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Getting used to working from home

Everybody (who can) is working from home now

Working from home – for some people this is already the norm, an active choice, something that fits with their work and life choices. But right now, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, everybody who can, is working from home. Thrown in at the deep end in the most strange, challenging uncertain circumstances.

 

The myth that working from home is an easy ride

Often people see working from home as a breeze; a relaxing and easy pace of life, with abundant flexibility and choices. The reality can be quite different. It takes real discipline to work from home successfully – to be highly effective in your role, stay well and healthy, and reap the benefits of the flexibility that is available to you.

 

Homeworkers often work longer hours

When your office is less than a minute’s commute from your bedroom and the laptop is always there winking at you, it’s very easy and common to spend extra hours each week working. The reasons we do this when no-one has even asked us to are interesting.

  • We’ve been handed back our commute time and rather than use that time for ourselves, it is very common for people to use the whole time they would have been out of the house at their desk.
  • We feel grateful for the opportunity to work at home, and right now we feel grateful to still have a job, so we like to prove that it’s a worthy choice for the company to keep supporting.
  • Because everything is available to us in our home, we spend less time on breaks, lunches, walking to meeting rooms and even the bathroom. And that means we spend more time at our desks.
  • There is less opportunity for office chit-chat, that expected office interaction that takes up time in the day, and that’s more time with your head down working.
  • Always being in your work environment makes it much easier to ‘just pop on’ to the laptop out of work hours when you’ve had an idea, want to respond to an email, or are keen to get something finished.
  • And there’s the fear people often talk about of being “caught out”. What if someone rings me and I’m outside on a walk or hanging out the washing? The sense that taking a break at home is somehow not permitted.

 

The risks of just keeping working because you’re at home

When we keep pushing on through and just doing that little bit more, which then becomes the norm and the expectation, we unconsciously deprive ourselves of much-needed breaks, movement, real human connection, and even basic nutrition. When this keeps going for an extended period the health impacts start to creep in, such as:

  • Physical aches and pains because we’ve been sat for an extended period on the wrong type of chair without taking any breaks
  • The mental health impacts of isolation and loneliness when we avoid substituting the office chat, for more virtual connection, which somehow doesn’t feel as easy and natural.
  • The stress associated with taking on more and more, and realising that your work is never actually finished.
  • Impaired cognitive function due to never taking a break and allowing the brain the downtime it needs to process and problem solve.
  • Tension in your home relationships as you’re more present with your work than your family.
  • Reduced sleep amount and quality because you’re not switching off the same.

And when all of this continues for an extended period, the risks of ill-health and burnout become greater.

 

How to get it right and reap the many benefits of home working

Speak to home-workers who have this nailed and you’ll learn a handful of simple strategies that take a little discipline and persistence to embed as your new approach to work.

  • Maintain routine in your day and set clear boundaries – the time you get up, the time you start work, the time you finish as well as what you’re doing after work.
  • Get dressed in a way that enables you to be productive – for some this is loungewear and for others it’s workwear, but definitely get dressed with a purpose.
  • Don’t automatically offer your commute time to work – consider how you can use that for your own wellbeing and enjoyment.
  • Take breaks that nourish you – your brain needs downtime to perform optimally so plan those breaks in, and take them.
  • Factor social connection into your day, whether that’s small talk at the start of a virtual meeting, or a phone call just to chat.
  • Stay well hydrated, plan your meals in advance and give yourself time to eat mindfully.
  • Keep moving – we move much less when we work at home, so find ways to get those steps in, find some great desk stretches and maintain your activity routine.
  • Get outside and soak up the natural light, even if that just means drinking your cup of tea outside.
  • Keep your office separate – whether you have a dedicated room at home or your laptop is on the dining room table, when work is done put it away and out of sight.
  • Talk to your colleagues about how you make working from home work for you – so there is no need to feel guilty if you are “caught” out on a run in the middle of the day.

 

Home-working can be a gift to treasure – you’ve just got to make it work for you.

 

What does burnout look like?

 

(Image credit: Photo by Alessandro Bianchi on Unsplash)

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