Working from home: great, I can make endless cups of tea and spend more time with my spouse/family/housemates… but, when the novelty wears off and you face the reality – it may not be as fun as you initially thought. Battling for rooms to video conference call in, wondering if your bed is an acceptable place to set up your desk, and realising 8pm is probably not your usual working hour. Here are some ideas on how to keep productive, build trust AND stay sane whilst working from home – for those of us who have been advised to do so during this time.
Set Up Your Desk
This is not your bed. If you can, it is essential to set up a dedicated space to work from to separate working hours from the rest of your day. Working from your bed or sofa is a good change now and again but having a space for work really helps you to get in the zone – the same way you would in your office.
Set it up like you would in your office, with the right equipment, your favourite mug, notepad, pen pot, snacks. Make it feel similar to your working space in the office to get you into the right mindset.
Stay Tidy and Clean
Clean and organise your workspace once a day. Now you aren’t commuting or physically moving from home to work – use this time to keep your workspace clear and in the same time you will be keeping your headspace clear too.
A study of 80 people at the University of Navarra found that participants made more mistakes when undertaking a data inputting task in a messy environment than a tidy one. One study by psychologists at University of California, found mothers living in messy houses had higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Clutter can also make it harder to fall asleep and can even make us more likely to reach for junk food in a study by Lenny R Vartanian.
Invest in Equipment
If possible, instead of hunching over a laptop, get yourself a laptop stand, a keyboard and a mouse so you’re not just in the right position to work, you also feel like you should be working. If you are able and have room to, get a second screen too – this could even be an old TV – giving you more space to work with. This is one we use and know to be reliable here. Make sure that you have all the right ergonomics for your desk and working space, some screen advice:
- Adjust the monitor height so that the top of the screen is at—or slightly below—eye level.
- Your eyes should look slightly downward when viewing the middle of the screen.
- Position the monitor at least 20 inches (51 cm) from your eyes—about an arm’s length distance. If your screen is larger, add more viewing distance.
According to the NHS, climates such as the UK's, we should drink about 1.2 litres (six to eight glasses) of fluid every day to stop us getting dehydrated. When you’re in the zone, it is easy to get distracted and not drink enough water. Tea and coffee do not count… as caffeine is a mild diuretic. We recommend plenty of water, and a Tonic Health – max strength zinc and vitamins C, and D.
Without the usual flow of the day breaking up your work cycle, you may be tempted to work constantly. Use timers (25-30-minute work intervals with a 5 min break) or 90-minute focus sprints to give yourself a break and maintain your focus and productivity. Use this time to read, doodle or draw, daydream, walk, listen to music, talk to friends, spend time with your pet or make a warm drink.
There are studies that show that breaks enable us to replenish our energy, improve self-control and decision-making, and fuel productivity. Depending on how we spend them, breaks can also heighten our attention and make us more creative.
Video Calls with Agendas
Video conferencing is great, but it is important to keep to agendas during a long video with nine people… it has happened! If your video calls are longer than an hour, add in a toilet/refreshment break for everyone – or people will disappear mid-call.
Google hangouts, Zoom calls, Skype, FaceTime, WhatsApp, Portal by Facebook, and more – we have so much technology at our fingertips now. We can see each other and talk to each other without being physically close – great for the social distancing needed during this time.
Video Calls without Agendas
Have calls without agendas too. Have virtual coffee or tea with your team! The passing moments where you’re in the office can still happen remotely and it can help with the loneliness of working from home. Schedule them in once a day, or a few times a week. Google hangouts are great and totally free to use.
Make Sure to Exercise
If you aren’t leaving the house (most of us aren’t at the moment) try and use a staircase to get your steps in, walking up and down the garden, try yoga or a home work out – it is so important for your mental wellbeing as well as your physical wellbeing. There are loads of home-workouts available on YouTube.
BBC, Can Decluttering Your House Spark Joy; https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20190515-can-decluttering-your-house-really-spark-joy
Clutter, Chaos, and Overconsumption: The Role of Mind-Set in Stressful and Chaotic Food Environments, Vartanian, Lenny R., Kristin M. Kernan, and Brian Wansink (2016); https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2711870
Ergonomics and Desk Advice; https://www.ergotron.com/en-gb/ergonomics/ergonomic-equation
NHS UK, Six to eight glasses of water ‘still best’; https://www.nhs.uk/news/food-and-diet/six-to-eight-glasses-of-water-still-best/
No Place Like Home: Home Tours Correlate With Daily Patterns of Mood and Cortisol
Darby E. Saxbe, Rena Repetti; https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0146167209352864
Scientific American, Mental Downtime; https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/mental-downtime/