As someone who has worked from home pretty much consistently for over 20 years, I thought if might be helpful to put pen to paper & share some of my musings & ruminations on habits that have worked for me. I appreciate everyone is different so please don’t take these as any kind of instruction – just thought it might be useful to share.
1. Establish a schedule
Even when I’m working at home, I have clear times of day which are ‘work’ times and times that are not. I always leave the house before I start work – essentially using the time I would be commuting to do something which feeds my soul. For the past decade this has been walking my dogs for an hour and taking the time to tune in to what’s happening around me – essentially a form of mindfulness. But it could equally be a run, a walk around the block, some meditation, a trip to the shop, some cooking or anything which uses the body and brain to do something which is not work. I have to say this is often the time that I set my intentions for the day – but that is the yogi in me I suspect. As I’ve got older, I’ve got much clearer about what works for me in terms of my ‘A’ Time (when I do my focused work) and my ‘’Z’ time (when I do my admin). In between I do my calls / virtual meetings. Organising my day like this helps me to stay sane and get through my to-do list. I aim to start and finish my work at more or less the same times each day. I still set an alarm to get out of bed. My routine is pretty much the same as when I go to work except that I substitute my commute in & out of London with something more meaningful.
2. Go to work
Tempting as it may be to get up later and roll around in bed in your pants or PJ’s I have found that it’s good to have clear boundaries between my work space and my home space. Now that my girls have left home, I’m fortunate to have a dedicated workspace but I have always tried to keep my work, as far as has been possible over the years, away from the spaces I use for rest & relaxation.
When I get back from walking the dogs, I physically do actually ‘go to work’. In the same way I would if I was going into an office, I make a pot of tea, move to my workspace, get my stuff and sit down to focus on what I need (and want) to achieve that day.
3. Leave work
Similarly, at the end of the day, I pack up my stuff, tidy the area where I work and ‘leave’ work as best I can. I’m not saying to don’t look at messages and emails after this point but I do not go back to my computer. I always aim to leave the house at this point again if I can – for me it’s usually to do some yoga or go for a walk but again, it really doesn’t matter what it is – I just know I go stir crazy if I don’t do something different at the end of the day. As restrictions tighten and we go out less, I will be turning to online yoga and mindfulness sessions to keep me sane. I will be trying to spend time enjoying cooking and eating and chatting physically or virtually with my nearest and dearest. & I’m sure there’ll be the odd box set in their too.
It is not good for us to be sedentary. When I’m on the phone I always get up & walk around. I take advantage of those moments to stretch and move. When I remember, I try & leave my work space at least hourly, look out the window, move the eye gaze away from the computer or phone screen. Do something physically different.
5. Interact with people
Honestly, if there is a moment in my day when I would normally lift my head and ask someone a question if I was in the office, I do it when I’m working from home. Using Slack, WhatsApp etc helps but, probably more importantly, through calls or video meetings. It may sound obvious but it is important that we all communicate as best we can using the tools available. Even seeing people in the streets around us will become a comfort I suspect and I use every opportunity to interact with other people. I have my meetings and calls using zoom, skype and hangouts. I allocate different times of my day for more focused work.
For me the next few weeks and months will be – at least to an extent – an extension of homeworking that I am very used to. However, I’ll need to get used to other people being in what has to date been my personal work space – my home. I’ll also be without my local yoga studio so need to establish a self-practice or online alternative as I know that is a big part of my mental and physical wellbeing. So, I too will need to learn new habits about home co-working! If you have any tips on that, please share!
As & when the schools close, and if helpful, I can try & add some thoughts about juggling family at home with working from home. I can’t say I have particularly fond memories of that period but again, I did establish a few rules and habits that worked for me.