There is a lot of advice around for those working from home for the first time, much of it relying on personal experience and sometimes with a handy link to a piece of software at the end (the HomeWorkingClub for example). I’ve been working from home for some time, from where I coach businesspeople all over the world and then pop into the kitchen to make lunch for my daughter.
What works for me may not work for you, everyone is different, but I can help you to establish a few principles so you can find your own way of working, and build the resilience to get through what could be a tough time
Carve out a space
Extroverts are going to find life difficult in isolation, not just because they will miss contact with others, but distractions will be all around them. You may find your kitchen is incredibly clean, but your inbox looks like a bomb’s hit it. Modern offices are often designed to reduce distraction, increase social contact and collaboration, and improve efficiency, working from home during a viral outbreak is not designed to do any of this.
Find a space where you can be productive, try to reduce distractions and manage your time as though colleagues are all around you. Only you will know what works, and it might take you some time to find it.
The good news is that now is the time for introverts to shine. Though in a very understated way, of course.
Take regular breaks
Time management is really important, especially as you won’t have as many external factors that organise your day. It might be an idea to limit your social media activity, which could improve your mood in itself. Without a train to catch or traffic to beat, you might find you’re over working and could end up burning yourself out. Don’t use all the time you get back from not having to commute on work, give yourself time to do something you enjoy.
You could use that time to exercise, physical activity is a great way to fight stress, as the government has acknowledged by allowing us to leave the house once a day. You might even find you’re doing more exercise than you used to.
Set realistic goals
Once we have decided to do something, and written it down even, we are mentally committed and much more likely to achieve it. Your goals can be big or small, but make sure they are achievable. If you’re not a list maker, it might be enough just to tell yourself what you want to do, or even discuss it with someone else.
But be aware, if those goals are unrealistic then you can have the reverse effect and increase your stress levels.
Don’t be too hard on yourself
Try to keep your perspective, and don’t catastrophise. You may find little stresses build to create one big mountain of problems, and pretty soon you will grind to a halt with anxiety. If you are prone to do this, the current situation will make it more likely. Take some time to recognise when you are building things up and try to cut yourself some slack.
By the same token, you have to look after yourself. It’s not selfish to have some alone time from the family, nor are you a burden if you call friends and family.
Focus on what you can control
If you’re new to working from home you might find it hard to adjust to a slightly more chaotic environment. You’re not alone in this, millions of people all over the world are adjusting, and trying to do the day job from their kitchen table, or even the bed.
Just like the famous interview with Professor Robert Kelly when his toddler and baby made an unexpected guest appearance on the BBC, the unexpected will happen. In many ways this sort of thing is the new normal, and people really won’t blame you.
Accepting that things won’t always go your way is a really important pillar to support your own resilience.
Just because you are at home, don’t be alone
For those without a precocious toddler who wants to interrupt your video conference to ask the CEO if they like Bing, the problem may be loneliness. We are social animals, and it is hugely important that we replace face-to-face contact with something as close to it as possible.
Replicate this by putting in regular “coffee meetings” over phone or face time, try to socialise as much as possible. The same technology that allows us to conduct virtual meetings can also be used to have a drink with friends apps like Zoom or even House Party are great for replacing your social life, and keeping you sane.
Helping others will help you
We have evolved as a species because we successfully cooperate in order to survive. What helped us emerge from the cave is still vital in modern society. It is perhaps this that means we get something called a “helper’s high” when we do something for other people, however small. Not only do we all need to pull together more at the moment, but helping someone else will help you as well.
I hope these tips help, but if there’s one thing you should take from this it is that nobody can tell you how to cope, or how to thrive. You have everything you need to be the most unstoppable version of yourself, you just have let yourself do it.