from your computer and clear your head.
At the other end of the working day, make sure you draw a line under work when you clock off – and stick to your hours. Make a list of tomorrow’s tasks as your last job of the day and close the door to your home office – or put everything away if you’ve been working at the kitchen table – so that you can truly create some distance between work and home time.
Setting a good, fixed routine will also help you avoid the many distractions which lurk around the home, whether that be the fridge, TV, pets or partner. Don’t worry about the need to clean the oven either.
For those with kids, the challenges of working from home whilst schools are closed are huge. But employers should be aware of this and be happy to take it into account during these exceptional times. Talk to your manager and explain the sort of flexibility both sides will need to show to make a success of this.
And of course, have plenty of regard for your mental wellbeing. These are worrying times and the change in almost all our routines – along with extra isolation and social upheaval – will undoubtedly put more of us under increased stress. Make sure you build in time to relax, shut off from work and talk to family and friends. Try to get your news from trusted sources, keep talking to your loved ones about your emotions, get as much exercise as you can and eat healthily.
And don’t forget that if you need any help, advice or support about work during this period, we will offer a free consultation to help you talk things through. Just click the button.